How to Wash Jeans

Learn how to wash denim to protect its color and fibers.

how to wash jeans

373453690

Learn how to care for your jeans so they last a long time.

Photo by: Shutterstock/KieferPix

Shutterstock/KieferPix

Learn how to care for your jeans so they last a long time.

Denim is extremely durable and its fibers can last a long time. You may even have jeans that are more than a decade old hanging in your closet! It goes to show that a little bit of love goes a long way and your jeans can — and should — last a long time. But when it's time to wash your jeans, do your best to preserve the fibers and the dye so that the garment lasts as long as intended.

Many people are quick to include their jeans with their routine load of laundry, unaware that they're damaging the fibers slowly over time.

To demystify some common chatter around washing jeans:

  • No, you don't have to wash jeans after every wear! Aim to wear your denim 10-12 times between washes.
  • Yes, airing out your jeans helps extend the time between washes. Avoid folding them back up tight in your closet and give them space to breathe. You can also run them through a no-heat cycle in the dryer to get air circulating around the fibers.
  • Yes, you can put your jeans in the dryer. But be aware that the heat from the machine can cause the dyes to fade, tighten the cotton fibers of the denim and damage any elastic fibers with time.
  • Yes, jeans should be washed inside out. This helps preserve the dyes.

How to Hand-Wash Jeans

You can prolong the life of your jeans and preserve the dyes by hand-washing denim. Jeans with tears and other intentional, manufactured distressed areas should also be hand-washed to avoid agitating and further distressing those already weakened fibers.

Woman is washing blue jean

288686777

Gently spot-clean any stains on your denim before laundering.

Photo by: Shutterstock/ArtBackground

Shutterstock/ArtBackground

Gently spot-clean any stains on your denim before laundering.

It may seem like a tedious chore, but hand-washing your jeans is very easy. Just use your kitchen sink!

  1. Plug the sink and fill it with cold water and a few tablespoons of detergent. Small sink? Use 1 tablespoon. Large sink? Or, are you using your bathtub instead? Add 2-4 tablespoons of detergent instead.
  2. Agitate the water to distribute the detergent. Make it nice and bubbly.
  3. Spot-treat any areas that are dirty with a dab of concentrated detergent. Massage it into the fibers with your fingers. Using a bristle brush can cause the dyes in that area to lighten.
  4. Turn your jeans inside out and submerge them in the water. Only wash one pair at a time so you can thoroughly soak and rinse the denim.
  5. Gently agitate the jeans in the water. Massage and squeeze the fibers to ensure the detergent soaks into the fibers.
  6. Soak the jeans. Leave the jeans alone, submerged, for 10-20 minutes.
  7. Drain the sink. Squeeze excess water from the denim but avoid twisting and wringing the material.
  8. Fill the sink with clean, cold water. Fill the fresh water high enough to cover the denim. Allow the jeans to soak in the clean water for 10 minutes.
  9. Drain the sink again and run the jeans under fresh cold water. Now, you'll finish rinsing the detergent out. You can roll the jeans to help expel suds but avoid twisting and wringing the fabric.
  10. Finish rinsing. By now, you will have removed most of the detergent from the denim but keep rinsing the denim by running the sink water through the fibers until no more detergent or bubbles are in the sink.
  11. Hang-dry your jeans. We don't hate the dryer, but if you're trying to go gentle on your denim by hand-washing it, you may as well also let your jeans air-dry on a clothesline. The dryer can fade the dye, too!
Denim in a washing machine.

How to Wash Your Jeans

Turn your jeans inside out to preserve the color of the dye.

Turn your jeans inside out to preserve the color of the dye.

How to Wash Jeans in a Washing Machine

Is it your first time washing the denim? Before putting them into the washing machine, you can help preserve the new dyes by soaking the jeans in a cold-water bath treated with a cup of white vinegar. Then, send them through the wash by themselves following these next steps.

  1. Turn the jeans inside out. This reduces fading caused by agitation in the washing machine.
  2. Launder in cold water on a delicate setting. Wash the denim all by itself; since its dye can bleed, it's best to exclude other garments. To protect black jeans and dark dyes in the denim further, choose a delicate detergent formulated for colors and dark fabrics.
  3. Dry the jeans. Move the jeans to the clothes dryer or straight to a clothesline for air-drying. Using the dryer is okay, but it does put stress on the fibers (especially if your denim contains Lycra). If you are going to use the dryer, consider only half-drying them by machine. Allowing them to air-dry the rest of the way is a safe tradeoff.

How to Remove Tough Stains From Denim

  • Treat ink stains by soaking the stain in rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Blot at the stain using a light cotton cloth to lift and absorb the ink.
  • Eliminate oil stains using detergent. Concentrated detergent alone is enough to help treat an oily stain on your denim. Apply a dot of detergent to the affected area to pretreat the stain before laundering.
  • Remove water-based or latex paint stains from jeans with dish soap and water. Start by soaking the stain in water under the sink. Then, use a sponge and dish detergent to loosen the stain. Avoid using aggressive scrubbers, as it can fade the color of the denim.
The washed jeans hang on a clothesline. Pockets turned inside out. Drying clothes on the street. Life style.

1767320366

Wash your jeans and let them air-dry on a clothesline.

Photo by: Shutterstock/July Ko

Shutterstock/July Ko

Wash your jeans and let them air-dry on a clothesline.

How Often Should You Wash Jeans?

If you can go a dozen wears between washes, that's a great goal.

Washing your jeans too often can rinse out the dyes and make fibers brittle. You should, of course, take personal circumstances into account. If you wear your jeans while doing yard work or other heavy-duty tasks, you may find yourself washing more often. The jeans you wear to your desk job? You can probably get away with laundering them less frequently.

Should You Put Your Jeans in the Freezer?

Maybe someone has suggested that you put your jeans in the freezer to kill the bacteria that causes them to smell? Apparently sticking jeans in a freezer to sanitize them is a thing. The thinking behind the claim is that the cold temps will get rid of the microbes on worn jeans. But, science pours cold water on that theory.

Dermatologist Dr. Alok Vij at the Cleveland Clinic says temperatures need to reach 80 degrees below freezing to kill bacteria. Your freezer only chills to about 4 degrees — far above what's required to get the job done.

Even the Levi's CEO tells his customers not to put jeans in the freezer.

Why Do Jeans Get Tighter After Washing?

Washing jeans in hot water and cycling them through a hot dryer can contract fibers and elastics, making them feel extra snug. Cold washes and a low-heat tumble dry are the best ways to launder jeans without shrinking them.

If the jeans were shrunk by accident, you may still be able to reverse the damage. Launder them again in cold water or hand-wash in cold water in the sink. Once the fibers are wet, you'll be able to stretch at them gently to manually fix areas that were previously too tight.

If you're trying to learn how to shrink jeans to achieve a better fit, spot-shrink for best results. Dampen the area you want to address, whether it's the waist, the hips or the length. Then, lay the garment flat and apply a hot iron to the wet fabric. The heat will shrink the fibers as it dries.

How to Fold Jeans

Next Up

How to Wash a Wool Blanket

Cleaning wool isn't as risky as you think. Take care of your wool blanket, and it’ll love you back for a long time.

How to Get Chocolate Out of Clothes

Fresh chocolate stains are easier to remove than deep-set stains, but we have foolproof treatments to help all garments.

How to Clean White Shoes

Keep those kicks or Chuck Taylors looking new by following these easy methods for cleaning white sneakers and shoes.

How to Clean a Hairbrush

Follow this quick, simple routine to keep your hairbrush clean of natural oils and buildup.

How to Dry-Clean at Home

Take matters into your own hands and learn about the techniques and products you can use to dry-clean garments at home.

How to Get Blood Out of Clothes

Removing blood stains from clothing isn’t as difficult as you think, especially if you can get to the stain early.

How to Shrink Clothes For a Better Fit

Right-size your wardrobe or repair stretched fibers with these tips and tricks for shrinking the size of your clothing.

How to Clean Your Cellphone

Remove bacteria from your phone with these simple steps.

How to Wash Pillows Properly

Can you put pillows in the washing machine? The answer is "yes," depending on the pillow. Find out which ones you can wash and which you can't, and how to properly clean them all.

How to Clean a Bathtub

Give yourself a spa-level bathing experience with these simple tips for deep-cleaning your bathtub.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.