How Often Should You Wash Your Jeans? Experts Weigh In
While some articles of clothing (say, underwear and workout clothes) obviously need a good wash after one use, other items are a little less clear. That being said, when it comes to cleaning, denim is probably the attire with the most conflicting information. 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.
If you talk to serious denim aficionados, they tell you never to wash your blue jeans, which seems like, er, questionable advice. But it’s understandable why we want to prolong our denim washes: It’s better for the environment, keeps jeans looking newer for longer, and perhaps most significantly, it reduces the amount of laundry (which is a luxury for those without a washer-and-dryer setup in-house).
So how often do you really need to wash your jeans? Is it true that jeans are like a fine wine that gets better with age? We spoke with cleaning connoisseurs, laundry experts, and fashion stylists to get the lowdown on denim care. Read on to hear each expert's advice.
The Bottom Line
If you want your jeans to stay chic and form-fitting, don’t wash them unless they smell or have a significant stain (say, spill red wine on them). Only you know how often you get that dirty, so there’s no magic number here—which is evident from the many different answers provided above.
Yuck factor aside, microbiologists say not washing your denim doesn’t pose any health risks. In fact, a study done by the University of Alberta proved 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 from fecal matter).
However, there are a few things that you can do to care for your jeans and extend the time between washes. First and foremost, “Let them breathe!” says Emily Underhill, a clothing guide and personal stylist in New York City. “Jeans often smell dirty when they really aren't because of odor-causing bacteria. 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.” 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! The fabric content of the denim determines how the jeans have to be washed. According to Boyd, it's always a good practice to turn your jeans inside out and wash in cold water with a high-quality detergent. Consider The Laundress Denim Wash ($19; amazon.com), which is formulated with fabric conditioner and color-guard technology to prevent fading and stiffness. For new jeans, dye transfer and bleeding can occur, so Boyd recommends pre-soaking your denim in a bath of cool water and scented vinegar before washing—in addition to washing separately to prevent dye transfer.