Denim can be a fickle creature, and sometimes maintaining the quality and fit of your favourite pair of jeans takes some pretty intense research into how they wash, how the sizing differs from brand to brand, and even how often you should wear them.
On top of all that, jeans can fit differently every time you put them on, and because of that, there are a whole host of myths out there to fix common denim dilemmas. Here are five of the weirdest, and what you should actually be doing to keep your favourite jeans in top condition.
Read more after the jump:
‘Jeans are hand wash only, didn’t you know?’
Depending on the type of denim your jeans are made from, there’s some reason to be afraid of the washing machine. Yes, if your jeans are unsanforised (unstretched), you could end up shrinking them beyond recognition. If your jeans are pre-shrunk, the risk is lessened, but there’s still a chance of fading.
However, if you know what you’re doing, there can be little difference between hand washing and machine washing.
As the denim care expert Mr. Black advises, hand washing jeans is one of the best methods “because you can control the intensity and temperature of the wash and spare your jeans an aggressive spin cycle”. Ensure you choose the closest setting to a hand wash mode, and cold water. That’s about 30 degrees celsius, and it’s also good practice to avoid including your jeans with a normal laundry load. This prevents subjecting your denim to damage incurred by rubbing up against zips and buttons from other items, in the drum.
You might also prefer to wash jeans separately to avoid the risk of dye staining your other items. If you’re concerned about fading, use denim care products from the experts, such as the gentle but effective stain removing non-bio detergent and specialist denim wash.
‘Hand wash? Machine wash? You should never wash your jeans at all’
Whether or not you should wash your denim is one of the most often-spouted myths about denim care, but really, yes you should.
The denim we find in high street stores is typically lower quality than those we get from specialist brands, and in the case of skinny or lightweight jeans, are blended with nylons and elastics that don’t play by the same rules. According to Tech Insider, science would have us wash our jeans after wearing them 4 to 6 times. Jeans that have been in contact with food or bodily fluids should be washed right away.
But raw denim is a little different. Raw denim is also known as dry or unwashed denim, which means it has not undergone any of the usual washing or distressing processes as that we find on the high street. It’s a little stiffer than other fabrics, and designed to help the fibres mould more closely to the wearer’s body. Generally, it’s advised that you don’t wash raw denim until it’s bedded to your shape. Take this from Hiut Denim: “Raw denim is best given a good six months before washing. The longer you can leave it, the better your jeans will look.”
Andrew Chen of 3Sixteen explains: “What we’ve found is that washing jeans every few months extends the life of your jeans significantly, because you’re actively getting out the sweat, dirt and bacteria that will break the fabric down.”
So yes, there’s some truth in thinking that washing your jeans after every wear will do them harm, but consider what type of denim you’re wearing and the purposes for which you wear them before you start smelling like damp arse.
‘Did you know, you can wash your jeans in the freezer’
Erm, well this is technically true depending on what you mean by ‘wash’, as bacteria can be neutralised when exposed to extremely low temperatures. But it’s certainly not the best way to get rid of microbes that may be dwelling in the denim. Once you take the jeans out of the freezer, the hardier bacteria you were trying to rid your clothes of to begin with thaw and continue going on about their merry business again.
Freezing and defrosting also runs the risk of introducing moisture to your denim, which increases the chances of further bacterial growth. The jury is also out on how long is best to freeze your jeans in the first place, some suggest doing it overnight, while others recommend an entire week.
Though there are no proven benefits of cleaning denim though freezing, Levis experts mostly acknowledge freezing can prevent your jeans from shrinking, but it won’t restore your raw denim to its original shape. If you are hoping to shrink your jeans back, a quick tumble in the drier can help.
‘You can get a great fade on your jeans by taking a dip in the ocean
It’s right, ocean washes can speed up fading because the high salt content in seawater works as a bleach. The idea, then, is to work sand over the freshly soaked denim to distress patches around the knees, front and back of thighs etc. according to your personal preference.
If you do take to the ocean, remember that a salt-water rinse is not an acceptable way to clean your jeans. Seawater is dirty. Not only will you walk away smelling the stench of low tide, but bacteria and salt will stick around in jean fabric after they dry and act as an abrasive, making your jeans blowout faster. If you decide to ocean or salt wash, do your jeans a favour and wash them again in freshwater afterwards.
Take this advice from jeans brand Albam: “some say, ‘Wear them ever, wash them never,’ others simply wash them as much as they can. Whichever method you prefer, we have found that wearing them as often as possible gives the best fades.”
‘If your jeans are too big, wear them in a hot bath’
We’re all heard these stories, and it’s probably the most regularly spouted of all weird denim practices. There are videos all over youtube of curious jean-ophiles putting it to the test. The general strategy is to run a hot bath, hop in and wait until the water cools. If you can stand it, keep wearing the sopping blues until they’ve air dried against your skin.
But despite all the effort, jeans are unlikely to emerge from the tub any different, and you’ll probably feel like a bit of a fool doing it, too. Funny thing is, there’s some advice out there that suggests taking a soak in your best blues can help stretch out jeans too.
If you’re desperate to show them off, though, here’s how you can stretch your jeans safely:
Dampen your jeans by spraying them with luke-warm water—just a little moisture will do. This helps slacken the threading and make it easier for you to expand the denim without bursting through it. Then, it’s as simple as wearing them around the house, no submersion involved!
If you’re particularly intent on speeding up the stretching process, you can perform gentle lunges to help get some movement into the fabric around places that are especially tight. Give it an hour or so, then hang your jeans out and let nature do the rest.
The time it takes to ‘break in’ a pair of jeans generally depends on how heavy the fabric is, and how tight the weave. Don’t be afraid to try some crazy techniques, but be weary of them too!
Images from DESIGN SCENE STYLE: Denim Days by Valentina Melzi