3 Myths About Washing Denim That Too Many People Believe (Plus Two “Myths” That Are Actually True)

updated Aug 30, 2021
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Credit: Sarah Crowley

In general, washing clothes is pretty straightforward: Pretreat (if necessary), wash, and throw it all in the dryer. Certain items, though, come with rules all their own — including your jeans.

While denim is more durable than other materials, jeans often include bells and whistles — like buttons, zippers, holes, and special washes — that require extra care. Denim is also prone to shrinking when exposed to high heat, like it receives in the dryer.

If you want your investment denim pieces to last, it’s a good idea to practice extra care when washing them. But not everything you hear has merit! So to save you time, we asked Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, co-founders of The Laundress, to dispel fact from fiction when it comes to laundering denim.

3 Myths About Washing Denim

Myth: Freezing denim gets rid of germs.

You might have heard that sticking your jeans in the freezer is the best method for refreshing — and even sanitizing — denim. But this isn’t a good move for a few reasons, says Whiting. Cold temperatures aren’t enough to kill off pathogens in clothing; soap and temperature are what wash away the germs, she explains.

The overall premise of freezing jeans is misguided, too. You don’t have to choose between sanitizing your jeans and taking care of them. Carefully laundering with the right products is the best way to protect your favorite denim.

Myth: You should only launder denim every six months.

Denim is a thicker material than your average cotton T-shirt and doesn’t require as frequent washing, but six months is a bit of a stretch, says Boyd. “We recommend washing when your denim begins to give off odor — or every five to 10 wears,” she says. If desired, you can spray with a fabric freshening spray between washes to remove odors and revive the fabric.

If you don’t have a freshening spray on hands, try steaming your jeans — the high temp will help banish odors and bacteria, all the while smoothing the material, she says.

Myth: Washing denim makes it stiff.

How your jeans feel after a wash depends on your go-to process. If you use a standard detergent without a fabric conditioner and then air dry, you might end up with stiff fabric. But there’s a way around it, says Whiting: Simply wash your jeans with a laundry soap that contains a fabric conditioner.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

2 “Myths” About Denim That Are Actually True

Fact: You should wash denim inside out.

Inside-out washing might sound laborious, but since denim typically has more
embellishments than other clothing items (zippers, buttons, and distressing, for example) turning denim inside out is a great way to glean the benefits of a wash without rolling the dice on damaging your favorite pair of pants. For even more protection, try using a mesh washing bag, says Boyd.

Fact: You should never put denim in the dryer.

There’s no cardinal rule that says the dryer is totally off-limits, but putting your denim in the dryer will affect its lifespan. “The dryer can cause color loss and distress over time, so we recommend air drying whenever possible,” says Whiting. “To speed up the drying process, lay your denim item flat on a clean, dry towel, then roll both the towel and item up together like you’re rolling up a sleeping bag.”