Here’s Why You Should Wash Your Jeans Rarely

The only denim laundry guide you need.

As legend has it, “not washing your jeans will make them last longer.”
But if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing (no, we’re not talking about speaking to your toxic ex); if you’re cleaning your jeans daily, you’re doing it wrong. It is recommended that you do not wash your jeans or pop them into the washing machine too often.

jeans in washing machine
Eliza Alves / CaptureNow

But if you’re wondering where the idea of how to wash jeans rarely comes from, it’s coming from the denim legend himself, Chip Bergh, Levi’s CEO and President. He believes you shouldn’t ever machine wash your jeans as it wears down the material.

The revelation of why you should never wash your jeans in the machine came from Bergh about 10 years ago, when he revealed something more than you’re ready to bear! He has been wearing his favorite pair of jeans for over 10 years now, and these jeans have fortunately never seen what a machine looks like.

Why should you avoid washing your jeans?

quotes about not washing your jeans
MiicheleMuller / Instagram

If you’re wondering how to wash jeans, the idea is to not wash your jeans for as long as possible. They’re denim, for heaven’s sake. They’re rough, tough, durable, and made from a rugged fabric! Jeans age just like a wine; trust us, it only gets better and better!

John Reid, managing director at clothing retailer Garment Quarter, mentions, 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.” While it is often believed that if one keeps washing the denim to soften it, you can simply keep wearing it for it to best fit you. And if you machine wash your jeans, the soft, smooth texture can get hardened by the thrash of the spin cycle and deluge of water. They will only get paler than the last time. Not to forget, the shape will be askew. Even earnest air-drying can do nothing to restore what once was.

Related: 8 Golden Tips To Make Your Jeans Last Longer

What does Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh have to say?

chip bergh, president and ceo of Levi's

Bergh believes spot-cleaning the jeans if there’s a particular stain is enough. In any other scenario, when they need to be cleaned, he mentions that the best way to wash jeans is by handwashing them. In his statement to CNN, he explained, “If you talk to real denim aficionados, they will all agree that you should never put your jeans in the wash. It affects the fit and the color. They will fade, and they will never fit the same.”

However, according to Kelly Love, co-founder, and CEO of non-toxic cleaning brand Branch Basics, how to wash jeans isn’t a problem. She recommends putting them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer for two days, which can make your jeans as good as new. Love also reckons that just putting them out in the sun to get some air will work wonders. “Of course it depends on where you’re wearing your jeans and what’s getting on them, but normal wear is not going to pose a health threat and doesn’t warrant fear of grossness.”

So, now comes the question, how to clean jeans if you can’t wash them? Let’s find out, denim, buddy!

How to wash jeans?

how to wash your jeans tips
TheViewInYourMirror / Instagram

You’ve been told that if you wash your jeans, you may lose your comfy clothing partner for life. And we don’t want that to happen to you, so here are three ways to wash your jeans.

1. Zip-lock jeans in a freezer bag

As unreal as it may sound, you can actually clean your jeans and keep them hygiene by folding them and placing them inside an airtight freezer bag. Any bacteria your sustainable jeans hold will be killed in the cold temperatures when placed in the freezer overnight.

However, while storing your jeans in the freezer won’t actually get them cold enough to kill bacteria, it will freshen them up a bit (and feel great on a hotter day). 

2. Spot clean your jeans

Did you know instead of entirely machine washing your jeans, it is always a better idea to just spot clean them? Keep your favorite piece of sustainable jeans by using a toothbrush and a mixture of water mixed with a gentle detergent. This is a great way to wash your jeans as it reduces the risk of fading of the dye, and kudos, as you will also save some water!

3. Handwash your jeans

Handwashing is preferable when it comes to cleaning jeans since it’s more gentle. During soaking (not for more than 1 hour), add 1 glass of vinegar and 2 tbsp of salt. Mix all the ingredients in a small amount of water before pouring in the washing water. Such a mixture will help keep the bright color from fading.

The bottom line

The conclusion is as simple as it should be to avoid washing your jeans. If you want them to last while being form-fitting, simply wash your jeans rarely. Very rarely. Keeping our personal preference aside, you can always wash your jeans when they just need to be washed for hygiene reasons. You can always let them breathe if you’re opting for rare washes. And in the case of them being dirty, in the case of spilling wine or something better, clean the stain with a toothbrush instead of putting it into the laundry entirely. You can also use an eco-friendly fabric refresher to keep your jeans as fresh as a flower.

The best part is, that Bergh admits the concept of not washing jeans sounds pretty disgusting, but he’s “yet to get a skin disease,” so it works!

heaps of denims
Eliza Alves / CaptureNow

What happens if you don’t wash new jeans?

“Not washing new denim before you wear them risks color rubbing off the denim onto anything else you are wearing that touches the denim, and even the upholstery in your car.

How long do jeans last without washing?

The one overarching rule: go by the smell test. Mary Pierson, head of denim design at Madewell, advises at least three wears before a wash — but also advises “washing jeans as little as possible.”

How many pairs of jeans should I own?

You should aim for 4 to 5 pairs of denim jeans, excluding shorts. It is a good number to meet your everyday needs, even though a woman owns 7 pairs on average and a man 6.

How do you keep jeans clean without washing them?

To do this, lay jeans flat in the bathtub and fill them to the brim with cool to cold water. Add one cup of regular white vinegar to the water and swish it around to distribute it evenly. Leave the jeans to soak for about an hour, then wring out the excess liquid (no need to rinse) and hang the jeans by the waistband to dry.

Here are some sustainable denim brands we’d love for you to check out!

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