Washing Your Dirty Jeans: The Weird, The Easy, and The Obvious

Jean connoisseurs all over the world have injected their 2 cents into the great denim washing debate. CEOs, fashion moguls, laundry pros, scientists, and mainstream America have all voiced their positions on this one question: How often should you wash your jeans? You’ve probably been wearing jeans your entire life and washing them if, when, and how you please thankyouverymuch. That’s totally okay! What’s interesting is that an overwhelming majority say not to. Not once. Not ever. The only reason would be extenuating circumstances such as life threatening funk. Read on!

There’s one thing we need to specifically address before this article goes any further. A dedicated fan base to that which is called raw denim exists. You could be a member or not. Without getting into raw denim’s history, lovefests, and internet analyses floating online, we’ll give you the quick and dirty on the difference between raw denim and regular denim. Raw denim is also called “dry denim”, where the indigo dye hasn’t gone through the same pre-washing or treatment process like regular denim. Jeans are stiff and extra dark because the dye job is still raw, and tend to be on the expensive side. The draw is that these types of jeans will adapt to the wearer – fading, creasing, contouring, and stretching to the body and forming its own wash pattern. You’re breaking them in like a new pair of shoes. Washing them any time before six months – or at all – can disrupt this natural process for the life of the jeans.

According to raw denim enthusiasts, without a washing, the fiber and dye breaks down on its own, which is a good thing. Where it gets sort of gray is trying to discern truth from urban legend. Pieces of raw denim advice states that if the smell gets to you, freeze them or spray them. If it’s the roughness that bothers you, run into the salty ocean, but for Pete’s sake, don’t put them in the machine! If you do decide to wash them, do it by hand and hang them to dry. Some people have one pair they wear every day, others have more than one. If you want to know more, there are numerous blogs devoted solely to raw denim.
Regular denim on the other hand, has been dyed, pre-washed, and treated, can comes in styles that can resemble raw denim. You buy ‘em, wash ‘em, wear ‘em, and get on with it. If your $10 pair gets faded or damaged there’s no 5 stages of grief. Now that we know what raw denim is, we’ll get into washing your denim, raw or regular.
1. When to wash? If you want to follow the rules of the raw denim school, then the rule of thumb is no washing for the first six months after purchase. Other than that, it’s up to you. There are masses of people who choose to go for months or years without washing their jeans at all, and that’s fine too.
2. For the non-wash campers who want to get rid of odors: Freezing doesn’t always do the job. Instead, using a fabric freshener or a soak in a tepid water-white vinegar bath should do the trick. Air dry. With stains, use a damp sponge or magic eraser to blot.
3. When washing by hand, use warm or cold water and place them in the tub or sink. You can either use a little bit of mild detergent or go without any soap. Take note that there are special soaps formulated for black and other dark garments, and word is they that actually work quite well.
4. For washing your jeans in machines, always turn them inside out. Cold water on the gentlest cycle your machine offers is recommended to help prevent fading, wear, and tear. But some of you may actually prefer it that way. Your call!
5. All denim washing schools recommend to line or hang dry, letting them air out without the risk of the heat from a dryer shrinking or killing them altogether.

About bacteria and germs, there’s a study that’s been cited among raw denim wearers that supports the case of bacteria not being an issue. A college kid wore his jeans for 15 months, and checked the bacteria load prior to their first wash. Two weeks later he repeated the test on the same pair and compared the amounts of bacteria before and after. There was no significant difference, but we’re confident that he also wore clean underwear. So feel comfortable in your jeans no matter how many times you wash them, or if you don’t wash them at all. How about you? Do you have any jean washing rituals?