An immigrant grocer named Levi Strauss designed a pair of coveralls out of canvas. His target market—the miners in San Francisco during the 1850s. Those men were tired of their trousers wearing out and welcomed a pair of sturdy pants. Strauss eventually switched from canvas to denim. While denim is softer than canvas, it can still be stiff (especially that stored-away jean jacket you’d like to resurrect). Here’s how to soften your denim and make it more comfortable.

Soften stiff jeans by tossing them in the washing machine with your usual detergent plus one-half cup of table or rock salt. You may need to double rinse them. Turn them inside out, and dry them on low for five minutes only. Then hang your jeans to prevent shrinkage and puckering. If you don’t have a clothesline, throw them over a shower rod or attach each leg to a clothes hanger. Try to use the dryer as infrequently as possible since it can cause shrinkage and fading.

More help with laundry…