Looking after your denim

Tips to care for your jeans from wash to recycle.

With a pair of jeans, you can conquer the world. Stylish, suave, and confident, this garment brings out the best in many people. A pair of well-fitted, uniquely creased denim is the most versatile fashion statement throughout the world. Every jean owner knows that the sturdy denim revels in rough and prolonged use. Exactly this use is what creates those beloved creases and wrinkles that make your jeans embedded in your form.

Stains and debacles can happen, and its best to get them out as quickly as possible. But this also means that you might be subjecting the fabric to extreme laundry settings trying to get the sweat and grime off it. You probably don’t need to do that. Here are some great tips on how to care for your jeans. Let’s start with the basics.

How often must one wash jeans?

I know people who wash their jeans after every wear. Then some wash it once a month. Which is the best strategy? We turn to the experts on what they say about washing jeans.

  • Levi Strauss recommends that you wash your jeans after every ten wears or so. This timeline is the best way to maintain fit. The creases that turn up in your jeans are a result of wearing them for an extended period without washing it.
  • If there is a stain on the jean, use a wet cloth, wipe, or an old toothbrush with some mild soap to scrub away at the spot.
  • Always wash in cold water to prevent any fading or shrinking of the denim. It turns out that cleaning the jeans cold is more energy and money efficient.
  • Always wash with similar colors in case the color bleeds. Overloading the machine with this heavy fabric consumes a lot of energy.
  • While using a washing machine, stick to low temperatures to maintain the look and feel of the jeans as warm water weakens the denim fibers.
  • If your jeans are of the distressed kind- a lot of rips and holes in it- put them on the delicate cycle of your washing machine. It will prevent the tears from getting any worse.
  • Jean enthusiasts almost always wash by hand. Just put it in a tub with cold or lukewarm water, mild detergent, and softener. You can soak them up to half an hour. Work out the scruffs and stains by hand.
  • Wash them inside out to prevent bleeding of the indigo color.
  • Using mild soaps over harsher detergents will ensure that your color and quality stay without unnecessarily wearing the jeans fabric out.
  • Have you noticed the lint that builds up in your dryer when you dry your jeans? That is your jeans breaking down. Never tumble dry your jeans.
  • Instead, hang them on a clothesline to air dry them inside out in the shade to prevent the sun from causing fading. This way, the pockets too will dry completely.
  • Line drying also preserves the best possible fit for your jeans by avoiding shrinkage and denim wear out.
  • Make sure your detergent is bleach-free to avoid any washed-out nightmares.
  • It is prudent to wash your jeans before you wear them for the first time. That way, you can avoid any inner denim stains and the harshness of the fabric. Make sure to wash it with similar colors as wet jeans can bleed, especially the first time around.
  • A sure-fire way to not go wrong with your wash care is to take a look at the label that accompanies the garment. It will contain wash or prewash and drying instructions. I recommend this as many brands have different approaches to jeans before it comes out on the market. Some prewash them, and some don’t. Be sure, to keep your jeans long-lasting.
  • If your jeans are raw denim, then stay away from washing them for at least 120-180 days to let the creases settle in and bring the best possible shape to your jeans. Raw denim is not treated or processed before coming onto the market. So waiting 180 days will bring out the optimized structure and form of the jeans.
  • If it smells, its time to cleanse. This golden rule is key to keeping your jeans wearable and keeping you acceptable.

Why all this talk about washing? What about the jeans-in-the freezer claim?

Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh may have unwittingly been a proponent of this belief with his claim of never having washed his jeans. But he has been known to say that freezing is an “old wive’s tale” and “that it’s never going to work.” Here’s the science behind it.

Wearing your jeans every day can cause a lot of your body sweat, dead cells, and natural oils to become embedded within the fiber. These cells can be hotbeds of bacteria -hot, damp, and dank. This bacteria growth can cause odors just the way your underarms smell after too much sweating. Throwing your jeans in the freezer overnight may solve this problem of odor. But only for a short while. It will freeze the activity of these microbes but not eradicate them like some of the claims. It is crucial to understand this distinction. When your jeans start to warm up, these microbes are activated, thus setting the cycle in motion again.

So throwing your jeans in the freezer is a short term solution. Just wash them every time you feel the grimy feeling coming on.

Caring for my jeans

Folding and Storing

Folding your jeans isn’t a great idea. It will cause creases in unexpected places. Hang them up with clothes hangers. Make sure you don’t use any clamps to hold the jeans in place. Use hooks so that the jeans can stay flat. If you have to fold your jeans, fold them the other way out once in a while to prevent stresses in the fold areas.

Alteration and Repairs

Altering your jeans is a limited option. Do it only if you must. Getting your length right is A-okay, but taking in anything else means you have bought the wrong size. Do minimal alterations – maybe an inch at the waist and hip. Altering anywhere else will have unintended consequences if not done correctly. Hems may get frayed, and your rips need more care. For all your alteration and rips, take them up to your brand showrooms to get it examined. Even local tailors will be able to do a relatively good job patching them up or servicing your jeans for you.


If your jeans have lost all of its indigo, it’s possible to redye them. Be sure to take it to your brand’s outlet to have a definitive idea of the process.


Just because it has outlived its purpose doesn’t mean you throw them away. Recycle your jeans by giving them back to the brand. Levi’s takes back its old jeans to repurpose them into other products. There are also options to rent out jeans and get a new pair every time. Your jeans can serve as insulation for houses, stitched into a denim shirt and denim overalls for a baby. Sustainable living is the norm, and you can contribute to it by recycling your jeans.

Jeans aficionados can have many differing opinions out there. The crux of it is that your denim is yours to care for regularly. Go with your instincts and a splash of expert advice. While many of them advocate for caring for your denim like a baby, the fact remains that it is a more durable fabric than most. It can be subject to some tough love, but only if it deserves it. Wash when it smells and line dry inside out once washed. You cannot go wrong. Happy Jeans-ing.

Leave a Comment