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. Judith says:

    I saw something similar on a morning talk show. Wash your jeans after 10 wearings. If you’re concerned about smell, spray with vodka. It will kill bacteria. I haven’t tried it yet but I intend to. I treat my jeans like I do all my clothing. Wash inside out, air dry in dryer for about 10 minutes, finish air drying on a rack. I have several pairs of stretch jeans and don’t have a problem. Note in stretch jeans there is elastic. And elastic does not do well with any kind of heat.

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