A good pair of jeans can get you through a lot of seasons if not years if you take good care of them. Carl Chiara of Levi Strauss & Co., along with many other specialists, believes that the best way to care for jeans is not to over-care for them. This is good news for penny-pinchers out there. It may not be worth it to waste money on washing your jeans frequently.

Because denim shapes to people’s bodies, you don’t want to lose that shape by washing them too often. According to Mr. Chiara, putting your jeans in the washing machine agitates the denim, making the fibers on the cotton fabric swell. The yarns then tense up and get shorter, shrinking your jeans. Despite this, Mr. Chiara doesn’t take his jeans to the dry cleaner. Here is his method:

After six months of wearing a pair of jeans, Mr. Chiara does a comprehensive cleaning; his method could also be used by those who like to wash their jeans more often. Usually, he fills a bathtub to about six inches with room-temperature water and adds two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Liquid Soap, which he likes because it is mild. Then, he immerses the jeans in the tub, laying them flat.

Sometimes, with dark jeans, he’ll add 1/8 cup of white vinegar to the water. “The vinegar sets the indigo and keeps it from fading,” he says. Mr. Chiara is careful not to scrub the jeans or move them around vigorously. He just lets them soak for 20 minutes before hanging them by the belt loops to drip dry.

Take a look at a couple of tips from Mr. Chiara for freshening up your jeans between washes, whether you wait a few weeks or six months, like him, between washes:

  • Spot-clean spills with a damp sponge and “whatever is under the kitchen sink – usually Windex or 409.”
  • At the end of the day (or in the morning), hang your jeans on a hook in your bathroom when you shower. Try hanging jeans by the belt loop to preserve their shape. The steam will freshen them up a bit.

How often and how do you clean your jeans for ultimate preservation?

Check out the full Wall Street Journal article over at The Jeans Care Secret: Rarely Wash Them.