How to Wash Denim (and do it the right way!)

by Jaime on July 13, 2011

basket of laundry with jeans

And yet, my laundry never looks this clean.

We’ve touched on this before – at length! – but I wanted to recap for all the new readers out there! Plus, for those of you who are still doing certain things incorrectly despite reading the previous posts (you know who you are!), then here is your heavy handed reminder! So, here are six quality tips offering you information on how to wash your denim (the right way!):

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. (ed. note: you’ll also want to keep something particular in mind with this: do not leave your jeans sitting in the washer post-cycle for longer than you have to. You’ll regret the awkward dry patterns that will come from it.)

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. (ed. note: this is the most important of all tips. If you only do one, please make it this.)

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. (ed. note: many jeans that stretch out a significant amount are 100% Cotton, with no blend options. Keep that in mind while shopping, and it’s often recommended to go down one size for better long term fit… even if it feels uncomfortable the first time around.)

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.

What are your washing tips for treating your denim right?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Janine @ Alternative Housewife July 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Good post! Gonna share this in my Sunday links. :) The only one I disagree with is fabric softener. That stuff is toxic! I recommend dye & perfume free detergent (better for laundry and families) and a splash of vinegar if you need to soften. :)

Maybe an eco-friendly denim post in the future?

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Jaime July 13, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Great tips! I’ll admit – I don’t personally use fabric softener (and I use the Dye and Fragrance Free Detergents) because C. is allergic and I’ve found that there are so many people who use the softness factor as their primary argument for throwing it into the dryer. I like to head them off right away. :)

But you’re right; I should be looking into more eco-friendly options. Thanks!

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