In short: The best way to soften Dickies pants is to submerge them in salt water overnight, then give them a regular wash in the washing machine. Salt breaks down the proteins in the fabric.
Dickies pants are known for being super stiff because they are made to last. Here’s how to break in and soften Dickies pants so you can give your brand-new pair a comfortable worn feel.
Keep in mind that some people prefer to keep them stiff.
Why are Dickies pants so stiff?
Dickies pants are so stiff because of the chemical residue from the manufacturing process and the fabric’s bonding properties (a combination of cotton and polyester in different twill blends).
Workwear like Dickies pants are made for strenuous work environments like construction and forestry, which is why they need to be tough, durable, and last a long time.
How to soften Dickies pants fast (break them in)
If you find your brand new pair of Dickies pants too tough, here are some methods you can try to break them in and soften them as fast as possible.
1. Roll and twist them with your hands
The simplest way to soften Dickies pants is to use your hands to “screw” them up. Basically, what you’ll need to do is to roll and twist every part of the pants with your hands.
By shaking them up, you’re breaking the bonds that make the fabric stiff without affecting the integrity of the materials. Take your time and do this for a few minutes a day for a week.
After the week-long treatment, your brand new pair of Dickies pants should be creased up, so put them in the washing machine and wash normally to smoothen them out.
However, I don’t think this is the most effective softening method. It’s the simplest (because you only need your hands), but it would only soften Dickies pants just a little bit.
2. Brine them in saltwater
The most effective method to soften Dickies pants is to soak them inside a bucket of saltwater overnight. After the soak, all you need to do next is to put them in the washing machine.
Why does this work? Salt is a natural alternative to fabric softener. It breaks down the protein in the fabric, making the pants softer to the touch and therefore more comfortable to wear.
Here’s what you’ll need.
Once you have everything ready, fill the bucket with hot water, enough to submerge the Dickies pants entirely. Then, empty the entire salt bottle (about 40 ounces) into the bucket.
Stir the saltwater solution until all of the salt has dissolved.
Next, stuff your brand new pair of Dickies pants inside the bucket of saltwater. You might want to put something on top of the pants to make sure they are submerged. Leave them overnight.
After 24 hours of soaking, take them out and wring the pants. Put them in the washing machine and wash them regularly, making sure to dry them thoroughly after the wash.
Once they’ve been dried properly, your brand new pair of Dickies pants should now feel like the softest, most comfortable pair of worn pants you’ve ever had.
I’ve done this “softening” method with 2 different pairs of tactical pants and now they’re so soft. They feel better than jeans. I think the saltwater method is a unique way to break in tough pants.
3. Wash them with fabric softener
Another method to soften a brand-new pair of Dickies pants is to wash them inside the washing machine using laundry detergent powder and fabric softener.
Always check the label on your pants for temperatures.
Most washers have a fabric softener dispenser. Add liquid fabric softener into the designated softener dispenser at the start of your wash, if available on your washing machine.
If your washing machine doesn’t have a dispenser, add liquid or fabric softener manually during the final rinse cycle when the tub is full of water.
Fabric softeners deposit a layer of electrically charged chemical compounds on fabric. This causes the fibers on Dickies pants to fluff up, making the fabric feel softer and gentler on the skin.
If you have a tumble dryer, it’s best to use dryer sheets. They work to eliminate static cling, help make your work pants softer to the touch, and can infuse a fresh scent.
4. Combine all three methods
Choosing one of the softening methods above will yield good results, but for an even better outcome, I recommend combining all of the three methods I’ve mentioned.
First, you can roll and twist them with your hands. Then, you can submerge them in heavy saltwater overnight, give them a regular wash and dry them properly.
At this stage, your Dickies pants should be much more comfortable. However, if you want to soften them up even more, you can wash them again using a fabric softener.
The fabric softener will add a layer of electrically charged chemical compounds to the fabric, fluffing them up. This will make the already soft pair of Dickies pants even softer.
5. Wear them often
Last but not least, be patient and wear them as often as possible. Wearing your Dickies work pants will break down the stiffness naturally over time, especially if you’re active.
The best thing about wearing your Dickies pants often is that they will naturally fold and flex according to your body’s movements, while the rest of the fabric maintains its new shape.
Perhaps combining one of the softening methods above with wearing them as often as possible is the best way to get maximum softness and comfort in your brand-new pair of Dickies pants.