How to Wash Jeans – Advice On Washing Jeans and Denim

Some people swear that you should only hand wash your favorite jeans. Others say you shouldn’t wash them at all. But most of us just toss this wardrobe staple in the washing machine with the rest of our laundry without thinking twice.

So what’s the best thing to do? We have tested all kinds of denim fabrics and detergents in our Good Housekeeping Institute cleaning and textile labs, and we recommend wash the denim every three to four times or two to keep your basic dark blue and black jeans clean, snug, and new for as long as possible.

The best way to wash jeans

New or old you should always turn jeans inside out before putting them in the washing machine. This will minimize the abrasion that causes discoloration as well as the wear that can occur along the hems, pockets, and fly and waistband edges. It is also important to close the zippers and close the buttons and snaps – this helps keep the jeans in shape and prevents other items from snagging in the load.

For ripped jeans with frayed hems or holes, trim the openings or edges with a clip like Sock Cops. Designed to keep socks twinned while washing, these smart clips can also help keep denim from fraying more than you want it to. (If your jeans are really ripped, they will do better with hand washing.)

Use a detergent designed to preserve colors like Woolite Darks Liquid Laundry Detergent or Tide Studio Darks and Colors. They contain ingredients that help fabrics retain dyes and deactivate chlorine in water which can discolor colors. Finally, it is better wash jeans in cold water on a short and delicate cycle.

The best way to dry jeans

When it comes to drying jeans, be sure to flip your pair and tumble dry them on a gentle cycle and a low heat setting, unless otherwise specified on the care label. Add a few dryer balls to help them keep spinning so they dry more evenly.

Plus, jeans will last longer and stay in better shape if you take them out of the dryer when they’re slightly damp. Just put them back in shape, smooth out wrinkles, hang your jeans and let them air dry. Over-drying in the machine can cause jeans to shrink, and too high a temperature can dry out and damage the spandex or elastane of the fabric that gives it elasticity. If your jeans have more than 3% elastane in the fabric blend, you can line dry them instead.

More tips for washing denim fabrics

Avoid crowding the full washer and dryer. The more clothes you put in a load, the faster you will do laundry, but the more wear and tear your fabrics will endure. With no room to move, zippers and rivets can snag and seams can snap. Your clothes should flow or tumble freely, so that they are thoroughly cleaned and dried and do not come out of the machines in a tangled knot.

Remove stains quickly. Spot clean so you have more wear between washes and your jeans spend less time in the washer and dryer. To win!

Light and dark jeans separated. You might think it’s safe to wash all of your jeans together in one load, but do so and the extra dye often applied to dark denim to make it dark can transfer to light colored fabrics. It is best to wash and dry them in separate loads. And be careful when carrying light colored handbags or sitting on light padding while wearing new dark jeans. The bleeding color may be impossible to remove from these other elements. Test by rubbing a white cloth over new super dark or black jeans to see if any color comes off (this is called crocking). If so, consider washing them once or twice before wearing them.

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