How to Care for Denim - The Quintessential Guide
Few things are as classic and versatile as denim.
What with all the fit and style options available, denim has become a mainstay of every woman’s wardrobe. But in order to achieve that perfect fit (the one that makes your bum look just so), modern denim manufacturing is a result of massive amounts of research and technology. And all that science that is precisely why we are all happy to plunk down (at least) $200 per pair.
One of the questions we get asked the most in store at Wrabyn is: “Will these jeans sag?” Thankfully, the technology mentioned above goes a long way towards keeping your favorite jeans looking and feeling like new. And that’s good news for those of us (hand raise!) who have invested more than a few mortgage payments in a denim wardrobe. But all that denim science and technology will be for naught if you don’t do your part to properly care for your designer dungarees.
To wash or not to wash denim, that is the question.
If you’re a card-carrying denim enthusiast, it’s not really a question at all (NEVER!!). But for us mere mortals, there seems to be a great deal of debate over how and when to wash your denim. Lucky for you, we've done our homework. Here's what you need to know to keep your favorite pair of jeans looking better, longer.
You should wash denim.Of course you need to wash your jeans. But here’s why: The the buildup of dirt, skin, natural body oils, and environmental grime will cause the material to break down. So go ahead and wash your jeans secure in the knowledge that you're not doing major damage to them. In fact, in many ways you'll ensure they last even longer.
You should not wash denim too often.
There is no definitive rule for how long to go between washes: It depends on how much you've worn your jeans and what you've been doing in them. If they smell, are visibly dirty, or have sagging at the knees, for goodness sake wash them. However, remember that most laundry soil is invisible (skin, body oil, sweat, etc.), so aim to wash your jeans every 5-10 wearings, or about once monthly.
Do not freeze your denim.
There. I’ve said it. I bought into this for a while, but after doing my research, I learned that the efficacy of freezing jeans to eliminate bacteria is a myth. Yes, your jeans will emerge from the deep freeze odorless, but as soon as you put them on, your body heat will reactivate the bacteria and it will continue to grow. Eww.
OK, so you’re ready to wash your denim. Please, don’t just pop them into the weekly cycle. There are a few rules:
- Turn your jeans inside out. This helps to preserve the color, and allows the dirtiest part of the jeans to get more exposure to water and detergent.
- Wash denim with denim, and nothing else. (Hey you - I saw that eye roll!) Listen, I’d really rather that you separate your denim into dark denim and light denim loads, but I know that may be asking too much.
- Give your denim room to move. The more garments you stuff into a load, the more wear and tear your fabrics will endure. Without sufficient room to circulate in the drum, zippers and rivets can snag and stitching can break.
- Wash delicate and cold. Every. Single. Time.
- Use less detergent than you think. And do not use fabric softener. The overuse of laundry products will lead to product buildup. Product buildup will combine with your skin and body oil to create more grime with every wear, which will ultimately require more frequent washings.
- Skip the dryer. Air dry denim over a rack or hang upside down overnight. Yes, they will be a bit stiff the next morning. To soften, tumble in the dryer for about 5 minutes on a no-heat setting with wool dryer balls.
* Dark denim addendum.
I prefer to keep the dye in my denim and not on my handbag or sofa. The first time you wash your dark denim, try this trick to lock in the color: Add a cocktail of 1 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup salt to the washer.
* Distressed denim addendum.
Distressed denim is pre-washed and broken-in, making them more vulnerable to further breakdown in the washing machine. I hate to say it, but hand washing is best. Here’s how to do it right: Give your jeans a little swirl in a deep sink with 1/4 cup of mild detergent. Allow to soak for 25-minutes, then drain. Fill and drain the sink with clean water two more times, and end with one last rinse under the tap. Once rinsed, roll the jeans in a towel and press firmly on them to release excess water. (Please resist the urge to wring them out, which will twist and break down the fibers.) Finally, lay flat or hang them to air dry as directed above.
Oooops, I did it again.
It happens. Your husband, boyfriend, kids, housekeeper (or, gasp, YOU!) put your jeans in the dryer. All is not lost. Take a spray bottle and spritz the jeans to dampen them all over. Then put them on and wear them around the house until they dry. As the denim dries, it will expand and mold to your body so that they are once again, the perfect fit.
OK, so you’re committed to washing infrequently and air-drying your jeans. Kudos! But in between those infrequent washes, there’s still work to be done.
- Steam clean. Hang your jeans in the bathroom while you shower to freshen them up and stave off the need to wash.
- Spot clean. Use a super mild detergent and small cloth to dab spots away. Steam or hang in the shower afterwards.
- Give them some room. Denim fibers need to breathe. Hang denim upside down for a few hours after wear to allow them to air out. Then, fold them for storage and stack them no higher than 4 to a pile.
There you have it! Denim myths debunked, rules outlined, and tips to keep your favorite pair of jeans looking and feeling like your favorite pair of jeans. Any questions? Drop us a comment! We’ll do the research so you don’t have to. ; )
Until next time,