Why you should never wash your jeans

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Apparently you should never wash jeans. [Photo: Getty]

Used to throwing your jeans in the wash? Well apparently you’re doing it all wrong, according to experts – who claim your trusty denim should seldom, if ever, be put in the washing machine.

The idea you shouldn’t machine wash your jeans comes from the king of denim himself, Levi’s CEO and President Chip Bergh.

Bergh first hit headlines in 2014 when he admitted he hadn’t ever washed his decade-old favourite pair of jeans. Last week, he reiterated the statement to CNN.

“If you talk to real denim aficionados, they will all agree you should never put your jeans in the wash,” he told the US broadcaster.

“I spot clean my jeans when they need to be washed. Worst case, I hand wash my jeans. And I do it myself. I mean I love my jeans, and I take good care of them.”

Photo: Getty

So what’s the verdict – should you be chucking your jeans in with your coloured wash, or does Bergh have a point?

John Reid, managing director at clothing retailer Garment Quarter, agrees Bergh’s advice makes a lot of sense.

“Washing your denim jeans can alter the make-up of the material itself, and in fact, your favourite pair of jeans don’t need to be washed as frequently as you may think,” he tells Yahoo UK.

“The sheer amount of water that they are exposed to in a washing machine can be the culprit for affecting the look and colour of the denim by fading over time.”

And while some preach washing stiff denim in order to “soften” the material, Reid insists simply wearing your jeans is all you need to break them in.

“Cotton based denim jeans with little stretch to them will become more comfortable over time.”

There is, however, an exception to the rule – and that’s if your jeans are made from a material blend containing elastane, rather than a raw denim blend.

“If jeans have an elastane component, regular washing can actually help the fabric to shrink back down after being stretched due to wear.”

So what about your other (ie non-stretchy) jeans? Here’s what you can do to avoid compromising your jeans in the washing machine.

Spot clean them

If it’s simply a case of a food (read: chocolate) stain or two, you can use this method to clean them up.

“Keep your designer jeans in top condition by ‘spot cleaning’ any stains by using a toothbrush and a mixture of water with a gentle detergent. Doing this will not only reduce the risk of fading the dye, but you’ll also be helping the environment by reducing your water usage.”

Freeze them

Your freezer’s not just for peas and leftovers – apparently, you can use it to keep your jeans hygienic without compromising their look, according to Reid.

“Fold the jeans and place inside an airtight freezer bag before putting them in the freezer overnight and any bacteria will be killed by the cold temperatures,” he advises.

Photo: Getty

Try a neutraliser spray

Another method for freshening up worn, but not soiled, jeans is to use a dry wash spray. There are a range of aerosol sprays said to work in the same way as dry shampoo for clothes.

Some brands even produce a denim-specific spray, which is said to protect jeans fibres from wear and tear, slowing the fading process.

Photo: Getty

Hand wash them

Got your jeans really, really dirty and itching for a more thorough clean? Make like Levi’s Bergh, and hand wash your jeans in cold water.

Or hop in the shower with them on and soak them down and rinse them off — I do that too,” he suggested to CNNWell, that’s one way to wake up.

Wash with cold water

Don’t fancy hand-washing your jeans? If you really do feel the need to put them in the washing machine, Reid offers the following method to ensure minimal damage.

“Many people believe that denim jeans should never be put in the washing machine, but if a serious deep clean is needed, simply turn the jeans inside out, unzip the zipper and wash with similar colours on a cold setting.

“This will protect the metal parts of the jeans and lessen the chance of the dye fading.”

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