How Often Should You Wash Your Jeans? Experts Weigh In
Some articles of clothing obviously need a good wash after one use (say, underwear and workout clothes), but others not so much. Not surprisingly, denim jeans are probably at the top of the laundry schedule debate. Most of us love a good pair of jeans, but we can never seem to agree as to how often you should—or shouldn't—wash them.
Serious denim aficionados will tell you to never wash your blue jeans, which may seem like questionable advice. But on a few levels it makes sense to at least spread out your denim washes: It's better for the environment, keeps jeans looking newer longer, and perhaps most significantly, saves time and money on laundry (especially if you don't have a washer-and-dryer setup at home).
So, is it true that like fine wine, jeans improve with age? And if so, how often do you really need to wash them? We spoke with cleaning connoisseurs, laundry experts, and fashion stylists to get the lowdown on denim care. Read on for their expert advice.
The Bottom Line
If you want your jeans to stay good-looking and form-fitting, don't wash them very often. Do wash them if they're stained (say you spill red wine on them) or they smell. There's no hard-and-fast rule that says when to toss them in the laundry, because only you know how often they get truly dirty.
Personal preference aside, microbiologists say that not washing your denim doesn't pose any health risks. In fact, a study done by the University of Alberta showed that even after wearing jeans for 15 months straight without washing (yes, 15!), the bacteria count was surprisingly low (mostly normal skin flora with no E. coli or other bacteria in evidence).
If you opt for less-frequent washes, there are some things you can do to refresh them. First and foremost, "let them breathe," says Emily Underhill, a clothing guide and personal stylist in New York City. "Instead of storing them rolled up or folded in an overpacked drawer, hang them by their belt loops in your closet. This opens up the jeans so they can air out," says Underhill. "Jeans can smell dirty when they're not because of the odor-causing bacteria in stuffy drawers." If your jeans aren't quite ready for a wash but do need to be refreshed, hit them up with a quick spritz of Febreze.
As for freezing jeans to clean them, Whiting says this is an old wives' tale. However, while storing your jeans in the freezer won't actually get them cold enough to kill bacteria, it will freshen them up a bit (and feel great on a hotter day).
When you do eventually wash your jeans, pay attention to that care tag! Fabric content determines how the jeans have to be washed. Boyd recommends turning them inside out and washing them in cold water with a high-quality detergent. Consider The Laundress Denim Wash ($19; amazon.com), which is formulated with a fabric conditioner and color-guard technology to prevent fading and stiffness. New jeans? Pre-soak them in a bath of cool water and scented vinegar before washing to prevent dye transfer and bleeding; it's best to wash them separately, too.