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How to Care for Jeans

How to Care for Jeans

Jeans are fantastic. They are comfortable, look great, last for years, and if you choose correctly, they never go out of style (or at least, they last long enough to survive a fashion cycle. Hello, bootcut, I’ve missed you). Unfortunately, the environmental impact of making them is high. Keeping our favorite jeans looking great for years saves your heartache, money, and lessens your environmental impact. Let’s make sure those babies last a long time!



New Jeans - Do this when you buy a new pair (or right now)

Hem: Have your pants hemmed by a pro or a friend with sewing skills. By making sure the hemline is in the right place, you avoid dragging jeans on the ground. Avoiding rips makes them last much longer and keeping the bottoms free of mysterious street dirt helps you extend time between washings.

Soak: Just like you used a vinegar rinse to preserve your supersweet tie-dye shirts at camp, this method reduces color ruboff and fading. Put one cup of vinegar into enough water to submerge your jeans in a bucket. Leave for 30 minutes up to overnight. Remove and hang to dry.

Wait: Wait as long as you can before washing your jeans. Some fanatics say to wait three years! This is ultimately your call, but the main idea is to extend the time between washings to avoid fading the fabric and dye. Use our “avoid washing” tips to get the most out of your jeans between washes.

Avoid Washing - Reduce water and detergent, and justify your laziness in doing laundry

Hang: Get some air into your jeans after wearing. If your jeans go from a crowded train car to a sweaty sidewalk and end in a heap on your floor, that gives bacteria a damp environment it will love to grow in. Hang them up in your closet, on a drying rack, clothesline, even on a doorknob. Outside in a breeze is even better (but avoid the sun which can cause bleaching of the fabric).

Freeze: This method is now famous as the recommended method from Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi’s. The idea is that freezing jeans will kill the remaining bacteria. The science behind this is suspect at best (laboratories routinely freeze bacteria and it survives just fine after thawing), but many people find this to be a good method for a quick freshen-up if there’s no time to wash.

Spot Clean: Great for spaghetti spills and muddy hems. A quick wipe with a damp cloth or a soap-and-water rub over a small area will get rid of many items you’d usually throw jeans in the wash over. Hang up to dry and they are ready to wear again.

Okay, Now It’s Really Time to Wash Them. Really.

Vinegar Soak: wait, one more wash-alternative! Do the vinegar soak (1 cup white vinegar, enough water to cover jeans in a bucket. Soak 30 minutes - a few hours, hang to dry). The vinegar helps to eliminate bacteria and the water solution flushes dirt away gently without the full impact of a machine wash. The vinegar smell dissipates while drying, removing odors.

Invert: turn the jeans inside out to help reduce dye transfer out of jeans and onto other clothes. Hand wash (best), or machine wash on cold to reduce wear and tear of hot water and long wash cycles.

Dry: Hang dry. Dryer lint is just proof your clothes are getting torn to itty-bitty fuzzy pieces in there!


Repair: Life happens. Sometimes you meant to hem your jeans but that was four years ago, or you sit funny with one leg splayed out and all your jeans get a hole in the same place (why is it always the crotch? it’s always the crotch). Now that you’ve tenderly cared for these jeans like an additional family member, don’t give them up before making some repairs. A professional tailor or a family member with sewing experience can extend the life of your favorites indefinitely by reinforcing areas with small holes. Do this for long enough, and your kids will steal your jeans from your closet when they go off to college. It will be a proud moment.

Voila! You’ve just saved yourself several shopping trips and a ton of money on new jeans by extending the life of the good stuff already in your closet.