A small spot poll in our office confirmed that no one really knows any rules when it comes to washing jeans- from only washing every other month, to a spot clean with a baby wipe to throwing them in a machine twice a week- we’ve all got our own way of doing things when it comes to our beloved denim. But back in 2014, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. Chip Bergh shocked us all when he urged us to stop washing our jeans. Before you recoil in disgust at the thought of your jeans becoming rancid cultures of germs and bacteria, his main argument was in the interest of sustainability. He explained that too many people are washing their raw denim far too often, therefore using (wasting…) more water than is actually necessary- not good for our blue planet.
How often should you wash your jeans?
Originally designed as a material for work wear, denim is engineered for a little bit of rough and tumble, so if you’ve only had your jeans on for a few hours, there’s no need to toss them in the wash basket the second you get home. Plus, the less you wash them, the longer they’re bound to last, as continual washing on a super hot wash will not only fade your jeans, but break down the structure and integrity, so that they won’t have that same perfect fit that you worked so hard to find. Now, don’t worry, we aren’t suggesting that you wait until your jeans crawl out of your wardrobe and into the laundry basket by themselves, but there’s definitely some steps that you can take to ensure your jeans last a little longer and you help to save the planet too (bonus!).
That’s crazy. – Tommy Hilfiger on the idea of washing your jeans after every wear.
We’re all prone to a little spill every now and again, but you wouldn’t clean the whole carpet if you dropped a little sauce, so why do we throw our jeans in the wash for a tiny blob of ketchup? If you do happen to spill something on your jeans, then try to spot clean as gently as possible (a random faded patch is never ideal) to remove the stain with cold water with a cloth blotter underneath the stain to catch the residue. For mud or liquid stains, tap water will work wonders with a small amount of a mild detergent. Do not use a stain remover as this will encourage serious fading; seriously, listen to my voice of experience. For more oily stains like mustard, apply the detergent first and sponge clean with cool water.
Air them out…
A day in the field, a festival, a bonfire or just a dodgy smelling pub: there are plenty of odours we’d rather not linger on our clothes from time to time. To prevent unwanted smells from sticking around, hang your jeans up (outside if the weather is nice!) after wearing rather than folding over hangers or in draws, which will reduce creasing too. You can always buy a fabric refresher to give them a little boost before hanging them on the line.
If after airing them out and giving them a little spritz, you think they need freshening up a little more, then it’s a completely viable option to put your jeans in the freezer. Okay so it sounds crazy at first, but freezing jeans and killing off a large proportion of the bacteria will mean your denim will be odourless when you pull them out of the icebox. Fold them up into a large ziplock bag and put them in the freezer overnight; you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fresh they are!
All bent out of shape?
If your jeans have a higher percentage of elastane in them, you may find that they go a little baggy at the knee or around the waist band from time to time. If you need to give them a quick squish back in shape, then you can put them on a short cycle in the tumble dryer to shrink them back if you need to get them back to that spray-on style.
Sometimes our jeans just need a little more than an air dry and a freeze, and the washing machine is calling. But although they might have been all the rage in the 80s, chances are today you’re not going for the faded jeans look all that often. So if you’re nervous about machine washing jeans, then consider soaking them in cool water and about a cup of white vinegar (yes, you heard us) for an hour, and then leave to air dry. Always make sure you check your pockets for anything that could transfer oils (lipsticks and balms are the worst offenders!) and turn the jeans inside out. The vinegar locks in the indigo colour, and the smell will disappear after they have dried- so you won’t end up smelling like a chip shop.
No. It’s time. They’re being washed.
Step away from the machine! You’ve invested time, money and effort into these jeans, don’t throw it all away now! Hand washing jeans is always the best option and it’s not as time consuming as you think. Fill your bathtub with cool water and add a small amount of non-biological, non-bleach, and colour-saving detergent- about half of the usual recommended amount. Turn the jeans inside out to prevent colour loss and leave them to soak for 45 minutes before hanging them up on the line to dry out. Try not to do this too often, as the detergent will break down fibres and cause your jeans to fade.