Wearing clean clothes doesn’t just feel good, it is also important for health and hygiene. The more you wear your clothes without washing them, the more bacteria builds up, putting you at risk of illness and infection. However, not all clothes are created equal, and denim is one material that shouldn’t be washed as often as others.
Not only does excessive washing cause these expensive items to wear down faster than they should, but denim seems to only build up a certain amount of bacteria, before that number stabilizes. This means that someone who washes their jeans every 2 weeks and someone who washes theirs every 6 months will both end up with the same amount of bacteria in their jeans by the time they decide to wash them.
Denim jeans are a staple in the wardrobes of a vast majority of people all over the world, and how to care for them and make them last is a question that comes up regularly in fashion and clothing care circles. Good quality jeans are expensive, but they are also built to last – the trick is to know how to keep them in good condition for as long as you can.
Factors That Affect How Often You Should Wash Your Jeans
Lifestyle and Activity Level
How often each person chooses to wash their jeans will depend on a number of factors, including the basics, such as look, feel, and smell. Depending on what you get up to while wearing your jeans, they may stay looking and feeling clean for weeks, or they could be covered in some dirty substance within hours.
For example, someone who works at a desk may not feel the need to wash their jeans often, but someone who works in a mechanic’s shop, on a farm, or at some other type of manual labor will likely not be able to get away with such little cleaning, due to the dirty nature of the job.
Even if your work is not dirty, sweat is a significant issue in the question of how often you should wash your jeans. This means that even the weather can have an effect on the answer to this question.
Quality, Color, and Type of Jeans
Another factor that will affect how often you should or shouldn’t wash your jeans is the type of jeans themselves. Denim jeans usually come in 2 types – rigid and stretchy. Rigid jeans are made from cotton only, and tend to soften out of shape with wear. Stretchy jeans might stretch to fit your shape, but they are not generally expected to change shape as you wear them.
If your jeans tend to get looser with every wear, you may want to wash them more often to get them fitting well again, but if they don’t, you can probably get away with less frequent washing.
The color of your denims and how you want them to look in the long run are also deciding factors. Lighter colored jeans will show dirt more, and will probably need to be washed more often than darker colors, though spot treating is always an option.
Higher quality denims, which are always the best choice, are built more durably, and are likely to last longer than cheaper options, which will fade more easily and wear out faster. If you need your cheap jeans to last you a long time, you will need to find a careful balance between washing enough and washing too much. While the same can be said of higher quality jeans, they are more likely to survive a few extra washes.
To ensure you are buying durable and long-lasting jeans, shop for heavier denims from well-known brands, such as Lee, Levi’s, Abercrombie, Gap, and Old Navy, as these are of the highest quality, and will outlast most cheaper options.
Your Personal Preferences
Your lifestyle may dictate your jean washing habits to a point, but so will your preferences around personal hygiene, your daily lifestyle habits, and of course, the appearance of your jeans. Many people who are very into denim and the look of various options of jeans tend to wash and care for their jeans to create the specific look they most desire.
Washing your jeans will affect the color, fade, and general look of your jeans, so if you are trying to create a specific fade or maintain the original contrast, you may want to look more closely into how to care for different types of denim.
Denim Hunters has an excellent article on caring for jeans for different looks. For example, they recommend washing as little as possible to maintain a high contrast fade, while washing more regularly may help you achieve a more vintage look.
Expert Advice and Recommendations
We have researched and put together the opinions and advice of a few denim and clothing professionals to help you decide on a care routine for your own jeans and other denim items.
Lee recommend washing your denims as seldom as possible to maintain the color, shape, and fit. They suggest a maximum of once or twice a month or every 5 to 10 wears. They suggest adding some white vinegar to your very first wash of any new pair of jeans to set the color.
Their recommendation is to wash your jeans inside out in cold water with a mild detergent on a gentle cycle. White or light-colored jeans can be washed in warm water, however, as the color won’t be affected and the warm water will do a better job of removing the visible dirt.
They say that hand washing is the gentlest and safest method for cleaning your jeans, if it is convenient for you to do so. They also say that you should never use bleach or any detergent that contains bleach when washing your denim items.
Levi’s are one of the most famous brands of jeans worldwide, and their advice should be taken seriously as far as possible. They suggest washing jeans as little as possible, and after even suggesting that jeans should never be washed, they have settled on a schedule of every 10 wears, if you are not using your jeans for manual labor or hot and sweaty work.
The smell of your jeans is the folks at Levi’s’ favorite way to tell if they should be washed or not, so if they start to smell a but funky, it’s probably time to chuck them in the wash. In between, spot cleaning can be done to maintain a clean appearance.
Levi’s recommend a cold hand wash or a gentle machine cycle, and they suggest line drying your jeans inside out and in the shade to best maintain color and shape.
3. Bakers Center Laundry
These laundry professionals have some of the best advice we could find – read the care label! This may sound obvious, but not all jeans are created equal, and the manufacturer is likely to know best when it comes to their own creations.
In general, however, a good rule of thumb, as they recommend, is to wash every 5 to 10 wears, depending on your lifestyle, or simply when the jeans look or smell dirty. Their suggestion is to hand wash if possible, or use the gentlest machine cycle with cold water and a good, gentle detergent. Washing inside out is recommended, and a vinegar wash is once again mentioned as a way to set the dyes in the first wash.
4: Denim Hunters
These denim connoisseurs believe they have found the simplest answer to the question, and that is to wash your jeans when they are dirty. Their own choice is to wash jeans every 2 to 3 months, even if they do not look or smell dirty, as they believe not washing your jeans can be as damaging as washing them too much.
They do not recommend waiting extensive periods of time between washes, and have, themselves, tested the 6-month fading method, which requires no washing for that length of time. The tested pair of jeans showed damage at the 5-month mark, leaving the owner rather upset.
They suggest soaking your brand-new jeans in plain water before your first wear, as this helps to set the color and remove some of the starch, making them more comfortable and more durable.
Their preferred washing method is by hand in cold water, though they suggest a machine wash for very dirty or smelly jeans. Machine washing should be done inside out, and white vinegar can be included in each wash cycle if you choose, to help set the colors and remove any stubborn odors. A low RPM spin cycle should be used, and jeans should be line dried or dried flat – never tumble dried.
Alternative Ways to Clean Your Jeans
There are 2 ways experts suggest you can clean your jeans between washes to ensure you are not washing them more than is necessary. Neither of these methods is wholeheartedly recommended by any source, but they are options you can choose if you are concerned you may be washing your jeans too often.
This cleaning method can be very harsh, due to the chemicals used in the process. However, there are some dry cleaners who, nowadays, use enzymes, rather than harsh chemicals, to wash various fabrics. If you can find one of these, it would be best to use them if you do need to dry clean your jeans.
Dry cleaning may be an essential method for pairs of jeans that contain fine detailing work that is likely to come off in a normal wash. Some denim items will list dry cleaning as an option in the care instructions, but even then, you should use the method sparingly, especially if your dry cleaner uses chemicals.
If dry cleaning is not listed as a safe option on the care label, do not attempt to use it at all, as it could cause irreparable damage to your special jeans.
This method is highly recommended by some manufacturers and denim professionals, and yet others, such as Lee, say it could cause uneven fading and wear, causing your jeans to look patchy and badly maintained. However, if used with care, this method could allow you to go longer between washes, allowing your jeans to last longer.
Spot cleaning should be done with soap and water with a sponge or toothbrush for average marks and stains, but a number of other substances can be used, depending on what the dirty marks on your jeans are from. Hair spray and rubbing alcohol are both proven to remove ink stains, while cornstarch is a versatile cleaner that could remove any number of unidentified marks.
One source claims that vodka is a potent anti-bacterial, and can be used to remove odors and get your jeans hygienically clean again, even if it won’t remove marks and stains. Vodka should be spritzed on from a spray bottle with a fine nozzle, so you don’t over saturate the denim in any one area, which could lead to fading of the dye. This method is still used on Broadway to keep costumes fresh between stage appearances.
How often you wash your denim jeans is, essentially, entirely up to you. There is no single perfect answer, as everyone has a different lifestyle and different ideas about what is hygienic or clean. Professional answers range from once a month to every 6 months, or every 3 to every 10 wears, so it’s best to figure out what works for you and stick to that, depending on your unique lifestyle, activity schedule, and preferences.