… Plus My Own 4-Step Jeans Washing Guide That Never Fails
When I first got introduced to raw denim back in 2007, I was told not to wash my jeans for at least 6 months. You’ve probably gotten similar advice.
I religiously followed this flawed rule of thumb of raw denim care, which only focuses on the upside; the great fades you get.
The downside of wearing raw denim for months without washing it is that you wear through the denim—especially in the crotch area and along the honeycombs and whisker—much quicker than what you might expect from pricey jeans.
In this video—which is a preview of the lesson about fits in the Denim 101 course—I’ll discuss how to make raw denim last longer AND get great fades with a super simple denim care trick. But first, let’s back up a little.
Why We’re Told Not To Wash Our Jeans
Not that many years ago, most of us probably didn’t lose sleep over the enormous amount of natural resources we consume to do our laundry.
According to the 2013 Levi’s life cycle assessment, the water used by consumers to wash their jeans amounts to 23% of the total water consumption in the lifetime of a pair of jeans. Washing your jeans less is obviously a perfect way to save resources.
But that’s actually not the (main) reason we’re told to wash our raw denim jeans less.
The main objective of washing raw denim as little as possible is to get high-contrast fades by preserving the colour of the fabric in some places while wearing it off in others.
The Problem With NOT Washing
Raw denim jeans are the kind that haven’t been washed when you buy them. Since they don’t already have that soft touch and the lived-in look, you have to create it yourself by ‘breaking in’ the jeans.
As you break in raw denim jeans, they mold to your body and the denim starts fading in the areas that’re abraded. The faded creases the thighs are called ‘whiskers,’ and those on the back of the knees are called ‘honeycombs.’
When you wash raw denim, most of the creases are straightened out, and the colour from the areas that are not abraded bleeds a little onto the rest of the fabric.
And here comes the problem.
When you wear raw denim for a long time without washing, and the creases that form become sharp. And it’s not only the colour you’re wearing off; you’re effectively wearing down the denim.
Infrequent washing of raw denim (that you wear a lot) makes the fabric brittle and overly prone to tear in places where it’s faded.
Here’s the Care Trick I Promised …
The solution is to give the jeans a quick cold soak in the sink before you start wearing them. This will soften the denim without removing too much colour. Simple as that!
… and my 4-step jeans washing guide:
- Turn the jeans inside out
- Add around 1 spoonful of mild non-bleach liquid detergent and white vinegar
- Wash in a washing machine at maximum 40°C (100°F) and a spin cycle of no more than 900 RPMs
- Dry the jeans outside, in the shower or on a drying rack
Keep in mind that it’s only with raw denim jeans that you can create your own high-contrast fades by not washing. Pre-washed jeans already have fades, so not washing them won’t make as much of a difference!
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