To put it simply, there's a lot of controversy over how often you should wash your jeans. In fact, there's actually a pretty heated debate on whether you should wash them at all. Some go as far as saying that if you think your jeans aren't clean, you should just stick them in the freezer to wipe out any funky smells. Interesting. But what if they're really, truly dirty? Is it possible that you've been doing it wrong all these years by tossing your denim in the washer and dryer a couple of times per week? To get to the bottom of it, we talked to denim experts to find out the real deal when it comes to washing your jeans, plus the best ways to care for them if they really do need a good cleaning.
Wash Them as Infrequently as Possible
We'll get right to the point — you absolutely can wash your jeans if you want to. Phew. But that doesn't mean you should be washing them after every wear. "I would suggest reducing the frequency of washing your jeans to keep their color in place," says Catherine Ryu, creative director of Citizens of Humanity. "Washing your jeans every four to five wears should be enough for most pairs."
On the other hand, some say that washing is OK but they prefer to do it as little as possible. "I try not to wash my jeans," says Jamie Mazur, cofounder of vintage denim brand Re/Done. "Sometimes it becomes necessary, but it is better to not wash them if you can." In other words, Mazur thinks you should only wash them as needed.
Spot-Clean Them Gently
It happens: you dripped some kind of food, toothpaste, or your cocktail on your jeans. Instead of washing the entire pair, denim experts suggest you spot-treat just the stained area. "I would avoid spot cleaners that contain chlorine bleach," Ryu says. In place of stain pen or wipe, she recommends opting for gentle soap or vinegar, which is a great alternative to harsh detergent.
Wash Them Inside Out in Cold Water
Skipping the hot cycle will keep the dye in your jeans from bleeding, says Mazur, although it's still a good idea to wash them with like colors. "True indigo jeans can bleed their color a lot," he notes, so it's better not to risk it. Another way to make sure they retain their color? "To prevent further fading, I would suggest washing your jeans inside out," Ryu says. This also preserves the outer fabric overall, since less friction occurs on the outside of the jeans when you wash them inside out.
Don't Put Them in The Dryer
It might be fast and easy, but it's not so great for your denim. Ideally, you should hang-dry your jeans instead. "The dryer heat ruins the yarn and lycra in the denim," explains Ryu, meaning that those super cute jeans you dropped a couple hundred bucks on won't last as long as they're supposed to (about two and a half years, according to Ryu) if you repeatedly pop them in the dryer. Pressed for time? She says you can, on occasion, tumble dry your jeans on a low heat setting. Another exception, according to Mazur, involves vintage denim. "Vintage jeans often get a bit stretched out with wear," he explains. "Throwing them in the dryer briefly can help them regain their shape."
Skip Washing Them Just Because They're Wrinkly
It can be tempting to wash a pair of jeans to refresh them when they don't look neat and smooth, but in this case, it's better to steam them out rather than putting them through the full wash and dry process, says Ryu. Storage is also key when it comes to preventing a wrinkled appearance. "Most can be folded, but I like to hang my flares or detailed jeans to minimize wrinkles," she adds.
Always Check the Care Label
You might wonder about how to properly care for jeans with embellishments like shredding studs and patches. Good news: the fabric care tag will definitely have you covered. "Always follow the care instructions on the garments tags," Ryu recommends, "as every style and wash is slightly different and requires different care methods."