3 Mistakes You May be Making When Caring for Your Denim

Every year, over 1.2billion pairs of jeans are sold around the world, with 96% of Americans owning at least one pair. But it’s entirely likely that most people aren’t giving their denim the care it deserves which, paradoxically, looks on paper like showing it little care at all. Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh believes that the best way to look after your jeans is not washing them at all, particularly if your jeans are made from raw or selvedge denim.

Raw denim is unwashed before it leaves the factory, allowing it to retain as much of its original dye as possible and a far more rigid shape when it hits the racks, letting buyers customise their jeans to their own body shape. This has led to some myths around “breaking denim in” being perpetuated, such as wearing them in the bath or into the sea—needless to say, they aren’t quite as effective as some think. Yet there are other, more mundane, ways in which people mistreat their jeans, which are easy to address.

Read on for our guide to how to correct the three mistakes you might be making with your jeans.

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Overwashing your denim

While avoiding washing your jeans at all can be problematic in and of itself, overwashing denim can also be a major issue. As denim experts Mr. Blacks note in their new jeans care guide, “the combination of hot water, detergent and friction between clothing will pretty much ruin” your jeans if you include them in your regular washes.

You should also ensure that your jeans (and the majority of your clothing) are washed at a temperature no higher than 40°C. A high-temperature wash will wear your clothes out, particularly your jeans, by breaking down fibres and washing out dyes quicker than a lower heat. Low-heat laundry also requires less energy to run, thus giving your energy bills a considerable reduction; this has nothing to do with your jeans, but might leave you with more money to spend on another pair.

Tumble-drying jeans

Much like washing at too high a temperature, tumble-drying your jeans could potentially damage them irreparably. This may also be the case if you leave your denim in the dryer for too long, at any heat; you can spot whether this will be a problem by checking the lint filter on your dryer—if it’s getting clogged up, stop tumble-drying your denim.

The solution to this is letting your jeans dry naturally, be it on a clothes horse or washing line. This not only prevents damage, but shrinkage, which would render the months spent wearing your jeans into your shape and size as wasted effort. The only issue with hanging your denim is to make sure to avoid direct sunlight, unless part of your grand plan for your customised jeans involves a sun-bleach patch.

Storing jeans in the freezer

Here’s another urban denim myth worth debunking; while freezing your jeans might give you a comfortably colder pair of trousers for a warm day, the sub-zero temperatures won’t kill bacteria as people once suspected. Indeed, the only real way to kill bacteria (and remove any unpleasant odours from wearing your jeans for six months straight) is simply to wash them.

Once your jeans are dry, though, you should also take care to store them carefully. One of the benefits of customising raw denim through wear is getting the crease just how you want it, so throwing them on the floor or letting them pile up with your other clothes is going to be ruinous. Folding your jeans properly (we’re particularly fond of this guide from a former Gap employee) and storing them in a cupboard or hanging them at the waist or the knee are the best way to ensure your denim stays fitting just how you want it.

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