How to wash jeans – according to the experts

Finally – after hours of tedious online scrolling, weeks of confidence-dampening shopping trips trying on multiple types of jeans and maybe even years of searching, you’ve found the perfect pair of jeans. So, how do you stop them from fading, fraying or developing the dreaded knee or bum sag? The key to keeping your best jeans as good as new is in knowing how to wash jeans.

Whether your wardrobe weapon of choice is a pair of flattering high-waisted jeans, fashion-forward white jeans, high-end or high-street jeans, these washing principles remain the same.

How often should you wash jeans?

When it comes to washing your jeans, less is more. Why? Denim is a sturdy, durable fabric and built to withstand plenty of wear without becoming grubby or starting to smell.

Also, you’re (hopefully) wearing underwear beneath your jeans, so you don’t need to worry about bacteria in the same way you might with a T-shirt or knickers.

As a general rule, aim to wash your favourite, most-worn pair of jeans once a month or after every fourth or fifth wear.

“Unlike other garments, your jeans don’t need to spend that much time in the washing machine,” says Dr Beckmann spokesperson Susan Fermor. “Washing your jeans frequently can alter the fit and colouring. Putting them on a cool wash once a month is advised to ensure that they are kept clean and fresh.”

It’s all down to personal preference, though, with some diehard denim enthusiasts choosing to go far longer before popping their jeans on a spin cycle.

Levi’s denim experts recommend only washing your Levi’s jeans after every ten wears to help save water, while their CEO, Chip Bergh, claims to have owned the same pair of jeans for ten years without machine washing them once. Instead, he spot-treats stains with a toothbrush and a little mild soap. If Chip’s favourite jeans are ever in need of a deeper clean, he hand washes them.

How to wash jeans

If you have the time, follow Chip’s lead and hand wash your jeans in cold water. The extra time commitment will reward you handsomely in minimal fade, stretch and shrinkage.

Hand washing separately is especially good for new jeans and will eradicate the risk of the fresh blue dye seeping into and staining your other clothes.

Not sure how to wash jeans by hand? For a no-hassle hand wash, detergent brand Ariel recommends “placing your jeans inside out in the sink, or ideally the bathtub, where they can be laid flat, before filling the basin with cool water. Add a small amount of liquid detergent and leave your jeans to soak for 45 minutes, gently agitating them occasionally. Once the timer is up, rinse thoroughly with cold water and hang to dry.”

How to wash jeans in a washing machine

Short on time? No problem. You can still clean your jeans in the washing machine.

Before you get going, check the care instructions on your jeans to make sure you’re choosing the appropriate setting. The guidance will vary by brand, style and shade.

If there’s no care label, play it safe by choosing a cold, gentle wash.

“Washing your jeans at a cool temperature will ensure the denim keeps its shape and feel,” says Susan. “If they are extremely dirty, then dab them down with a cool cloth beforehand to reduce the residue.”

You’ll need to prep your jeans, too. “Turn them inside out, button up any buttons and zip up any zippers,” advises Ariel. “This will stop them from turning white at the seams and catching on other clothing.”

How can you stop jeans from fading?

Aside from trying to wash your jeans as little as possible, there are a few other things you can do to reduce fade. One of them is to wash inside out, and another is to let them dry in the shade, instead of in direct sunlight.

“You should also use specialised laundry products that are used to preserve colours, such as Dr Beckmann Re-usable Colour Collector Cloth,” adds Susan. “The cloth absorbs and locks in colours to protect against colour run and dirt every time you wash. As this excess is locked into the cloth, instead of being released back into the water, clothes stay brighter and colours more vibrant.”

How can you remove stains from jeans?

How you remove stains from your jeans will depend on the nature of the mark and, in most cases, they’re fixable – so don’t panic.

“Ink and wine stains, especially red wine, are notoriously difficult to remove. However, it’s not impossible,” says Susan. “Time is of the essence, though, so make sure you treat the stain immediately by soaking it with a damp cloth, then applying a stain remover.”

The Wrangler jeans denim experts recommend a similar, yet slightly boozier, approach to general stains and spills – all by using things you already have in your cupboards.

“Use baby wipes or a vodka-soaked rag and dab (don’t rub) the mark. Both of these methods will take out the stain and dry without leaving a mark.”

If you’ve come up against a stubborn mark that just won’t shift, consider customising your jeans before throwing them in the bin. Could you cut them into shorts? Cover the mark with a patch of contrasting fabric? Getting creative will not only help reduce waste but gift you with a completely unique pair of jeans.

Should you put jeans in the freezer?

Unfortunately, there’s little truth in the rumour that putting your jeans in the freezer will rid them of bacteria without the need for a proper wash.

“While some germs die off in the freezer, the hardier ones live on,” says Ariel. “Since most of the germs on your jeans come from you, once your body temperature warms the fabric the germs can come back just like before.”

Consider us told.

How should you dry jeans?

Jeans and tumble dryers don’t play nicely together. Having said that, if your jeans have become stretched, a quick tumble can help them regain their shape. Just be sure the care labels don’t warn against it first.

The best way to dry your jeans is to let them dry naturally in the open air. Pop them on a hanger and hook on to a ledge in the shadiest part of your garden or, during the winter months, on to a door handle or the edge of a clothes horse.

Our top tip for storing them? ‘‘One secret to prolonging the wear of jeans between washes is to hang them when you are not wearing them,” explains Ariel “It will help the fibres recover from stress and stretch, especially in the knees and the seat.”