This is something I get a lot of emails about and while I’m glad to help, the details are really basic. Follow these to a tee and you’ll really see an increase in the life of your denim by keeping them in good shape, not blowing out the spandex/elastane/etc and still getting the look and fit you love.
So, listen closely (or… pull the monitor really close to your face?), bookmark this page and follow these intently. This is the first in my care series, and you’ll want to know them all by heart.
1. Always turn your jeans inside out. While the indigo dye does bleed pretty much no matter what (unless you’ve purchased a pair of pre-washed denim), the color will stay even and won’t fade as quickly. It’s a little thing, but it makes a big difference.
2. Wash in COLD water on NORMAL setting. I know, I know; the capslock is annoying. But I’m trying to make a point here: cold water? It’s your denim’s friend. Lower than normal works, higher is NOT recommended. This will prevent the color from bleeding, the fit from warping (blowing out your spandex never looks good, kids.) and your jeans from wearing out faster than their time.
3. Never, EVER tumble dry. The dryer gets a big huge red X over it when it comes to denim. Everyone says this, and not enough people follow it. But, from here on out, make your jeans a promise: DON’T PUT THEM IN A DRYER! They’ll thank you, I’ll thank you and we’ll all be happier, calmer individuals. If you truly have to dry them (whether in an attempt to try to shrink them a little bit or dry them faster), put them on LOW heat for 10 to 15 minutes. No longer.
4. Laying dry is your best bet. While you can, of course, hang your jeans to dry, I’ve found that it can warp the waist band (especially if you’re like C., who hangs his jeans by the belt loops. Not a good look. Lay them on a flat surface (if you’re worried they won’t dry on the other side, go flip them over. It’s that easy) and let them dry naturally.
5. Cleanliness isn’t always next to godliness. Taking time between washes is going to help your jeans more than hurt them. I know some brands (like Lucky Brand) stretch out like crazy after one or two wears. Most jeans (hell, almost every pair of good jeans) don’t do that. I usually go with five to eight wears before I wash my jeans. And I know what you’re thinking… but it’s not gross. Calm down. It’s not like you’re working out in the damn things. If you sweat a lot, sure; wash them every other (or every third) wear. Other than that, there’s no reason not to take your time on them.
6. Feel like your jeans are starchy? Throw a little Downy (or some equivalent) into the washing machine (and, I recommend getting one of the Downy balls. It keeps your denim from getting weird, patchy marks from over-saturation of the softener) and it really does help a ton.
I have jeans from three, four… even five years back that still look pretty much like new, just by following these tips. I know it’s hard (I still have to scream at C. because every now and then he’ll “accidentally” throw a pair of Paper Denim & Cloth jeans into the dryer), but honestly? It makes all the difference.
Also, I do recommend washing them before your first wear, even if you bought them at a specialty boutique. There are an abundance of excess dyes, chemicals, silicone and more on the jeans, and you’re better off getting what you can off when you can. If you’re like me and have sensitive skin, it can make or break a pair of jeans.
Plus, then you avoid dying your white shirt blue at the bottom (or your white shoes, for that matter) with your over-indigoed jeans.
As for dry cleaning? I don’t recommend it. While some pairs say that you can take them to your local cleaners, unless they’re specifically knowledgeable about denim (just like you wouldn’t take your favorite leather jacket to someone who didn’t specialize in leather. It’s the same idea and you know better.), I’d recommend against that action. Running a load with five to six pairs of denim in it will be much, MUCH cheaper (and easier on the jeans themselves. The fewer chemicals on them, the better… and dry cleaners use a ton of chemicals.) and then you can control how they come out.
Good luck, and happy cleaning!