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Jeans were first created as a durable material for laborers and miners in the American West. The comfort, performance, and durability were as much a hit then as they are now. Only, today we’re slightly more focused on cleanliness and fashion than people were in the 1800s.
So, what is the 21st century standard for cleaning your pants? Because your great, great (great, great, great) grandpa probably never told you, here’s the low-down on how often you should wash your jeans:
Are You Supposed to Wash Your Jeans?
Yes, you should wash your jeans. But not every time you wear them.
A student at the University of Alberta wore his jeans for 15 months straight without a wash, then tested the bacteria levels. He found that the jeans had just as much bacteria on them after 13 days of not washing them as they did after 15 months. A little gross, but in the name of science, as they say.
So how often do most people wash their jeans? According to Mashable, 27% of people wear their jeans about three times before washing them, 21% wear them 5+ times, and 8% of people wash their jeans every time they wear them. But some denim gurus say you should never wash your jeans.
Washing your jeans after every wear and never, ever throwing them in the wash are both pretty extreme. Landing somewhere in the middle of the spectrum has benefits for your hygiene, your jeans’ durability, and the planet. Not to mention, the fewer times you wash your jeans the longer they’ll last. Did you know that by extending the life of your pants by just 9 months, you’ll save over 250 gallons of water? That’s a win-win.
Ultimately, how long you can go without washing your jeans depends on how much you sweat, how many times you wear them, what you do in them, and where you live. A good rule of thumb is to wash your jeans after every 3-10 wears, or when they start to smell. If you’re regularly active in your jeans (think: manual work, anything where you work up a sweat), wash them every 3 wears, but if you’re working at a desk, you can probably go up to 10 wears.
The Right Way to Wash Your Jeans
No matter how long you go without washing them, you’ll eventually have to wash your jeans. And the best way to get your denim clean while extending its life and conserving water? A good old fashioned hand wash.
How to Hand Wash Your Jeans
Step 1: Fill your sink with cold water.
Step 2: Add ½ tsp of mild detergent.
Step 3: Use a spot treatment on any stains.
Step 4: Zip all zippers, button all buttons, and tie all ties. Dot all i’s and cross all t’s.
Step 5: Submerge your jeans in the cold detergent water.
Step 6: Let them soak for 10-20 minutes.
Step 7: Rub the stained and heavily soiled areas with a soft-bristled brush.
Step 8: Rinse thoroughly with cold water.
Step 9: Turn your jeans inside out.
Step 10: Hang your jeans up to airdry.
How long does to average pair of jeans last? When you wash them correctly, they can last 5-10 years or more. This hand washing method is best, but if you’re strapped for time, there are other easy options.
How To Machine Wash Your Jeans
If you need an easier and faster way to clean your jeans, you can rely on your washing machine to get the job done. Make sure you follow these tips to avoid damaging your jeans or your other clothes.
- Wash jeans inside out to avoid fading and fiber damage.
- Use the gentle or delicate cycle.
- Use a mild detergent and no bleach.
- Never use hot water, as it can ravage denim fibers. The first time you wash jeans in the washing machine, they may bleed some color. Make sure to wash them alone so they don’t damage other garments.
- After washing jeans once, you can then wash them with other dark clothing.
- Hang your jeans up to air dry so they don't shrink.
Damaged denim fibres
How To Dry Your Jeans Properly
Are you supposed to dry jeans in the dryer? Heat and tumbling are the worst possible combo for cotton-based fabric and can decrease your denim’s durability. Air drying 100% cotton jeans will keep fibers from breaking down prematurely.
However, newer technical fabric plays by different rules. While hang drying is always effective, jeans that are made with a combination of fibers that include elastin won’t react like your great granddaddy’s denim. For these high-stretch jeans, tumble drying on low heat can help them snap back to their original shape.
How To Take Care of Jeans Without Washing Them
If you want to extend the amount of time and wears between washing your jeans (and conserve water) here are some handy techniques. Try these tricks out instead of washing your jeans:
- Hang them inside-out, in the sun - The UV radiation will help kill bacteria and the fresh air will help with odor. Just make sure you turn them inside out so the sun doesn’t discolour them.
- Put them in the freezer - This age-old trick isn’t as effective as some may think. Scientists say that your freezer isn’t cold enough to kill all odor-causing bacteria but we figure putting your jeans on ice won’t hurt ‘em.
- Steam them - You can hang them nearby while you’re in the shower or invest in a fabric steamer. The steam will freshen them up and help kill off germs.
- Spot wash them - You don’t need to laundry the whole thing to get out stains. Hand wash spots for a quick and sustainable alternative.
- Soak them in cold water and vinegar -This technique locks in the dye, keeping your jeans dark and your furniture clean. The mild acid neutralizes bacteria and eliminates smells.
Hang your jeans inside out in the sun
Recap: How to Make Your Jeans Last Longer
If the first denim wearers were still around, they’d tell you that minimizing how many times you wash your jeans keeps them stronger for longer. While they didn’t have the luxury of regular laundry, today’s standards say that after 3-10 wears, it’s time to give your jeans a clean. Make sure to use cold water, turn your jeans inside out, and don't overdo it with the detergent. Then, hang your jeans to dry and you’ll be ready for old-west-style adventures in them--or just looking good in the office--for years to come.
Now your jeans are ready for any adventure
Want a pair of jeans that will last for ages and stay lookin’ sharp (even if it’s been a while since you’ve washed them)? Our fabric is designed to stop odors, which means you can skip a few washes (even 10) and still smell clean as a fresh breeze. Check out our collection of Men’s Jeans and Women’s Jeans now.