Welcome back. In today’s article, we’ll cover our top tips to help make sure your jeans last as long as possible and look great for years to come. We all know that dogs are man’s best friends. Well, our clothes horses feel that a good pair of jeans come in at a close second, even if it’s harder to play fetch with them. Well, at least they’re good at “sit” and “stay,” right? The point is: jeans are a go-to garment for many of us; no matter if you see them as purely utilitarian or as a stylish addition to your wardrobe. We should all have a little space in our closets for a pair of jeans. The question then is how do you make sure you get the best out of your denim investment?
We’ll share with you some of our favorite denim care methods, as well as some helpful hints and tips to help you get the mileage out of your jeans; but first up, I’m sure you’re probably asking yourself, “Jeans are typically cheap. Why should I care?” Yes, it’s true. The vast majority of genes on the market are pretty inexpensive, whether that be down to mass manufacturing or because you bought them pre-loved. Jeans can be picked up at pretty low prices. So, why not just replace jeans instead of looking after them? Aside from being really bad for the environment, replacing jeans regularly is going to be really hard on your wallet, too. You know we’re big advocates for considering the cost-per-wear for your garments, and you should apply that thinking to all of your clothing purchases.
After all, it’s more expensive to buy and replace a pair of $20 jeans every year for 10 years, instead of investing in one pair of classic jeans at around $100 that will last around the same amount of time with proper care. Plus, over that time that great pair really will become like best friends. Yeah, still working on that whole go-fetch thing. Denim is, for all intents and purposes, simply cotton. But, not all denim is made the same. Most jeans will likely be made with a middling to low quality of denim, often blended with some synthetic fibers like elastane. Manufacturers do that in order to give you that soft and supple feeling right out of the box, but this can actually harm the lifespan of your jeans as the fibers break down faster than sturdy cotton.
Historically, denim has been priced for its hard-wearing nature. It was the cloth of choice for those doing hard labor in the real world and mining eras, and some of the best denim out there is largely unchanged from how it’s traditionally been made. At this junction, we could go on for quite a while talking about salvage denim, raw denim, and all the fun things there; so, if you’d like us to put something together for you about these topics, let us know in the comments below.
For the purpose of today’s article, it’s safe to say that good quality cotton denim can really take a bit of a beating, but also needs a bit of love. By caring for your jeans, you’ll have a longer-lasting garment, it becoming more stylish and comfortable for years to come.
So, let’s dive into denim care 101, starting with washing when needed. There are many posts, videos, thoughts, and theories about the exact science of knowing when you’re supposed to wash your jeans. And in the immortal words of Sweet Brown, “Isn’t nobody got time for that!” So, in our experience, we can sum things up for you pretty simply here: wash your jeans when they need to be washed. Not after everywhere, but also not only every decade. The key here is just taking stock when you’re done wearing your jeans. Are there any noticeable spots or stains? Are they starting to look a little tired? And most importantly, do they smell? Washing your jeans frequently will fade your jeans prematurely. Now, if you like the faded look, then this shouldn’t be an issue for you. But, obsessive laundering can also break down the cotton, leading to a pair of jeans that aren’t as long-lasting as they could have been. On the other hand, you don’t want to never or very rarely wash your jeans. Dirt and other general wear and tear that’s left untreated can contribute to the destruction of your denim. So, washing is an important part of general jeans care. Overall, when it comes to the frequency of laundering denim, just apply a little mindfulness. Wash them as and when you need to, neither frequently nor sparingly.
When the time comes to launder your jeans, you’re going to want to wash them separately from your other clothes. Simply put, they will stain everything else. Period. And it’s because quality denim is dyed using a high level of natural indigo. The indigo dye is soaked into the cotton fibers of your denim and is then reactivated with the addition of water. Particularly, dark blue jeans will also transfer their color onto other clothing items when they are new. And this is especially true for raw denim, but they should be less potent after you’ve given your jeans their first wash. Therefore, it’s best to hand wash denim in a completely separate area, such as a basin or bathtub, where the jeans can soak by themselves. You’ll also end up using less water and energy than putting them in the washing machine unless you possess an insane amount of denim. That’s a lot going on, man! You’ll probably find that cheaper jeans won’t bleed much during their first wash. This is due to the lower quantities of genuine indigo used in the dyeing process. But, it’s worthwhile heading this advice for all denim garments until you know what level of dye bleeding to expect. Better safe than sorry, right?
Now, while we’re on the subject of dying your jeans, you’ll want to use a detergent that’s very mild or, even better, a specialist denim detergent. This is especially true if you have high-quality jeans that are made from salvage or raw denim. A water-only wash will tackle a decent amount of dirt and grime on your jeans, but to make sure they’re properly cleaned and refreshed, you should be using a detergent that’s going to work towards preserving your jeans for longer as anything harsh will strip the color from the denim. There is a multitude of methods out there for home remedies and mixes that you can wash your denim in. There are also specific detergents out there on the market that are formulated to work with denim.
When it comes to laundering your jeans. You want to do it in water that is of a colder temperature. Whether you choose to wash your denim by machine or by hand, temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius or below are going to be better for the longevity of your jeans. Hot water washing will shrink your jeans and cause the dye to fade quickly. The nature of cotton and denim makes them particularly susceptible to structural changes when both high temperatures and moisture are applied. So, unless you want to end up with a pair of jeans fit for an action-man doll, you’re going to want to keep things cool. Instead of using Mr. Freeze’s ice gun, simply make sure that the water you’re laundering your jeans with isn’t too hot. And if you’re washing them by hand, it’s going to be fairly easy to test the temperature by checking the water as you fill the vessel that you’re using. But, a simple thermometer is always handy to ensure that you don’t go over the 30-degree Celsius mark, and should you want to wash your jeans in a machine, simply keep it at a low temperature and on a gentle cycle.
Of course, there’s a little shrinkage tolerance to be expected, but this is going to be different for every pair of jeans out there. Now, for buying a pair of quality jeans, the manufacturer is likely going to state whether or not the genes have been pre-shrunk – otherwise called “sanforized” – or what sort of shrinkage you can expect. The washing code is universally recognized as one of the best ways to preserve the size and fit of your denim. One other thing to consider before laundering your jeans is to empty your pockets and turn the jeans inside out. I know it sounds weird to tell you to make sure your pockets are empty but, in our experience, jeans pockets are deep, and you don’t want to launder anything that’s precious or anything that would harm your plumbing. These steps go toward mitigating the risk of any abrasion that might happen during the washing process.
If we’re keeping your jeans in better shape and looking in tip-top condition for longer, the rule of thumb: is do not tumble dry. When you’re done washing your jeans, it’s time to get them dried. The heat present in a tumble dryer is going to shrink your wet jeans that are fresh from the wash, so if you’re going through the trouble of making sure that your water is at the right temperature to ensure that you don’t shrink your jeans, don’t put them in a toasty tumble dryer. Otherwise, yeah, Action Man jeans. Instead, your denim is best left to air dry. If you have the space for it, it’s preferable to let your jeans dry laying flat. Hanging is typically fine, but drying them flat prevents any type of stretch-out that might occur. Now, if you just love using your dryer, it is possible to put your jeans in there after you’ve washed them. But, you should only do this for the shortest time – say, five minutes – and not too hot. The benefits of this method mean you’ll reduce the amount of water left in your jeans, start knocking out some of those wrinkles, and reduce the overall drying time. But, please, do exercise caution when using this method so as not to ruin your quality jeans.
Iron your jeans. On the subject of wrinkles in your freshly laundered jeans, take a few minutes to iron your jeans just before they’re completely dry. A neatly-ironed pair of jeans look so much more presentable than an awkwardly wrinkled pair does. Remember, denim fades quicker along any wrinkle lines. Now, this can actually be quite desirable for that lived-in look, but it needs to be done right. There’s a difference between the subtle fading and natural points of wear – otherwise known as “whiskering” – and the type of all-over-the-place fading that comes as a result of not pressing after washing. If you’ve chosen to give your denim a couple of minutes in the dryer post-wash, a lot of these wrinkles should naturally fall out, but it doesn’t hurt to give them a once over with the iron just as they’re almost dry. Cotton typically requires a high temperature when it comes to ironing, and we’d suggest using the setting just before the cotton preset on your iron. After all, we’re not looking for a military-style finish where everything is super neat, so it’s best to iron a little cooler and repress any areas that you feel need a little more attention. The best part here is that your color will be preserved by ironing your jeans inside out.
So, taking all of our other pointers into consideration, all you have to do is: turn your jeans inside-out; cool wash them with a gentle detergent; let them air dry, keeping them inside-out; give them a quick press to revitalize the shape; then turn them right-side out; and enjoy. Use your jeans well.
Our last two points focus more on how to use your jeans, and in order to get the best out of your denim, we’d strongly advocate that you don’t have just one pair. Effectively, you want to think of your jeans like your dress shoes. If you wear the same pair of black cap-toe Oxfords all the time, you’re accelerating their lifespan because you’re asking them to work pretty hard for you. So, just like you should have a couple of pairs of classic dress shoes to let them breathe, recover, and give you longer enjoyment; the same goes for your jeans. Whether you want to pick up two pairs of jeans that are the same or two that are different for more variety, having a couple of pairs in your wardrobe will be better in the long run. Naturally, how often you wear jeans will determine this for you, but we strongly recommend looking at two different pairs as we’re big fans of creating new and interesting outfits, which is easier to do with garments that have differences. For more on this mindset, why not go for a pair of mid-blue jeans for relaxed days, and a pair in a darker hue for a bit more formality as a perfect partner to dressier ensembles? Not only will you have a great choice in your wardrobe and both pairs of jeans will have a greater lifespan by being in rotation. Learn to love them for what they are. Ultimately, your dreams are going to start to become truly yours the more you wear and enjoy them – just like the patina of a pair of well-loved shoes.
The fading and character development your jeans will go through are all part of their unique charm. So, if you get rips, holes, dings, or scratches happen to your jeans, you’ve got two choices: either leave them as they are and style it out or get them patched and repaired to continue their lifespan. As I’m sure you can imagine, we’d advocate that you look to the latter for an overall and neater appearance. As sustainability is a topic of increasing prevalence in the world of clothing, you’ll find there is a greater range of clothing care services. Taking your denim to a dedicated craftsperson to perform repairs can add to the individuality of your garment, much like the Japanese art of kintsugi. The act of performing visible repairs to your jeans adds to their beauty of them. It means you can continue to use them as always intended. If you’re in doubt, take a look at our guide to figure out if your clothes have any life left in them or if it’s time for them to retire.
Jeans are a great item to have in your wardrobe. Whether you’re a denim fanatic or a part-time enthusiast, we hope you’ve enjoyed our insights today. So, what did you think of our tips to expand the lifespan of your jeans? And do you have any other tips for denim maintenance? Let us know in the comments below.