Denim and Jeans

7 Simple Secrets for How to Make Jeans Last Longer

Finally, you found the perfect pair of jeans. They fit great and feel fantastic. Basically, you want them to last forever, but that’s not going to happen. In fact, just the opposite is what I’m hearing from my readers: These days, jeans seem to rip and fall apart long before their time, a problem that sent me in search of a solution for how to make jeans last longer.

What I’ve learned is fascinating. The problem is our laundry habits. We’re pretty much washing our jeans to death.

Denim and Jeans


Truth be told, your dream that your favorite pair of jeans should pretty much last forever is not that far from reality. They really should, and they can if you learn these seven simple secrets for how to make denim jeans last longer:

Wash rarely

And when I say “rarely,” I mean once every few months—not every wearing or even every week. The trick is to immediately spot treat any spills or stains, then launder them much less frequently. Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh says that a good pair of jeans worn regularly doesn’t really need to be washed in the washing machine, except for infrequently—once every six months. (While I’m not quite ready to follow that extreme practice myself, I have no doubt that I’ve been guilty of washing jeans to death.)

Cold water only

When jeans need to be washed in the washing machine, make sure they’re turned inside out. Then use cold water only, with a small amount of detergent on a delicate or gentle cycle. Even warm water will cause denim to shrink and fade, albeit a little at a time. Still, there goes that great fit and length. Cold water with detergent will clean jeans sufficiently without fading or shrinking. Make sure they’re turned inside out.

Dark colors

When purchasing denim, keep this in mind: Darker colors are going to last longer. That’s because stonewashed or faded denim has been treated with chemicals and subjected to harsh conditions to get that “look.” The lighter and more distressed the color, the more worn out that denim is, even before you buy it. Darker colored denim promises a longer life.

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Set the color

When washing for the first time, add two tablespoons of ordinary table salt to the wash cycle to help set the indigo dye. This will keep your dark denim dark.

No bleach

You may love your Clorox Bleach Pen, but keep that thing and all bleach-like products like hydrogen peroxide away from the jeans. Not only will it mess with the color, but it could also deteriorate the yarn in denim.

Super rinse

Add 1/2 to 1 cup white vinegar (depending on the size of the load) to the last rinse. This will not affect the color but will coax out every last bit of detergent.

Air dry

Air drying is ideal if you want to expand the life expectancy of your jeans. Hang them from the ankles (to preserve their length) indoors and out of the sunlight to preserve the color. Your jeans might be a bit stiff afterward, so do this once completely dry: Stick them in the dryer set to the lowest possible heat setting for a few minutes. This will help break them in so they soften up as soon as you wear them.

There you go … seven simple things you can do to make jeans last longer.

Updated 6-17-19


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3 replies
  1. Betty Thomas says:

    I can do this with my jeans, although, like you, I won’t be going for an entire month but may hold out for 2-3 weeks. My husband’s work jeans however would never make it for more than 1-2 wears. He is a plumber and excavator and comes home everyday with jeans that require a washing on most days. Some days a good shaking will remove the dust of the day but more often the grime has to be washed away. I will try the other tips though and hopefully that will lengthen the life of his work jeans. Thanks Mary, good tips!

  2. Worthitall says:

    I also always close all of the zippers to prevent the “floating chainsaw” from damaging other clothes in the same load. I find that this helps avoid mysterious tiny holes from forming.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Great tip … especially when washing jeans and T-shirts in the same load. That’s the source of those tiny holes in knit T-shirts!


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