How to Wash Jeans and Denim

Depending on how many clothes your household goes through, you might do laundry once a day, once a week, or even once a month. Most of us throw our clothing into the hamper after one wear, but might have a different standard when it comes to jeans. Even if your jeans aren’t visibly dirty or smelly, it’s best to attempt washing jeans every five or six times you wear them1.

But if you think that throwing them into the wash with all your other clothing will suffice, you’re wrong. Learning how to wash jeans requires special consideration. That’s because jeans tend to fade easily (most are top-dyed, so the surface of the fibers is dyed but nothing beneath that) and often shrink if not washed and dried correctly.

Here are some tips on how to wash denim2, jeans in particular:

  • Ideally, hand wash them the first time. You can use your sink or the bathtub. Fill with water, add a little detergent, let them soak for 30-45 minutes, rinse with cold water, and hang them to dry. You can repeat the soaking and rinsing cycles in shorter increments (15-30 minutes) a few times if you prefer.
  • Wash them inside out. This prevents color loss, since machine washing can be abrasive on fabrics.
  • Use cold water and a gentle cycle to wash them.
  • Dry them using a low temperature setting. Remove them from the dryer slightly damp and hang them or place them flat to fully dry. This prevents them from shrinking. You can also choose to fully air dry after washing jeans and skip the electric dryer altogether.
  • Use a laundry detergent that preserves color. They are usually designed to hold dyes in and render the chlorine in water (which can cause fading colors) useless.
  • If you’re having trouble getting a certain funky smell out of your jeans, you might be using too much detergent or fabric softener, causing a buildup of the liquids in the fabric. To remedy this, wash the jeans with a half cup of white vinegar and no detergent.
Learning how to wash jeans may feel complicated, but it’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Follow these tips and tricks, and you’ll soon become a natural at washing jeans.

  1. SOURCE: Once and for All, How Many Times Can You Wear A Pair Of Jeans Before Washing Them? (Oct. 2016). She Finds. Retrieved August 8, 2017 from:
  2. SOURCE: Machine Washing Denim (Oct. 2016). Mr. Black Garment Essentials. Retrieved Aug. 8, 2017 from: