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Denim Care: How to Wash Jeans

Preserve the look and feel of your favorite denim jeans.

Denim has range! From designer labels to ranch coveralls or daisy dukes to culottes, denim is diverse – all the way from high fashion to workwear. Here’s a guide to denim care – from a laundry service.

What is Denim?

Most people consider denim the “catch-all” of pant wear but don’t try to put denim in a box. It has range! From designer labels to ranch coveralls or daisy dukes to culottes, denim is diverse – all the way from high fashion to workwear. Just like the denim garments themselves, denim care varies. How you take care of your denim is directly correlated to how your jeans maintain their look, feel, and shape.

Denim is a strong cotton fabric made using a twill weave, which creates a subtle diagonal ribbing pattern. The cotton twill fabric is warp-facing, meaning that the weft threads go under two or more warp threads, and the warp yarns are more prominent on the right side. The diagonal ribbing is what makes denim fabric different from canvas or cotton duck, which is also a sturdy woven cotton fabric.

Here are a few tips to help you preserve the look and feel of your favorite denim jeans.

Different Types of Denim

There are six different types of denim. The six types of denim are: Indigo Denim, Stretch Denim, Crushed Denim, Acid Wash Denim, Raw or Dry Denim, and Sanforized Denim.

1) Indigo denim is achieved by dying the warp threads with indigo dye and white threads are used as the weft. As a result, most blue jeans are blue on the right side, as the fabric is warp facing, and the interior is lighter blue, almost white.

2) Stretch denim weaves spandex or another elastic component to give the fabric some added give and flexibility. Stretch denim is often used for skinny jeans.

3) Crushed denim has been treated so that it has a wrinkled look.

4) Acid-wash denim: Acid washing is a process of partially bleaching jeans with chlorine bleach. Many people like the style of acid-washed jeans, but buying them from a store can be expensive. You can make homemade acid-washed jeans with a bleach mixture, an old pair of jeans, and a ventilated area.

5) Raw or dry denim is fabric is that is not washed after it is dyed. This creates a rougher and stiffer texture. It also bleeds a lot in the wash cycle!

6) Sanforized denim is treated so that it doesn’t shrink in the wash. This applies to almost all kinds of denim except for raw denim.

How to Wash Jeans

Always Check the Label

Both washing and drying instructions should be on most denim care labels and are specific to each piece of clothing. Some dyes used in denim production are water-soluble, and traditional washing can cause damage depending on which dye was used.

Denim is made primarily of cotton and spandex in various amounts, giving the otherwise rigid fabric a little stretch. This blend is what gives denim that iconic figure-hugging appearance. Even though it’s only partly made of spandex, this material is sensitive to heat and doesn’t stand up to long-term heat application.

This is another reason designers and manufacturers of denim products customize the care labels for individual pieces. Drying instructions may also be adjusted based on the amount of spandex woven into your garment. Checking the label is critical to the lifespan of your denim clothes.

Wash Denim Inside Out

Before every wash, make sure you turn denim clothes inside out. This reduces the friction on the dyed areas of the garments, ultimately preserving the color. Turning denim inside out will also protect any grommets or buttons that are attached from banging around in the washer or dryer, either causing or sustaining damage.

Assuming your jeans are made of raw denim — as opposed to washed denim — turning them inside out before will preserve their original color. Raw denim jeans are defined by their use of raw, unwashed denim. They are made of denim that hasn’t been washed during production. This is in stark contrast to washed denim jeans, which as the name suggests, are made of denim that is washed during production.

Both raw denim and washed denim jeans can fade. Fading, though, is more common with the former type of jeans. Raw denim isn’t washed during production, so it contains more loose dye than its washed counterpart. Turning your raw denim jeans inside out before washing them will help to “lock in” the dye. Less dye will be released from your raw denim jeans if you wash them inside out. As a result, they’ll be better protected against fading.

Limit Washes to keep the Denim Looking New

The CEO of Levi’s says that “a good pair of denim doesn’t really need to be washed in the washing machine except for very infrequently or rarely.”

His argument is based on the fact that washing a good pair of Levis actually causes damage to the material, and is a waste of water.

He isn’t the only denim expert to come out with this advice. Hiut Denim’s website says: “Raw denim is best given a good six months before washing. The longer you can leave it, the better your jeans will look.

“The reason for this is that the indigo will have worn off in places where you make natural creases. Just by sitting down, putting your phone in and out of your pockets, your hands in your pockets. All these daily little things will make your jeans look great.

Of course, you have to wash your clothes to keep them clean. However, there is such a thing as washing too often. For the best results, denim should only be washed in moderation. Most experts recommend infrequent washes to preserve color and style integrity.

How to Wash Ripped Jeans

Washing ripped jeans is particularly difficult because

Use a Delicate Bag in the Washing Machine

Ripped jeans need to be contained in a delicate mesh bag in your washing machine. Do not overload the washer drum. Oftentimes it is best to wash ripped jeans alone. This is because the rips can snag on other clothing in the load – buttons, zippers, etc. Anything with rips should be washed in a smaller load (or a single load) within a mesh delicates bag.

Add a Seam to Prevent More Ripping

If the rip is not contained, it will spread. We recommend that you find a matching thread color and stitch all the way around just above the raw edge to provide a barrier against more fraying. This added seam creates a very practical limit to the fraying and is not noticeable. If you are not comfortable making this alteration yourself, consider asking a tailor.

Zip Zippers and Button Buttons

The goal is to eliminate any unwanted snags while tumbling. Zipping up your zipper and buttoning your buttons is a small insurance policy to make sure nothing snags while tumbling. In general – whether in the washer or out in public – we recommend you avoid putting your ripped jeans in situations where they are likely to get snagged or ripped.

How to Hand Wash Jeans

Hand washing sounds like…a lot of work.

You’re picturing an old fashioned wash board that takes some elbow grease and a big bucket of water. Not only is there no time for that, there is no space for that either.

Hand washing is glorified soaking. Soaking your jeans before doing a light scrub will help ease out any stains and will help get the fabric clean. You really don’t need to scrub it much if you’re using detergent. Next time you see a Hand Wash garment – don’t sweat. It’s quite simple.

Laundry that has been soaking in detergent for 45 minutes will be mostly clean. That’s about as long as a typical washing machine cycle.

Cleaning requires four things: time, temperature, chemistry, and agitation. 

Here are the cleaning requirements for hand washing your delicate laundry:


45 minute soak




Add Detergent


Light, Occasional Scrub

How to Clean Jeans without Washing

Steam cleaning involves the use of steam for cleaning. When it comes to laundry, a steamer incorporates steam into the denim to rid jeans of stains or odors. Steam cleaning is a very eco-friendly way of cleaning.

Steam is a one-of-a-kind sanitizer that is both gentle and penetrating at the same time.

Because steam can reach temperatures higher than the boiling point of water, it can kill germs and sanitize clothing – without washing. Its high temperature and moisturizing properties are also highly effective at breaking the bonds of dirt and other stains or odor-producing materials.

Denim Specific Laundry Detergents

Did you know you can get denim specific laundry detergent? It’s formulated specifically for denim.

How to Wash Jeans | Denim Laundry Tips | Laundry Service | 2ULaundry

Denim Laundry Detergent

Railcar Denim Detergent

Formulated to prevent fading while cleaning. Little softener to keep denim ridged like new. Formulated to prevent fading while cleaning.

How to Wash Jeans | Denim Laundry Tips | Laundry Service | 2ULaundry

Denim Laundry Service

The Laundress – Denim

The Laundress laundry detergent for denim uses Color Guard technology prevents denim from fading and keeps color vibrant

How to Wash Jeans – Denim Care Tips

Treat Stains Immediately

If you let a stain soak and sit on denim for too long, it could set and be very difficult to remove.

You will have much better chances at full restoration if stains and smudges are treated immediately. When a stain is set, more friction is required in order to get it out, which can result in additional dye loss and unnecessary wear and tear.

Avoid Excessive Heat

If that perfect body-hugging shape is important to you, skip excessive heat exposure and long drying times. Always launder your denim in cold water and hang dry to prolong that perfect fit.

Dry Cleaning Preserves Color

If color preservation is your primary goal, most denim dyes are water-soluble and should be dry cleaned. Dry cleaning doesn’t use water at all and cleans with a non-water-based solution. This keeps dye loss to an absolute minimum, compared to traditional laundering.

Try Using a Laundry Service

Premium laundry services like 2ULaundry help you execute the best possible care for each denim piece in your wardrobe and do all the heavy lifting for you. Take the time and frustration out of denim wash and get your freshly cleaned items delivered right to your door! Need some help? We’re here to make laundry day easy!

Our laundry delivery service makes it easy to skip laundry day, with delivery right to your door. Sign up for a weekly service, or use us when the laundry starts piling up. We’re here to help lighten the load!

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