How to Soften a Carhartt Jacket (in 5 Easy Steps!)

Carhartt jackets are known for being durable, heavy-duty, and warm. The cotton canvas material that they are made out of makes them sturdy, but that also means the jackets are stiff until they are broken in.

You can break in the jacket faster with some softening techniques to make your jacket more comfortable faster.

Be careful though, Carhartt jackets are treated to be fire-resistant, so do not use any chemical softeners on the jacket. Chlorine will also discolor the jacket and make it look yellowy.

Carhartt Jacket

Softening Your Carhartt Jacket

Softening your jacket expeditiously can cause the jacket to shrink during the process, so it is wise to buy a size bigger than necessary to allow for shrinkage. As with anything cotton, the clothing can happen for up to three washings.

Preparing the Jacket

Start by closing all buttons, hooks, snaps, and zippers to help prevent snagging. Then, put the jacket in the washer. Set the washer to a small load and all of the temperature settings to cold to minimize shrinkage.

Unfortunately, the jacket may still shrink in cold water, but cold water washes will preserve the size and shape of the jacket better.


Because traditional fabric softeners will ruin the fire-resistant coating on Carhartt jackets, use a cup of vinegar to help soften the fabric. Vinegar will not affect the coating but will still help the fibers of the coat become softer.

Running the Washer

If your washer has a soak cycle, you should use this. Many newer washers do not allow for much customization, but ideally, you have the jacket soak in the vinegar water, and then rinse without much of a spin cycle. You may also be able to set the washer to “no spin” or “low spin.”

If you have a newer washer that does not have a soak cycle, you can also put the jacket in the tub with a cup of vinegar and let it soak for two or three hours before moving it to the washing machine to do a rinse cycle with minimal spinning.

Alternatively, you can stop the washer before it drains the first time and let it sit for an hour or two before restarting the washer and letting it run the whole clean cycle, minus that last spin cycle if you can avoid it.

Older washers will require you to let the washer agitate, then pause the washer while the jacket sits in the vinegar water to soak. After it has soaked for an hour or two, you start the washer again and let it complete the rinse cycle. If you can take the jacket out before it goes through the spin cycle, do so.

Avoiding that last spin cycle helps keep the jacket pliable for peak softness.

Before moving on to the next step, ensure the jacket does not still smell like vinegar. If it still smells like vinegar, put it back in the washing machine for another cold rinse cycle.

Drying the Jacket

If you are concerned about more shrinkage, hang the jacket on a hanger in a well-ventilated area and allow it to drip and air dry. Otherwise, put the jacket in the dryer on low heat and low spin.

Make sure the jacket is completely dry before moving on in this process.

Fluffing the Jacket  

If you have achieved the desired softness of the jacket, you are done! Congratulations!

If the jacket is still too stiff at this point, you can place it in the dryer on air fluff only with a couple of clean tennis balls to help soften it up further.

Because it is on air fluff and you are using tennis balls, this step can be repeated as many times as necessary until you have reached desired softness.

Make sure to remove the jacket from the dryer promptly to avoid unwanted wrinkles.

Continued Care

Carhartt jackets are meant to get dirty. To keep them softer longer, be sure to wash them in cold water every time. Whether you use vinegar in future washes is up to you, but vinegar can help keep the jacket softer and cut back on smells. When picking laundry detergents, pick mild ones to preserve the flame-resistant coating.

When putting it in the dryer, make sure to tumble dry on the lowest heat setting possible. This will keep it from getting stiff again. You can also hang dry it, but this may also cause a little bit of stiffness. Either can be rectified by putting it in the dryer on air fluff with a couple of tennis balls.