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Denim do's and don'ts: How to care for your jeans

Levi's is famous for two things; timeless jeans and the fact that they advise their customers never to wash them. But is this really good advice? In this article you will learn all you need to know about taking care of your denim.

To wash or not to wash

Jeans are a type of garment unlike any other in our closet. New jeans are often stiff and soulless. It takes months of wearing them before they become invaluable to the owner. The advice to never wash your denim generally concerns “raw denim”, meaning jeans that haven't been washed after the dying process. The idea is that the jeans will be perfected by the owner while wearing them, and a harsh machine wash program will disrupt the process.

Many manufacturers recommend their customers to wash their jeans as rarely as possible, often just a few times per year.

But won’t they get full of bacteria?

The short answer: Yes! Especially the crotch area will attract bacteria. The more nuanced answer is: Yes, but it actually doesn’t matter as much as you might think. A healthy person's skin barrier is more than equipped to resist a bacterial infection from the jeans. A pair of jeans that has not been washed for a year doesn’t contain much more bacteria than jeans that hasn’t been washed in a week. And not all bacteria are bad for us.

When to wash your jeans

Once a month or so is reasonable. In between washes you can hang them outside to air and spot treat stains if needed. Manufacturing jeans is environmentally straining. Just growing the cotton needed for the denim fabric is a water and chemical intense process. The washing machine will age them prematurely, and that’s why it’s our duty not to wash jeans if they don’t need to be washed. If you've had the stomach flu, alternatively if your feet suffer from fungal infection, it’s advisable to wash your jeans even though they might not be dirty.

Removing odors from jeans

Denim jeans are made from cotton, which is a breathable fabric. That’s why you should hang them outside and let them air out after you wear them. This will prevent, and even remove, nasty smells.

Putting jeans in the freezer

It’s a modern myth that freezing cold temperatures will kill bacteria, and hence, remove bad odors from your jeans. However, the bacteria will be in hibernation when frozen, but as soon as the jeans heats up they will be reactivated (and the smell too). You will have better luck when airing your jeans or spraying them with Fabric Spray.

How to wash your jeans to make them last longer

Denim fabric will lose saturation when washed. To preserve as much color as possible, we recommend you opt for a gentle machine-washing program and wash in maximum 30ºC. Raw denim jeans will last extra-long if they’re hand washed, read more about how to handwash here.

  • Empty all pockets, zip up the fly and turn them inside-out. Washing them inside out preserves the color better.
  • Wash in a laundry bag to protect the fabric.
  • Pretreat stains before washing.
  • Use a color preserving detergent. Wash your black jeans with a detergent made for dark clothes.
  • Never use fabric softener.
  • Hang dry in a drying cabinet or on a drying rack. Never tumble, it causes extra tear on the fabric and will make the colors fade.
  • Steam your jeans when they’ve dried for optimal fit. The steam will also make the fabric soft again.

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