The subject of washing denim jeans is surprisingly divisive. Just a quick ask around the office reveals that nobody has quite the same ritual for cleaning theirs: some opt for a fortnightly wash, while others prefer to do it monthly.
One staff member doesn’t wash her’s at all. Instead, she puts them in the freezer to keep them fresh (away from the meat, of course) and uses a wet wipe if they’re soiled. More on that below...
The subject is a minefield in the office alone, so what’s the consensus among denim experts?
Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh previously revealed he hadn’t washed his favourite pair of jeans for a year. He reportedly told attendees at a Fortune magazine conference: “I know that sounds totally disgusting, I know it does... [But] I have yet to get a skin disease or anything else.”
It seems Chip’s technique is one shared by other denim experts. Hiut Denim Co says: “the longer you can go without washing your jeans, the more beautiful your pair of jeans will become”. They also have quite an extensive instruction list on how to wash them, which we’ll leave here.
A spokesperson for the company told HuffPost UK: “Raw denim is best given a good six months before washing. The indigo will have worn off in places where you make natural creases. When it comes to the big day [wash day], the indigo will fade to reveal the contrasts that give it the well-known jeans look.
“If you wash them too early, the indigo will wash off uniformly so it will give an even dark indigo colour which means that the magic will have gone.”
Dio Kurazawa, WGSN’s denim director, believes you just shouldn’t wash jeans at all.
“Don’t wash them. Jeans fit best when worn in to fit your body,” he explained. “Washing often requires the wearer to start that process all over again.”
There’s also the environment to think of - and sticking your jeans in the wash every couple of weeks is adding to water waste.
“How we care for our denim at home contributes to the amount of water used in the lifecycle of a pair of jeans,” Dio added.
“From cotton growth, fabric dying and wash and finishing, there is a ridiculous amount of water used to manufacture a fresh pair.”
Instead of machine-washing them, Dio recommends an after-care product called Mr Blacks Essentials. “When they need refreshing, I use Mr Blacks and throw them into the dryer for a few minutes,” he said.
“Denim is a very robust and functional fabric, so much so that even gold-miners wore these garments to descend into the earth to hunt for the precious materials. So, you don’t need to wash your denim after each use. In reality, I never wash my jeans. I do clean away stains, but I never wash them.”
So what’s the verdict for cheaper pairs of jeans which are readily available on the high street - particularly ones that go baggy at the knees after a few wears?
“On the high street you do have high-stretch fabrics that should have good recovery,” Dio explained. “This can be tested in the store before buying: simply stretch them out. If they do not bounce back to the shape before you’ve tried them on, then the fabric is likely not quality.
“If you need to wash them in order to get them back to their original state, then you’ve probably purchased a low-quality pair of jeans. Recovery is key in all stretch denim - like most things, you get what you pay for, and jeans are no exception.”