How to Wash Denim Jeans, Shorts and Jackets

How to Wash Denim Jeans, Shorts and Jackets

Jeans, they’re one of the most forgiving and easy-to-wear fashions. High-rise, low-rise, hip-hugging, flared or “skinny,” there’s a fit for all bodies. Dress’em up, dress’em down, wear them in the barn or downtown. They’re probably the only clothing you own that don’t get tossed when it rips or fades.

We’re also willing to bet that within your stable of denim, there’s an all-star. You know the pair. The one that fits like a glove. They’re the jeans you mourn when finally – and reluctantly – you admit, they’ve worn out. Luckily, denim is as unfussy to wash as it is to wear. That said, a few tips will extend the life of your Levi’s.

Tips for washing denim

Some people will try to tell you washing denim requires special care. Our take? Jeans aren’t precious, but it depends on your level of investment. Denim brands run the gambit, so if you’ve spent a couple hundred dollars on a pair, you might want to take a gentler approach.

Don’t wash jeans every time you wear them. When possible, wear denim multiple times before washing them. I get it, there are exceptions. As a parent of young kids who are constantly grabbing at my legs with sticky hands, I’ll admit, this is not always realistic – but do your best.

Wash jeans inside-out. If your jeans aren’t actually soiled or stained, consider washing them inside-out. Reducing the agitation of the outer-facing fibres (which hold the dye) means less fading. If they are dirty, make a compromise: hand-wash or spot-treat, then wring out and turn inside-out before tossing in the washing machine.

Wash ripped styles on a delicate cycle. This can help reduce further tearing that might result from a high-intensity wash and spin cycle.

Wash raw denim by itself the first five times (at least). Raw denim simply means jeans have not been pre-shrunk, pre-washed, distressed, nor steamed before hitting store shelves. The cotton was dyed and immediately woven into denim on a loom. Most jeans made from raw denim are marketed as such (typically, commanding a higher price point), but if you’re unsure, look for a rich, deep blue colour, stiffness to the textile and a sort of sheen. Jean junkies may prefer raw denim because its “virgin” state allows the user to adapt them to their preferred fit and look. Others thumb their nose at mass-produced jeans with a uniform appearance, preferring the uniqueness of an item that isn’t an exact replica of another pair. For the rest of us, it means we should launder raw denim alone for the first five or so washes. Otherwise, traces of synthetic indigo used to dye the cotton may run onto other garments, tinting or dulling lighter colours and whites. To speed up the process, soak raw denim in a bath or tub.

How to wash denim shorts, jeans and jackets in three simple steps:

Step 1: Inspect the garment care label. Typically, denim should be laundered in cold water to help reduce fading caused by dye bleed, but some denims are blended with polyester for a more form-fitting, stretch fit. In this case, the garment care label may advice against putting jeans in the dryer.

Step 2: It’s time to wash. If the garment care label does not indicate any special instructions, go ahead and load the denim into the drum of the machine. Note: sort your laundry so that dark denim is laundered with like colours. Select a normal cycle, adjusting the temperature to cold/cool. Add a Tru Earth laundry detergent eco-strip – either directly into the drum or tear it into small pieces and place in the soap drawer. Hit start.

Step 3: When the cycle is complete, determine whether you will hang-dry your denim or dry in the dryer. If you’re not too concerned about babying your jeans, dry them in the washing machine. (If they have some degree of stretch, this will probably shrink them a bit.) If you hang-dry jeans, they’ll probably feel a bit “crunchy” to the touch, but this method will extend the life of the denim. If you are washing a denim jacket, always hang-dry on a hanger to preserve the form through the shoulders. (In the dryer, pocket flaps tend to curl outward and metal hardware can hard on the appliance itself.) Be mindful when drying denim shorts. Putting them in the dryer can reduce the length of the pant, turning them into short shorts. Hang-drying will preserve length.

How to spot-treat stains on denim jeans, shorts and jackets

Step 1: Inspect the garment care label. Anything special to note? If not, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Blot the mark with a clean, absorbent paper product like a paper towel or napkin. Take exceptional care not to rub the blemish deeper into the fibre of the denim or accidently transfer it onto another part of the garment. If the stain resulted from an oily food spill, you can cover it with baking soda, gently pressing it into the stain and leaving it to sit for 20 minutes. The powder will absorb the moisture, helping to draw the oil from the fabric.

Step 3: Pre-treat the stain with a concentrate created with a Tru Earth laundry detergent eco-strip. First, tear a strip into small pieces and place in a shallow bowl. Add two tablespoons (30 ml) of tap-hot water to begin dissolving it. Stir with a spoon to form a paste, adding small volumes of water as needed. Smear the concentrate atop the stain, gently pressing the mixture into it. Allow the concentrate to sit for 10-15 minutes.

Step 4: Rinse with cold water.

Step 5: (Optional) Repeat the application of a spot treatment, if needed. Note: once wet, it might not be easy to distinguish the stain from the water. In this case, simply go ahead with the next step.

Step 6: It’s time to wash. See the “how to” above.

Step 7: Hang-dry the item instead of placing it in the dryer. Heat from the dryer will only set a stain deeper into the textile; hang-drying gives you the chance to treat again, if needed.

Step 8: Inspect the garment. If the stain persists, revisit step 3 and launder again.

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