Get Perfect Fades With This Raw Denim Wash Guide
Achieve your raw denim’s full potential
The best-looking jeans are without a doubt those you break in yourself. The process is challenging and time consuming. Success or failure comes down to what you do before you wash your jeans, how you wash them, and what you do after the first wash. In this three-step raw denim wash guide, we show you how to transform a pair of rigid, dark blue, raw denim jeans into something that will make heads turn.
The Starting Point
To achieve a great worn-in look, we recommend that you choose a pair of high quality raw denim jeans, which (generally) breaks in better. Figuring out whether your jeans are made of a quality fabric is not that easy.
A general rule of thumb is to go for selvedge denim. Fold up your jeans at the bottom and take a look at the outer seem of the leg. If it has selvage edges, the quality is normally high, although not always. Like in everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
Take a look at our guide to getting your first pair of selvedge denim jeans for more hints and tips on finding the perfect pair for you.
Step 1: Before the First Wash
We recommend you to give your jeans a quick soak in the bathtub before you start wearing them.
Unwashed denim is often stiff as a cardboard. The initial pre soak will remove a lot of the starch from the fabric and soften it up slightly with no reduction in fade potential.
The pre soak makes the fabric softer and even though some argue that rinsed jeans won’t wear in as well as dry ones, the rinse will make your jeans last longer.
Always remember to turn them inside out when washing or soaking, and let them hang dry, possibly in your shower. Certainly never in the dryer.
After the pre soak, wear your jeans as much as possible – preferably for several months – before you wash them for the first time in the washing machine. The more you wear your jeans, the more distinct wear patterns you will achieve.
Several months of intense wear will cause the denim to wear in some areas more than others. Especially in areas with a lot of friction, for example, cuffs, crotch, knees and pockets.
Remember that the holes can be repaired. In our opinion this only gives your jeans a personal and unique look. Holes and rips do not necessarily mean that the jeans are of poor quality.
Also, although you should be careful, ironing might help soften the fabric. Just remember to iron your jeans inside-out.
Step 2: The First Wash
Once your jeans start looking like this, it’s okay to wash
These have been used for eight months straight and have been dry cleaned once.
If you still want to postpone the first wash, try airing your jeans before you wash.
When you start getting comments about the smell, it’s time to wash.
The procedure depends on what results you are aiming for. Some use dry cleaning instead of machine washing, but that’s only for the really hardcore deninheads. If you want to keep your jeans as dark as possible, we recommend hand wash – the procedure is the same as for the first rinse.
You could try adding a couple of cups of salt and half a cup of vinegar, it helps fix the indigo colour in the denim.
If you are impatient and want to see some results you can throw your jeans in the washing machine; prewashing is not necessary. We would recommend that you take them out of the washing machine before the spin cycle. This will help prevent those horrible vertical lines. Dry as mentioned above.
Step 3: After the First Wash
After the first wash, your jeans will be less dirt repellent. To go for months between each wash might be unrealistic. But, you should wear your jeans as much as possible between washes.
This pair of Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1967 505 jeans has been worn every day for four months and washed about 7-8 times in the machine during this period.
If you are looking for a vintage style fade with a more even wear pattern and less contrasts then don’t wait months before the first wash. You should wash them more often. Nevertheless, you can still consult point step 2 and 3 above for guidance on washing.