How to Wash Jeans? The Answer May Shock You

Wondering how to wash jeans so they last? Here’s the short story:

  • Tossing your jeans in the washer and dryer can ruin the fabric and the rich blue color (if they’re dark wash).
  • Your jeans don’t need to be washed in the traditional way — ever.
  • You can refresh a stinky pair of jeans without washing.

Read on for the scoop on how to clean your jeans and care for your jeans so they last longer.

Your denim doesn’t require regular washing

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You may habitually toss your clothes in the washing machine at the end of the day. Guess what? This is a big “no-no” for jeans.

In fact, one denim expert — Levi Strauss CEO and President, Chip Bergh, once said hadn’t washed his jeans for more than a decade.

If you wash your jeans too early, the indigo will wash off uniformly, so it will give it an even, dark indigo cover, which means the magic will have gone.

Levi Strauss CEO and President, Chip Bergh

But that isn’t all. Washing your jeans uses too much water as well, which is not good for the planet.

The sheer amount of water that they are exposed to in a washing machine can be the culprit for affecting the look and color of the denim by fading over time.”

Levi Strauss CEO and President, Chip Bergh
Stylish man wearing jeans sits on sidewalk looking at smartphone.

Denim ages and looks better with natural wear and tear. Also, the dye doesn’t fade as quickly as it would otherwise.

And if you’re worried about bacteria forming in your jeans because you haven’t washed them in a while, don’t be. Microbiologists have studied what happens when you don’t wash your jeans for a few months, and they’ve discovered that there is no risk.

In one experiment, a University of Alberta student wore his jeans for 15 straight months without washing them. He swabbed the jeans and measured the bacteria count. Turns out, that count was similar to a recently washed pair of jeans.

How to clean and care for your jeans

Bacteria counts aside, jeans get stains and you don’t want to wear them that way. And then there’s the smell…so you need a way to freshen up your denim if you don’t put them in the washer.

Here’s your answer — four ways to refresh your jeans without using your washing machine.

1. Spot clean

If you get a stain on your jeans, spot cleaning them is your first course of action. This way, you don’t risk fading the dye.

Grab a toothbrush and a bowl of cold water mixed with mild detergent. Dip the toothbrush in the solution and then gently rub it over the stain until that stain disappears.

Let the jeans air dry.

2. Hand wash

If you think it’s high time your jeans need a wash, hand wash them in cold water. That’s what Bergh does.

I spot clean my jeans when they need to be washed. Worst case, I hand wash my jeans. And I do it myself. I mean, I love my jeans, and I take good care of them.

Levi Strauss CEO and President, Chip Bergh

3. Use a neutralizer spray

To freshen up your jeans or remove odor, you can use a neutralizer spray like this one. Finding them is not that difficult. In fact, some brands sell denim-specific neutralizer sprays that will remove odors. Plus, it will protect the denim fibers from unnatural wear and tear while also slowing the fading process.

4. Leave your jeans under sunlight

If your jeans get smelly, place them in direct sunlight for a few hours to help remove the odor.

5. Put them in the freezer

This hack comes from the university student who wore his jeans for more than a year. He says he got rid of the smell by triple-bagging the jeans and popping them in the freezer.

How to deep-clean jeans

The point of not machine-washing your jeans is that they will last longer and improve in appearance as you wear them more. But if your pair of jeans are badly soiled and even hand-washing doesn’t help, you can resort to the washing machine.

Turn the jeans inside out and zip them up. Use a gentle detergent and the machine’s coldest, most delicate setting. If you add other clothes in this load, make sure they are similar in color to your jeans.

The cold water wash minimizes the risk of the dye fading.

Skip the dryer and let your jeans air dry.

Lighten your laundry load

Washing your jeans can cause them to lose the dye and ruin the material. Before throwing them in the washer, try spot cleaning or hand-washing. If you must machine wash your jeans, use cold water and the delicate cycle.

If your jeans smell, dry them under sunlight or use a neutralizer spray.

Next time you wear your jeans, skip the hamper. Hang them up and they’ll be ready for your next wear.