Throwing our clothes in the wash after wearing them is usually quite common. But there’s at least one piece of clothing that we shouldn’t throw in the laundry right away, according to experts: our jeans.
While Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh once suggested going so far as to never wash your denim, some of us might not be so keen, especially after the last two years.
However, there is a balance you can strike between the two extremes. We spoke to three experts about how you should treat your denim. Read below to get the skinny on all things jeans.
How often should you wash your jeans?
Jeans really should be washed “as little as possible, if at all,” denim studio Benjamin Talley Smith told Shop TODAY via email.
Patric Richardson, laundry expert and host of ‘The Laundry Guy’ on Discovery+, told us, “The perfect number is after nine or ten uses, as for me, that’s ideal.” At this point, they’ve probably acquired a few stains and “they’re probably a little sweaty at this point, so you need to wash them off,” Richardson said.
When it comes time to wash them, Richardson recommends using a warm setting on a short cycle. “Warm will activate your detergent, it will make everything work just fine, but that short cycle just keeps them from tumbling too much, because abrasiveness is the worst thing,” Richardson said.
While keeping the number of washes to a minimum is primarily for sustainable reasons, unsurprisingly, the more you wash your jeans, the faster they fade — and the more the jeans weaken, Smith said. Jeans with a darker wash will lose the most color because indigo is “oversaturated”, while jeans with a lighter wash are less likely to fade.
Smith recommends washing your jeans in cold water and hanging them outside to dry, or tumble drying them on low heat.
Is it disgusting not to wash your jeans?
While not washing your jeans too often can benefit their longevity, for sanitary reasons you might want to reconsider.
“Do you need to wash your jeans after every causal wear, probably not,” Director of Global Health at SUNY Upstate Medical University Dr. Stephen Thomas told Shop TODAY via email. “I think 3 wears is a good threshold to trigger a washout.”
However, practicing good hygiene can never go wrong. If your clothes are visibly dirty or have a “foul smell”, wash them. “If clothes aren’t visibly dirty, rate how often you wash them by how often you wear them,” Thomas said.
If the idea of waiting that long to wash them doesn’t sit well with you, there are a few tricks you can try to keep them clean – don’t put them in the freezer; Smith says it’s a myth and your jeans will end up smelling like frozen food.
Smith and Richardson both recommend treating your jeans with soap and water as needed, but surprisingly, you can also spray them with anything you might have in your liquor cabinet.
“When you get home, spray (your jeans) with vodka,” Richardson said. “Vodka, first of all, will take the smell out of anything, but more importantly, vodka is antibacterial.”
While this may sound unconventional, it’s actually a practice Broadway dressers use to keep stage costumes fresh between shows.
Expert-recommended jeans that will hold up to multiple washes
With the above in mind, maybe you’re looking at those faded pairs of jeans you’ve always had in your closet and want to replace them. Smith recommends looking for “well-made” jeans that “have a slightly heavier weight because they’ll fit longer and be more durable,” Smith says.
Below, we’ve rounded up a few brand picks that Smith recommends buying when it comes to jeans.
Levi’s High Rise Wedgie Cropped Straight Jean
Smith prefers to find a good pair of Levi’s at a vintage store or flea market, but says it’s a good staple. These straight leg jeans feature a high waist and come in a range of dark and light washes.
Mother Denim Snacks! Twizzy Skimp High Rise Tapered Straight Leg Jeans
Smith recommends denim from this Los Angeles-based brand, and says they have sizing offerings that “fit most body types.” These high-waisted jeans have a slightly V-shaped waistband and a loose fit.
Agolde ’90s Pinch jeans in organic cotton with straight leg and high waist
Another brand Smith recommends is Agolde, “a mid-priced 90s-inspired brand with lots of stiff jeans.” These jeans are a ’90s-inspired style made from non-stretch cotton, according to the brand.
Slverlke Grace Raw Hem High Waisted Wide Leg
A new luxury denim brand on the market recommended by Smith is Slverlke. According to their website, the Los Angeles-based brand claims to use “premium vintage” indigo denim which has allowed them to deliver “rich, authentic washes.”
More bestselling jeans to buy
OG high-rise straight-leg jeans Old Navy
With over 300 five-star ratings, it seems shoppers are wowed by these classic jeans from Old Navy. According to reviewers, they follow the straight leg trend without looking too baggy or too tight.
Lee Instantly Slims Relaxed Fit Straight Leg Jeans
With over 12,000 five-star, reviewer-verified ratings on Amazon, these slimming jeans seem to be a shopper’s favorite. They’re made from a blend of cotton, polyester and spandex, so they have a less stiff feel than your standard pair of jeans, but still have an authentic look.
Gap High Rise Cheeky Straight Jeans with Washwell
These button fly jeans don’t have much stretch, but that’s what gives them a vintage look. According to the brand, they fit snug at first, but then hug you in all the right places the more often you wear them.
Abercrombie 90s Ultra High Rise Straight Jeans
These jeans have been making the rounds on TikTok, and for good reason, according to reviewers. They have over 1,000 five-star ratings and come in a range of washes, sizes and lengths.
For more stories like this, check out:
Subscribe to our Stuff We Love and One Great Find newsletters, and download our app TODAY to discover deals, shopping tips, money-saving product recommendations and more!