Denim and Jeans

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 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, using 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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6 replies
  1. 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.

  2. 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……

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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