Six pairs fashionably faded blue denim jeans neatly stacked

7 Simple Secrets 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 not every wear 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 denim jeans worn regularly doesn’t really need to be washed in the washing machine more often that six months.

But Bergh also doesn’t just leave his jeans to get messy and covered in dirt.

“If I drop some curry on my jeans, I’m gonna clean it. But I’ll spot clean it. And if they get really gross you know, if I’ve been out sweating or something and they get really gross, I’ll wash them in the shower,” he said in an CNBC interview.

This means keeping jeans on in the shower and covering them in soap as you would your body, Bergh explained.

Cold water only

When jeans need to be washed in the washing machine, 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.

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 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.

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  1. Margie M Shapira says:

    i have some really old fleece-lined jeans that i bought in walmart 10-15 years ago and am still wearing. i wash them after 2/3 wearings cuz yes, going months is yucko. i wash them in cold water and dry them partially and then hang on a basement line where they finish drying. they are just as good as they were when i bought them at about 20.00/pair. and w/men’s jeans, the pockets are much bigger than women’s!! go walmart!! but try and find these same pants now–not happening!!

    • Brian Keith says:

      Why has no one mentioned the old reliable standby of dry cleaning your jeans? I’ve done this and they come back from the cleaners looking just as they did when I dropped them off…except clean! I’ve had it done form as little as .99 cents, and the cheapest rate it seems is about $3 now. But if you value them, even that’s cheap. YMMV…

  2. Linda says:

    I wear my jeans every day unless it’s at least 80F when I wear blue jean shorts. I seldom wash them, probably 3-4 times a year. I do wash in cold water but I don’t turn them inside out or hang them to dry. This pair is over 5 years old and going strong.

  3. Linda D Radosevich says:

    We’ve been using salt in the washer to soften jeans (first wash) and it doesn’t seem to effect the color…just makes them soft to wear the first time. Pants stretchers work great too (as Jack Voss said above) and puts a crease in them!

  4. Dien says:

    What I have realized is that jeans materials or fabrics are nolonger the same.i have been comparing the material only to find that the long lasting material is nolonger available.(the canvas) like material.these days jeans can show where the knees are? Stretch jeans become shapeless regardless of where you bought it or how best you take care of.i took a closer look of different family members jeans turning them inside out you can tell that original material is nolonger available what they are selling these days is a copy of Jean on a material which isn’t a DENIM.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      That’s a blanket statement, and not completely true, Dien. Raw denim is the term for denim fabric that is unwashed and untreated. The vast majority of jeans sold today are produced by washing and distressing the denim in order to create an artificial worn-in look. Why? That’s what the public wants. That’s what we buy. Hard and stiff jeans or soft and supple? Brand new looking or ripped and torn?

      One brand is “Unbranded Brand” jeans that are always raw, never pre-distressed. Wrangler has raw denim jean options, too. It takes time, but raw denim fades beautifully over time. Of course there are other brands. All that to say, know your denim!

    • Julie says:

      I agree with Dien on the material of “jeans” its horrible. I don’t like the stretchy jeans. The wear out to fast. I’m on the bigger size so I have trouble with my inner thighs rubbing together and the jeans only last maybe 3-4 months. It’s because the material is so thin. Not denim just material. Jmo. Have a great day.

  5. Nan says:

    I’ve had jeans last 10 years for sure. I do most of what you mention here. I probably wash them quarterly rather than every 6 months. I wear my favorite pair usually just on the weekends, as I wear other clothing to work. I wear older jeans for yard work, not my favorites that I want to be fresh enough for hanging out with friends/dates.

  6. Wanda Myers says:

    I can see not washing jeans very often if you just wear them occasionally but what about those of us who work in jeans? I can’t see mowing, doing garden work or even housecleaning in the same pair of jeans over and over. Also, the new fabrics with stretch seem to “grow” after a while if you don’t wash them. Just wondering……

  7. Kathy Briscoe says:

    I appreciate all your tips and my jeans last a long time. I follow everything you mentioned about the darker color jeans, not washing often, etc. but the only thing I can’t do is put vinegar in the washer because mine locks and cannot be opened until the cycle is complete.

    • Cally Ross says:

      I put the vinegar in the liquid fabric softener compartment, 1. so I don’t forget to add it, 2. because I don’t like scratchy jeans, 3. my washer locks also. 🙂

  8. Tracy Lang says:

    Wow! Not even every week? I have two pair of blue jeans & wear them several times a week. Stains might be an issue for some but jeans also pick up body & environmental odors. There’s no way to treat those except by washing them. They get washed every week & I’ve been wearing the same pair for at least 2 years.

  9. gena says:

    This is pretty much what I do, with the exception of waiting 6 months to wash… yuck! I do OCCASSIONALY go 2 wearings before washing, but that is rare. I am tall so I despise for my pants to shrink; I have always hung my jeans and pants to dry and pretty much all of my good, dress clothes. It makes a HUGE difference in the life of your garments. I have jeans that I have had 8 years that still look ALMOST as good as the day that I bought them.

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