How to Wash Your Jeans

We love our jeans. We want the best for them. We want to hold their hands and help them live their best lives. But the truth is that jeans don’t require a ton of maintenance, no matter how much we want to care for them. In fact, washing them less means they’ll look newer for longer. And, most importantly, it’s better for the environment.

How often do I need to wash my jeans?

It sounds wrong to admit you’re not washing your clothes regularly. But when it comes to jeans, I do so only every two months, unless they’ve gotten unexpectedly dirty or smelly.

Hazel Morley, VP of design at menswear provider Bonobos, said she washes her jeans as little as possible to ensure they last a long time. Until your jeans are visibly in need—or smell in need—of a washing, hold off on cleaning them.

How to wash regular jeans

To maintain the fabric’s like-new darkness, hand-wash your jeans inside out in a bathtub full of cold water, Morley said. Then hang them to dry right-side out.

How to Wash Your Jeans

For the average person who isn’t obsessed with keeping their jeans in perfect condition, machine-washing works too. Washing your jeans inside out helps maintain their color by protecting the outside fibers, regardless of whether you wash them by hand or in the machine. As for what will actually clean your jeans, skip the specialty denim detergents, and instead opt for something simple and plant-based, like Seventh Generation Free & Clear.

“I’ll never suggest drying your jeans in a dryer, which can be really hard on your clothes,” Morley said. If your jeans are super-stiff after you hang-dry them, she said you can toss them in a cool dryer for 10 minutes to soften them.

If you go the air-drying route, these Ipow laundry clips make it easy to hang jeans from your shower rod, for instance, without having to set up a full drying rack.

What about cleaning raw denim?

Like raw jeans themselves, the answer to this is more personalized than the one we’d give for non-raw jeans. Raw jeans are made from unwashed and untreated denim material, so they’re stiffer but also able to conform to your body over time for a unique fit and look.

Though some people argue that you shouldn’t wash raw denim, two experts I spoke with disagree. Steve Cruz, store manager at Naked & Famous Denim, told me that caring for raw jeans is an aesthetic choice: “The more you wear your jeans without washing them, the more fading and lines will become apparent.” If you’d rather have a pair of jeans that are even-looking, he recommends washing and drying your raw jeans.

Christian McCann, founder of Left Field NYC, recommends wearing your raw jeans at least 30 times before hand-washing them—inside out—with a mild detergent and then hanging them to dry. After 30 wears, your jeans will stretch properly and set the creases for maximum fade contrast.

“Never use a washing machine or a dryer,” McCann warned. “[Machines] twist the jeans in irregular ways and marble the jeans like a stone wash, mess up creases that are already set, and make the jeans too soft and harder to keep creases.”

About your guide

Justin Krajeski

Justin Krajeski is a staff writer reporting on everyday carry at Wirecutter. He previously wrote about tech at Wirecutter. He carries things every day. He’s very well versed in carrying.