Easy Question, Tricky Answer: How Often Should You Wash Jeans?

Stack of Blue Jeans

December 4, 2020 — 3:32 AM

Let’s be real—who washes their jeans every time they wear them? Not only is it not usually necessary, but less frequent washing can extend the life of your jeans (and reduce your carbon footprint). Still, you will have to wash them at some point, so to find out when, we consulted Jill Guenza with Levi Strauss, and green cleaning expert, Tonya Harris. Here are the four questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether or not to wash those jeans.

This one should go without saying: If your jeans (or any other article of clothing for that matter) smell, it’s time to give them a wash. “The overall consensus for how often to wash jeans seems to range from 3 – 10 wears,” Harris tells mbg. “Obviously if they are visibly dirty, or start to smell, they can be washed sooner than that.”

What material are they made of?

Your classic denim is usually made from 100% cotton, and makes for a durable and tough material that doesn’t need frequent washing. If you have stretchy jeans that have spandex or polyester woven in, you may find these need to be washed more often, as the “jegging” effect makes for a less durable material. “Stretch denim generally requires washing or rinsing more frequently than jeans without stretch to bring them back to their original shape and reactivate the stretchy fibers,” Guenza notes.

And speaking of stretchy jeans, we’ve all had a pair we lowkey kinda hated because they stretched out after just a few hours. “Denim shrinks because of the cotton content,” Guenza tells mbg. “So, if your jeans are stretched out and you are looking for a little shrinkage, you can wash them by hand, or wash them in the machine on cool-to-warm, then toss in the dryer for about 10 minutes on medium heat.”

Has it been over ten wears?

And lastly, if you’re looking for a numerical answer, 10 wears seems to be the cap, according to Levi’s denim guide. And that’s 10 times at most, barring any spills or smells. “Wash denim as little as possible, and try to spot clean any stains with a damp cloth if you can,” Guenza says, “and hang them outside to air out for any odors.”

The bottom line is, the frequency of washing will depend on material, plus how clean you happen to be while wearing them. Harris says to preserve the material of your jeans, wash them inside out in cold water on a gentle cycle, and hang to dry when you have to. (The only time you’d want to use the dryer is if they were previously stretched.) When well taken care of, a good pair of jeans can last you years—and lots of washing cycles.


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