Why you should never wash your jeans - and how to keep them clean
If you’ve been throwing your trusty pairs of jeans in the wash with the rest of your laundry, you’ve been doing it all wrong. Jeans should rarely, if ever, be washed. 'Ew,'I hear you cry. But, bear with me.
There are of course many environmental and financial reasons why not washing your jeans is the smart choice. Running your washing machine 220 times throughout the year (four times per week) could cost you up to £59.32 per year, and that’s including the energy price cap discount until the end of December 2022. So, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to omit such a heavy item from your wash and dry cycle?
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The no-wash notion came a man who must know what he's talking about: the king of denim himself - Levi’s CEO and President, Charles ‘Chip’ Bergh. He hit headlines in 2014 when he admitted he hadn’t ever washed his decade-old favourite pair of jeans.
“If you talk to real denim aficionados, they will all agree you should never put your jeans in the wash,” he told CNN. “I spot-clean my jeans when they need to be washed,” he continued. “Worst case, I hand wash my jeans. And I do it myself. I mean, I love my jeans, and I take good care of them.”
Levi’s recommends washing your jeans once every 10 wears at most (if you can) to maintain fit and prevent too much “rebound.”
Why should you never wash your jeans?
The distinct lines and creases that form on your jeans, the ones specific to you? That unique look comes from wearing your jeans for long periods without washing, according to Levi’s.
Whilst Hiut Denim adds: “Raw denim is best given a good six months before washing. The longer you can leave it, the better your jeans will look.”
John Reid, managing director at clothing retailer Garment Quarter, agrees Bergh’s advice makes a lot of sense. “Washing your denim jeans can alter the make-up of the material itself, and in fact, your favourite pair of jeans don’t need to be washed as frequently as you may think,” he told Yahoo UK.
Read more: Are we washing our clothes too often?
“The sheer amount of water that they are exposed to in a washing machine can be the culprit for affecting the look and colour of the denim by fading over time. Cotton-based denim jeans with little stretch to them will become more comfortable over time.”
There is, however, an exception to the rule – and that’s if your jeans are made from a material blend containing elastane, rather than a raw denim blend. “If jeans have an elastane component, regular washing can actually help the fabric to shrink back down after being stretched due to wear.”
How to keep your jeans fresh without washing them
If you’re not washing your jeans for 10 wears or more, how on earth do you attempt to keep them feeling (and smelling) fresh?
Spot clean them
If it’s simply a case of a food stain or two, you can use this method to clean them up. “Keep your designer jeans in top condition by ‘spot cleaning’ any stains by using a toothbrush and a mixture of water with a gentle detergent,” says Reid.
“Doing this will not only reduce the risk of fading the dye, but you’ll also be helping the environment by reducing your water usage.”
Your freezer isn't just for peas and leftovers – apparently, you can use it to keep your jeans hygienic without compromising their look, according to Reid.
“Fold the jeans and place inside an airtight freezer bag before putting them in the freezer overnight and any bacteria will be killed by the cold temperatures,” he advises.
Read more: Rescue T-shirts you've shrunk in the wash with this hair conditioner hack shared on TikTok
Try a neutraliser spray
Another method for freshening up worn, but not soiled, jeans is to use a dry wash spray. Day2 is a range of aerosol sprays said to work in the same way as dry shampoo for clothes.
They even produce a denim-specific spray, called Day2 Dry Wash Spray Denim (£6.99 for 200ml) which is said to protect jeans fibres from wear and tear, slowing the fading process.
How to wash jeans correctly
So what happens when you really have to give your jeans a clean? Here’s what you can do to avoid compromising your jeans whilst washing.
Wash your jeans in cold water
Hot water temperatures can make the colour of your jeans run in the wash. Washing with cold water protects them against fading and shrinking, and keeps the original colour for longer.
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Wash your jeans inside out
Whether new or old, turning your jeans inside out can help to protect the fibres on the outside of the jeans from friction and direct exposure from detergent, which helps prevent fading and minimise abrasion along edging, hems and pockets.
Hand wash your jeans
If you can, make like Levi’s Bergh, and hand wash your jeans in cold water.
“Or hop in the shower with them on and soak them down and rinse them off — I do that too,” he suggested to CNN, which is one way to wake up in the morning.
Avoid the tumble dryer at all costs
“Dryers are the natural enemy of jeans” according to Levi’s. The lint that you see at the end of the cycle? That’s all the denim fibres broken up from the heat and movement.
Instead, hang them up. Line-drying preserves the fit and helps you avoid possible shrinkage or fabric warping.
Hang your jeans inside out to avoid soggy pockets and in a shady space if you’re outside to prevent fading.