By Robin | April 05, 2017

Sanforized vs. Unsanforized


Buying a pair of jeans comes with lots of choices to make. First, you have to decide which brand and what kind of fit. And then, what color do you choose? Are you going to go for all-time favorite Indigo? On top of that, you have to take a decision as to what kind of fabric you like most; its origin, its weight, its texture, and……. Unsanforized or Sanforized?

To make the right decision, it is important to understand the meaning and the difference between both unsanforized and sanforized. You wouldn’t be the first who purchases a new pair of jeans that won’t fit after the first wash. Therefore today we will dive into the differences between unsanforized and sanforized denim. Hopefully, it will help make the right choices.



Understanding the difference between sanforized and unsanforized denim is a lot easier when you understand what sanforization even means. Sanforization is a common process to reduce the amount of shrinkage that will otherwise occur after its first wash.

In 1930, Sanford Lockwood Cluett, invented the sanforization machine. This was a huge development for the fashion industry, because this machine brought the opportunity to pre-shrink woven fabrics.
The fabric is continually fed into the sanforization machine and is transported between a series of rubber sleeves, rollers and heated cylinders. During the sanforization process the fabric is stretched, fixed, moistened and heated, in both length and width, to shrink and to stabilize.

The sanforization process does not only affect the sizing of the jeans, but also the texture of the jeans changes. The process will result in smoother looking and feeling denim.


Photo Courtesy of SecondHandTextileMachinery


Unsanforized denim

Unsanforized denim, also known as ‘loomstate’ or ‘shrink-to-fit’ denim, has on the contrary not been through the sanforization process. Therefore, Unsanforized denim is unaltered and untreated after being woven.

Whilst the denim is woven, the fibers are stretched, and between these fibers tiny spaces are created as a result. Due to the state of the fabric, unsanforized denim has the ability to mold perfectly to the wearer’s body type, because of those tiny spaces.

However, unsanforized denim is expected to shrink up to 10%, the exact shrinkage depends on the type of fabric and the intensity of the sanforization process that occurs when you wash it yourself for the first time, because the spaces in between the fibers disappear during the wash.

In account of the shrinkage, it is important to buy an unsanforized pair of jeans oversized. The extra space will allow the fabric to shrink naturally and mold perfectly to your legs when you start wearing it, and after its first wash still maintain a wearable size.

In light of this explanation, our recommendation is to  compensate the amount of shrinkage with buying a size up than the size you usually wear, so that when it does shrink during the first wash, you still have a perfectly wearable pair of jeans.

Moreover, an initial soak after purchase will help stabilize the fabric and remove some of the shrinkage. Skipping the initial soak will result in a jeans that may fit perfectly at first, but might still shrink to an unwearable size after its first wash. Therefore we recommend that you do not only buy the unsanforized pair of jeans a size up, but that you also give it an initial soak.


Photo Courtesy of Denimio


Sanforized denim

By far most of the jeans on the market are made of sanforized denim. Before the fabric is cut and sewn, the rolls of selvedge denim have gone through the sanforization machine. As a result of this process, the shrinkage of the fabric is reduced to 1 – 3%,  so an initial soak isn’t needed.

Sanforized jeans is, compared to unsanforized jeans, more comfortable. The fabric has a softer and smoother look and feel.


Sanforized vs. Unsanforized

The major difference between sanforized and unsanforized denim is the shrinkage. The sanforization process will reduce the shrinkage from about 10% to 1 – 3%. The shrinkage of sanforized denim is much more reliable and many people prefer sanforized denim for this exact reason.

Undergoing the sanforization process not only affects the sizing of denim, it affects the texture as well. The process of stretching, heating and shrinking the fabric will lead to much smoother feeling denim.

Unsanforized denim on the other hand, retains it rougher characteristics. However, the quality, the hairy and slubby texture and the indigo dye are exactly as the maker conceived.