As a denim aficionado, I get a lot of questions about jeans – which styles to buy, favorite brands, and the latest trends. I’m learning a lot about sustainable living these days, but one thing I’ve done for a while is cut back on washing my beloved denim. But should you wash jeans and if so, how often?!
I decided that I should air my dirty secrets and share my tips for proper denim care, including an answer to this debate of whether to wash our denim or not to wash your denim!
Should You Wash Jeans?
I do wash my jeans, but I do so very, vary sparingly.
In addition to the environmental impact we can have by instituting a more sustainable approach to our household chores, washing machines and dryers are very harsh environments for clothes, so you have to take special care.
Besides my infrequent washing regime, I also practice a few habits that keep my jeans looking their best in between forays into the wilderness of laundry day. If you’re gonna buy nice jeans (which I really recommend doing if you wear denim a lot), you should take proper care of them, so you get your money’s worth, right??
Keeping your clothes in good shape longer is such an important step in sustainable fashion!
How to Wash Jeans
A few rules for those times few and far between when you do need to wash your jeans… Washing jeans on their own is a great idea though not mandatory.
Always use cold water and go light on the laundry soap, letting the movement of the washing machine shake the dirt loose. It’s also good practice to button and flip your jeans inside out so the color doesn’t escape as easily. See all of my go-to cleaning products here.
Should You Wash Jeans After Every Wear
First, I want to explain WHY you shouldn’t wash your jeans after every wear… The fibers that hold jeans together start to break down naturally with wear – that’s them molding perfectly to your body.
The agitating of your washing machine and the drying nature of soap products speeds up this breakdown, leading you down a path of fading and fraying as well as a decreasing ability of your jeans to hold their shape. Also, when fibers fall apart, they enter the water supply in your machine!
If you get to a point where your jeans seem to lose shape by the end of the day, it’s because too many of these fibers have broken down, so they can’t hold on to their shape. This leads to more and more jean purchases – and that’s certainly not sustainable!
So, when should you wash your jeans? If you see stains or a noticeable dirtiness to your jeans, it’s time for a wash (but I usually have quite a few stains before I throw in the towel).
Darker rinses are harder to judge, but I think you should consider that a gift from the sartorial gods. Consider washing your jeans no more than every five wears. Ten wears? The more wears between each wash the better!
Remember that jeans are built to withstand wear. That’s part of why we love them so much and why they can cost so much!
Should You Dry Your Jeans in the Dryer?
And after you’ve washed your denim, please, please, PLEASE, for the sake of your jeans and my sanity, don’t put them in the dryer! Let them air dry.
Even harsher than the agitation of the washing machine is the desiccating nature of your dryer. Removing so much moisture at such high temperatures dries out the denim fibers causing them to break. You can’t reverse that damage.
It seems natural to dry your jeans to return them to a more fitted state, but the truth is, your jeans should hold their shape all on their own. It’s the continual process of washing and drying that makes them loosen up so much with wear. It’s a sartorially vicious cycle.
But what about between washings? My policy is to treat my jeans well and they will treat me well…
1. Fold or hang them neatly in your closet. Whether it’s on a hanger or on the shelf – let them rest when you aren’t wearing them and help them stay in the shape you want!
2. Get them tailored to suit your needs. Letting jeans drag on the ground leads to fraying and breakage. That style, while en vogue in years past, isn’t worth it. We’re right back to breaking those precious fibers down. And each wash or rainy day worsens this form of wear and tear.
Take new jeans to a tailor. Be sure to wear them with your normal height of shoes. Don’t bring heels if you’re likely to wear flats. And remember that cuffing is always an option to make denim even more versatile.
How to Put On Your Jeans
If you’re putting on snugly-fitting jeans, DO NOT pull them up by the belt loops. Those small pieces of denim are meant to hold a belt that weighs less than a pound, not withstand your entire upper body strength.
Pull your jeans on up to your knee and then gently pull them up over your thighs and into place around your hips or waist. If you really need to pull them up a little extra, grab the waistband and material beneath.
You wouldn’t pull on nylons only holding on to the top up, after all, so treat your jeans the same way.
Why You Should Buy Nice Jeans
So, those are the basics of taking care of your jeans. If you’re spending money on premium denim, then treat them well.
And as someone who proudly lives in her jeans, might I recommend investing in a pair of nice denim? Companies that specialize in jeans do so for a reason. Their clothing is specially designed and produced to give you what you want from a pair of jeans. And with so many premium denim companies, your choices are endless!
I’m always happy to ask questions about fit, styles, and styling questions as well! You can get a start with these guides:
Looking for an elegant drying rack? Try this clothes horse from Helen Milan Home.
Tough Jean Stain Removers
Because I wash my jeans so rarely, I’ll be upfront that I’ve had some SERIOUS STAINS! It’s mostly dirt, stuck into my jeans with my body oil and body lotion. Nevertheless, it’s become a laundry nightmare at times, but now I’m a little smarter.
One. I don’t go as long between washes as I used to. Also, for some easy upfront denim stain fighting, you can try the recommended baking soda trick on a stain just after it happens. I’ve seen suggestions for baking soda on a brush and then hot water as well as a tub of water with baking soda. I haven’t tried each of these yet.
My foolproof method (when things are real bad) is actually a product we use for sustainable cloth diapering! With cloth diapers, you need to periodically strip them of any buildup (from potty and from detergents). I’ve only used the Grovia laundry treatment pods and they’re great!
With that in mind, I gave it a whirl on some jeans that were so stained, dingy, and dirty-looking! AND IT WORKED!
With the pods, you need to wash the jeans normally (with cold water and a bit of soap). Then do a hot water load with a pod in place of detergent. This is certainly something you don’t want to do too regularly, but it’s a great last resort to save your jeans every once in a while!