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How to Wash Jeans: Hand and Machine Wash

Don’t be mean to your jeans.

You’ve probably got a favorite pair of blue jeans. Maybe you’ve had them forever, or maybe they’re brand new. Either way, it’s never too late to learn how to properly care for them.

Today, we bring you our ultimate guide on how to wash jeans! We’ll answer commonly asked questions and share our best tips for keeping your jeans looking clean and good as new.

Key Takeaways

  • Wash jeans every 3-10 wears depending on how dirty they get and turn them inside out before washing.
  • Use a gentle or delicate washing cycle with cool water and a mild detergent.
  • Air dry jeans when possible to prevent shrinkage and maintain color.
  • For dark jeans, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar during the first wash to prevent colors from fading.

Are You Supposed to Wash Jeans?

You should wash your jeans, but you shouldn’t wash them that often. The less often you wash your jeans, the longer they’ll last.

How Often Should You Wash Your Jeans?

A good rule of thumb is to wash your jeans every three to 10 wears, depending on how dirty they get. If you wear your jeans to your outdoorsy job, every three wears is a good idea. If you’re sitting at a desk all day, you can wash your jeans every 10 wears.

However, if the jeans get dirty or stinky — it’s also a good time to wash them.

How to Wash Jeans in the Washing Machine

Before you read our tips, always check the care label as it might state something different.

  1. Empty the pockets and remove any belt. Turn the jeans inside out to protect the color and texture.
  2. Place the jeans in the washing machine. If it’s your first time washing them, wash them separately in case they bleed color. If not, wash them with dark clothes, or other similarly colored jeans.
  3. Add a mild detergent. Never use bleach.
  4. Turn the machine to a gentle or delicate cycle with cool water, unless the care label states otherwise.
  5. Remove the jeans from the washing machine immediately.

How to Wash Jeans by Hand

  1. Fill a tub or basin with lukewarm water and a few drops of detergent. Mix well.
  2. Turn your jeans inside out and submerge them fully under the water.
  3. Use your hands to agitate the jeans, moving them around in the water. If there are any really dirty spots, scrub well with a soft brush. Then let the jeans soak for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the jeans from the tub or basin.
  5. Drain the water, then refill with cold water. Add the jeans back to the water.
  6. Soak the jeans for 10 minutes.
  7. Drain the water and drip the jeans out. Gently press against the side of the tub to drain excess water.

How to Dry Your Jeans

Air drying jeans is the best way to dry them. Hang them up on the clothesline outside on a warm windy day. Or put them on a drying rack in a warm room.

Can You Put Jeans in the Dryer?

Check the care label, as every pair of jeans is made differently. New, stretchy jeans are usually suitable for low-heat tumble drying.

Can You Dry Clean Jeans?

We don’t recommend it. Dry cleaners use harsh chemicals that will leave your jeans feeling scratchy and creased. Always read the garment’s care label to double-check.

Jean Washing FAQs

How Can I Freshen My Jeans Without Washing Them?

If your jeans aren’t due a wash, but are a little on the stinky side, you can freshen them up without going through the long washing process.

We love using lavender water in our home as an all-natural fabric spray. Simply distill some water, add a couple drops of lavender oil, and put it in a spray bottle. Use it on all fabrics, or as a room spray.

You can also steam your jeans! Investing in a good steam cleaner is never a bad idea. The steam will kill germs on the jeans, and zap out bad odors.

Do Jeans Shrink After the First Wash?

Raw denim jeans can shrink on the first wash, so keep that in mind when shopping for jeans. However, many brands pre-shrink their jeans before selling, so that you get the truest fit when trying on jeans.

How to Wash Dark Jeans for the First Time?

Dark clothes can easily fade. The first time you wash them, ensure you wash them separately just in case there’s any color bleed.

To prevent color fading in the future, always wash them in cold water on a gentle cycle. Lastly, add half a cup of white vinegar to the washing cycle during the first wash. This will help prevent the colors from dulling and fading.

How to Prevent Jeans from Fading?

Here are our tried and true tips to prevent jeans from fading:

  • Don’t wash your jeans too often.
  • Hand wash your jeans instead of washing in the machine.
  • Use a mild laundry detergent.
  • Always wash your jeans inside out to reduce friction and agitation.
  • Use white vinegar to clean the jeans more gently, and help to brighten the colors.
  • Always use cold water.
  • Air dry your jeans.

Can You Wash Jeans in Warm Water?

Cold or lukewarm water is best. Jeans can shrink or fade in warm or hot water. Check the garment care label for specific temperature advice.

How Do You Wash Heavily Soiled Jeans?

Where possible, spot treat any stains. Use a laundry stain remover that’s safe for denim. Or make a homemade stain remover by mixing together a quart of warm water, 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of liquid laundry detergent. Use a cloth to rub the mixture into the stains. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then blot the area dry.

As for washing, you can choose a gentle cycle in combination with a heavy soiled setting. For example, some washing machines have extra soak cycles that work with a variety of main cycles.

If that’s not possible, hand wash them but spend more time agitating the jeans to get the stains and dirt out.

How Long Can Jeans Go Without Washing?

Believe it or not, some people never wash their jeans! In fact, the Levi’s CEO says you should never wash your jeans (1).

Raw denim can actually go six months between washes. You might notice the jeans look better the longer they go between washes. However, as cleaning fanatics, this sits a little uncomfortably with us, so we still recommend washing at least every 10 wears.

Does Putting Jeans in the Freezer Work?

There’s a popular myth that freezing your jeans can kill bacteria, saving you from washing them. But bacteria can actually survive low temperatures (2). To deep clean your jeans, just wash them.

More Tips for Washing Jeans

Still looking for a few more tips on washing jeans? We’ll leave you with a few more.

  • Zip zippers, button buttons and tie ties before washing, otherwise these details can get damaged.
  • If your jeans are stinky, add ½ cup of vinegar to your washing routine to neutralize odors.
  • Use a detergent for dark clothes if washing dark jeans. This will prevent fading.
  • Less detergent is more. If you use too much detergent, it can coat your jeans and cause a scratchy, smelly appearance.
  • If your jeans have stylish rips, holes or frayed hems, clip the openings or edges together. This will stop the rips from expanding. However, hand washing is best for these types of jeans.
  • If you don’t have time to air dry jeans fully, do half and half. Take jeans out the dryer when they’re slightly damp and air dry them the rest of the way. This prevents shrinkage.
  • Don’t overstuff the washer or dryer as this can cause snagging on jeans.
  • Separate light and dark jeans otherwise the darker colors can bleed onto the lighter jeans.

Make Your Jeans Last

Jeans can be expensive, so you want them to last. Following all our tips, tricks and methods will ensure your jeans last as long as possible. You’ll ditch all the damage that comes with fading, fraying or bleeding color.

Always ensure you read the care label, as that’s where the most valuable information for your brand of jeans will be.

In general, always turn jeans inside out, wash in cold water with a mild detergent, and air dry when possible.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism, and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!