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How to Wash Jeans Without Ruining Them
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There are many myths and mysteries when it comes to washing jeans. How often should you do it? Will they shrink in the machine after one wash? Can I just freeze them and be good to go? The truth of the matter is: Yes, denim is a tough fabric, and it can do without frequent trips to the laundry machine. However, it’s also quite delicate, and it’s important that when you decide to give your favorite pair of mom or dad jeans a proper cleanse, you do it the right way. Learn how to wash jeans without ruining them with two easy methods below. 

But first, how often should you wash jeans?

Just because denim is a tough fabric doesn’t mean it should be neglected. You can blot away a jelly stain here and dab off a mustard stain there, however, at some point, you have to give your jeans a proper wash. The denim experts at Levi Strauss & Co recommend you wash your jeans every ten wears or when they start to smell or look dirty. Mary Pierson, denim professional at Madewell, agrees: “Don’t wash your jeans too often. The less frequently they touch water, the longer the color will last. I know people who are die-hards, and have worn jeans for two years without washing. This might scare clean freaks, but natural elements like ozone in the air, a little dirt and body oil all add beauty and character to jeans.”

How to hand wash your jeans

If you have splurged on a good pair of jeans and you want them to last as long as possible, consider handwashing them. Handwashing minimizes the chances of shrinkage, color fading and keeps your denim looking (and feeling) fresh.

What you’ll need:  

  • Bleach-free laundry detergent

  • White vinegar

  • Bucket

  • Towel

Step 1: Start by turning your jeans inside out.

Step 2: Fill your tub with cold water—hot water will cause colors to start running, resulting in faded jeans. If your place doesn’t have a tub, a bucket will do. Note: You can also use a sink, however, make sure it’s sturdy because denim becomes extra heavy when submerged in water.

Step 3: Add your choice of bleach-free laundry detergent. The pros at Masterclass recommend detergent made for dark clothing (like Woolite Dark) to prevent fading. You can also swap the detergent with distilled white vinegar instead.

Step 4: Slosh the jeans around to ensure even distribution of detergent, then let them sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

Step 5: Drain the soapy water and re-fill the tub with cold water in order to rinse the jeans. Repeat as needed.

Step 6: To remove excess water before letting your jeans dry, it’s important that you don’t wring them out. Instead, roll them in a white towel and press firmly to squeeze water out, like so

Step 7: Let your jeans air dry either by laying them flat or putting them on a hanger and hanging them from a sturdy place like a showerhead, where they can drip.

How to wash jeans in the machine

Need to repeat your favorite pair but don’t have the time to handwash them? No worries. Most denim is machine-washable. Just be sure to double-check those care instructions before you start.

What you’ll need:

  • Bleach-free laundry detergent

  • White vinegar

Step 1: Again, read the care label to make sure your jeans are machine-washable. If they are, turn them inside out and place them inside the machine.

Step 2: Add your choice of bleach-free laundry detergent. Again, opting for detergent that’s made for dark colors helps retain color. You can also substitute bleach with distilled white vinegar. Avoid using fabric softener since it’ll only add to product build-up in your denim.

Step 3: Select the gentle cycle (or delicate cycle, depending on your machine) and choose the coldest water option.

Step 4: If you choose to dry your jeans in the machine, Masterclass suggests you select the lowest heat setting. However, your best bet is to let them air dry.

3 Tips for Long-Lasting Denim

  1. Air them out. After each wear, hang your jeans by a window or another area with good airflow to prevent any odor.
  2. Freshen them up after each wear. In addition to getting some airflow through your denim, it’s also wise to spritz some freshener in between washes. Tide’s Antibacterial Fabric Spray works to not only have your jeans smelling like they just came out of the washer, but it also eliminates up to 99.9 percent of bacteria. You can also make your own fabric freshener using white vinegar or alcohol, water and a few drops of an essential oil of your choice.
  3. Be rigorous about spot cleaning. The belief that you don’t need to wash your jeans as frequently as your other clothes is true, so whenever possible, resort to spot cleaning. Don’t let any wine, soup, juice stains, etc. dry out before getting to them. The sooner you can get them out, the more likely you are to avoid having to wash the whole pair. 

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