I have always known the controversy around this topic, which is why I decided to do a bit of firsthand research before diving into the actual writing. A few days ago, I purposely spent a few hours on one corner of a busy street asking passersby their opinion on how often one should wash jeans.
Let me breakdown my little experiment like I did on that day.
I had three questions:
How often should you wash jeans?
How often do you wash your jeans?
Are you supposed to wash jeans?
Further, I was interested on seeing whether both men and women would provide similar responses to the questions, or rather, how different their answers would be.
You would think my effort unlocked some deep insights that will quash everything you have heard before. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
In fact, the more I strived to get a unique answer, the more it turned like looking for a needle in a hay sack, or digging some bottomless rabbit holes.
That being said, I gathered a lot of responses for each question.
Before I dive in, here is the summary.
How often you wash your jeans should depend on your level of activity, the type of jeans, the smell test, and how well you intend to fade raw denim. High level of activity necessitates washing jeans after every 3-5 wears. In this case, the jeans will be visibly dirty and unlikely to pass the smell test. With low activity level, you can wait even for ten wears, which can be spread over several months or weeks.
The type of jeans you own should also dictate your laundry routine. If you own a pair of raw denim, wash it very rarely unless you are ready to trade a nice fade with high level cleanliness. You should wear your new raw denim for several months without washing, especially if your have the intention to get some nice whiskers and honeycombs.
Spot clean the denim whenever it becomes visibly dirty, and hang it to air-dry if it begins to smell a little bad. You can also put it in a polythene bag and place it in the freezer overnight.
If your jeans is visibly dirty, the times you have worn it shouldn’t matter. Just wash it unless there are only a few dirty sections for spot cleaning.
If your jeans fails the smell test, you can decide not to mind the smell but have in mind others will. Alternatively, you can air-dry or freeze the jeans. That said, the best that you can do is to wash it.
Question #1. How often Should You Wash Jeans?
There was no consensus as to how often you should wash jeans, but many people seemed to prefer the idea of washing it after wearing it for about 3 to four times. That said, I got answers such as after 10 days, two weeks, a month, two months, three months or even six months of wearing it. There are people who even suggested that it is okay to take up to a year before washing your denim.
Some people did not suggest a definite period. Instead, they suggested taking notice of stains and treating them, then washing the pair of jeans once it begins to stink to high heavens.
Question #2. How often do You Wash Your Jeans?
The general impression I got from this question is that most people prefer to wash their jeans after they become visibly dirty, or whenever they begin to release an unwanted smell.
But there were people who seemed to care less about such issues and had a timeframe that they consider ideal. Like with the first question, most answers ranged from 3 wears and above. One in several respondents would mention that the rarely wash their jeans because doing so ruins them.
Others noted that jeans need to be treated differently, depending on whether they are raw or not. Raw denim aficionados insisted that they wear their denim straight for several months before the first wash to get awesome fade lines. You can read more about denim fade lines and why they matter in our article for how to fade jeans.
Question #3 Are You Supposed to Wash Jeans?
This was the question with the least ridiculous answers because most people noted that you are supposed to wash jeans. You can stain jeans just like you would other clothes. Sweating is also a common cause for washing, and farting too.
And looking at it from a different perspective, jeans are heavy. They can last for years and there is no logic to wearing them that long without giving them at least a gentle wash every once in a while.
The bottom-line of my little experiment was that with respect to the subject of washing, denim wearers fall under several categories.
To begin with, most people tend to wash their jeans after wearing them for 3-4 times. Regardless of whether the jeans is visibly dirty, smelly or drenched in sweat, people from this category will carry on with washing.
Another group believes that 10 times and above is a decent timeframe. Obviously, 10 times can stretch over several months depending on how many times you wear the same pair of jeans in a month. Some people in this group can even wear jeans for six months or a year without washing it.
A small group of people prefer washing their jeans after every wear. Most tend to believe that there is a sort of discomfort that comes with wearing clothes more than once without washing them.
Another small group of people can wear jeans for as long as they have them without entertaining the though of washing ever. They only spot clean the dirty areas, treat bad smell and continue to imagine that the pair is as good as new.
The last group uses the eyes and nose tests to determine if their jeans needs to be on the same side with the rest of the dirty laundry. If the jeans look dirty or the smell is somehow off, they go ahead and do the laundering.
How often do I Wash My Jeans?
I am not the kind of people who wash their jeans after every wear. To be honest, I am more into the smell and visible dirt test. That being the case, I associate my jeans care habits with my lifestyle. I spend most of my time at home doing cleaning or writing about the same.
And I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing jeans at home.
They are heavy, and sometimes uncomfortable especially when your body needs a lot of flexibility.
I’m always moving up and down trying to put things in order. When I’m not doing that, you will find me preparing food for my family. I mostly leave the house when going for shopping, to church or somewhere fun to spend time with my family. The latter are the only times you might see me wearing jeans.
I always take off the jeans once I get back home, and put on a more comfortable clothing. Thus, my jeans collect little dirt. If the jeans look clean but give off a smell I don’t like, I throw them to the laundry basket.
What do Experts Say?
Since I did not focus on expert knowledge in my little roadside research, I decided to look elsewhere for expert knowledge to determine whether I could get a definite answer.
In a comment made to katiecouric.com, Paul Dillinger from Levi’s believes that how often you wash jeans should be a matter of personal taste. That being the case, he acknowledges that not all jeans are the same and that factor can have an impact on laundering frequency.
A different expert in the same article is more inclined towards washing jeans after wearing it for 3-4 times. However, she adds that you can go for as long as a month. I would say this depends on many things such as whether you wear the jeans every day throughout the month, whether you are looking for some sharp creases or whether your jeans doesn’t get visibly dirty throughout the period, and your level of comfort with the smell it gives off.
According to the usatoday, the time you take to wash your jeans can range anywhere from 3 wears up to a year of wearing them. This information is based on opinions of experts from three clothing companies. Stephen Powell from Gustin believes that it is possible for some individuals to take up to a year before washing their jeans depending on how they use them.
Bahzad Trinos from Naked & Famous Denim believes wearing jeans for regular every day life allows a period of 6 months to a year before washing. Further, Trinos is aware of raw denim enthusiasts who can go for years without dwelling on the thought of washing their jeans.
In their article, the Realsimple also speak to a group of experts who give opinions that vary significantly. In one of the comments, a fashion stylist notes that it is best to wash jeans as rarely as you can. This is important for all types of jeans but more critical for raw denim. Washing raw denim regularly ruins the chance for getting the desired fade lines and personality.
Venk Modur, a celebrity stylist tells Realsimple that how often you wash jeans should depend on how the jeans is made. Raw denim should and can go for a long time without washing. Further, it is always important to consider dry cleaning services when the cleaning time comes.
Jeans made with blended fabrics (ie. containing polyester, spandex and other fabrics) tend to shrink after a few wears. For that reason, you should wash them once they become over-stretched and uncomfortable to wear. Washing helps snap them back to shape.
A private stylist from New York notes that washing jeans too often is a mistake many people tend to make. This ruins the quality and appearance because denim losses a substantial amount of dye every time it comes into contact with water.
Further, stretchy jeans tend to stretch more and more with regular washes. Eventually, they lose their comfortable fit and become saggy in some areas.
The Smell Test
The smell test is all about sniffing your jeans to determine whether it stinks or not. The best section to sniff is the crotch area because the rest of the jeans is usually odorless most of the time. If your denim gives off an unpleasant smell, you can eliminate the smell by washing it or through other means.
One reliable way of eliminating bad smell from jeans is air drying it. Hang the jeans in a place with proper circulation of air and let it air-dry for a day or more. If you decide to hang it on a clothesline in the sun, turn it inside out first. The sun accelerates fading and this can affect the appearance of your jeans.
Another method that you can use is to place the jeans in the freezer. Place your jeans in a polythene bag and transfer it into the freezer. Let it sit overnight.
Lastly, you can decide that enough is enough and wash your jeans.
How to Wash Jeans
You can either hand wash or machine wash your jeans. Hand washing is the best method because it is gentle.
- To hand wash your jeans, fill a basin or bathtub with cold or room temperature water.
- Add mild detergent and use your hand to mix it properly with the water.
- Inspect your jean to ensure that the pockets are empty.
- Soak it in the water and detergent solution for about 10 minutes.
- Wash gently with hands if it is made of soft blended fabric. If it is hard from heavy starching or heavy fabric, use a soft brush to scrub the dirty sections gently. Pay keen attention to the pockets, knee sections and stacks. In most cases, those places are usually dirtier than the rest of the jeans.
- Drain the soapy water and rinse your jeans with clean water twice.
- Turn it inside out and hang on a clothesline to dry.
- To machine wash your jeans, check to pockets to ensure they are empty.
- Close the button (s) and the zipper, then throw your jeans into the washer.
- Use mild detergent and choose a gentle cycle with the cold water setting.
- Rinse and hang to dry. Do not throw your jeans into a tumble dryer. A dryer can ruin the quality and appearance of your jeans.