Experts break down how to clean your favorite denim without it shrinking, ripping, or fading too soon.

By Rebecca Daly and Maggie Seaver
Updated August 04, 2017
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We get a lot of mixed messages about how to wash, dry, and handle jeans. For instance, some people think denim should never go in the laundry—but you wear jeans so often there’s no way not washing them is a good idea, right? Jeans are probably one of the most-worn wardrobe staples in your closet, and knowing how to care for them properly will make them look and feel amazing for a long time. We asked jean experts to debunk common denim care myths and share the best ways to wash every style of jean (yes, even your favorite sequin-studded pair).

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1
How Often to Wash Your Jeans

There’s a rumor that you’re not supposed to wash jeans ever—ignore it. “Bacteria and grime can deteriorate the fibers,” explains Genah Kim, denim and leather designer for FRAME. “It is true, though, that you don’t need to wash them all that often.” Kim recommends washing your jeans every about every five wears to avoid overdoing it.

2
How to Stop Jeans From Shrinking

The best way to keep your favorite pair from shrinking in the wash isn’t a nifty new trick; it’s age-old advice. “Don’t put your jeans in the dryer,” says Jonathan Cheung, senior vice president of design innovation at Levi Strauss & Co. “Heat, more than anything else, is what causes shrinkage. Wash jeans in cool water and hang them to dry.”

3
How to Keep Dark Jeans Dark

You already possess the secret to preserving the perfect inky blue of your favorite pair. “Skip the heat,” Kim says. “The best way to keep dark washes looking like new is to wash them in cold water or, even better, soak them by hand in a cold bath. The less heat and agitation, the better.”

4
How to Keep the Knees From Getting Baggy

Form-fitting skinny jeans with sagging knees is not a good look—but it is avoidable. “The knees see the most impact from movement,” explains Catherine Ryu, former creative director at Citizens of Humanity. “Look for jeans with Lycra, which allows them to adjust to your body and maintain their shape.”

5
How to Wash Embellished Denim

Styles with embroidery, studs, even pearls have increased in popularity, but require a bit more care. “Hand-wash your embellished jean styles with a gentle detergent," Ryu says. Also, don’t scrunch or twist the jeans while they’re wet—this will help them maintain their shape.

6
How to Fix a Hole in Your Jeans

Sure, a rip or tear adds character, but what if you have a hole you don’t want? You don’t have to throw them out! If you’re not up for a DIY patch-up project, there are some really cool companies that’ll happily make your ripped jeans look like new. “A denim specialist like Indigo Proof can create a virtually invisible repair using a darning machine,” says Kim. (Don’t believe it? Check out this company’s before-and-after gallery.)