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Ways to wash denim, plus a new method.

When Should You Wash Your Jeans

This is a personal choice, many will tell you not to wash your new denim any sooner than 6 months after you first bought your jeans or you will ruin the denim.
This isn't true, the only advantage to washing your denim later are the fades and patina will be far greater.
I will note that not washing your jeans for a long time can promote a crotch "blow out", as the rubbing over-time loosens the weave. Washing them will tighten the weave, thus preventing this for a longer period of time.
The reason your jeans fade is because of the synthetic indigo that is used doesn't hold like an organic indigo dye. Where they fold behind your knees, scrape them on the concrete, keys in pockets, your wallet in your back pocket. These things contribute to more indigo loss (due to friction), the more this happens, the greater the contrast between those natural stress points and the rest of the jean will be.
If it’s just a small stain, you might be able to spot clean. Ultimately though, if you’re ever in doubt, you should probably wash your jeans, using one of the methods below.

Things to think about before you wash.

  • Shrinkage – All jeans shrink when they are first exposed to water. Unsanforized (“Shrink-to-Fit”) jeans will reduce in size roughly 5-10% throughout the jean after the first wash and dry, but even pre-shrunk Sanforized jeans will still shrink about 3-5% on first wash. The waist on sanforized jeans will eventually stretch back out, but what you lose in inseam length will not.
  • *Keep this in mind before any alterations*.
  • Temperature – The warmer the water, the more indigo you will lose and the more the denim will shrink. This is true for any sort of a wash.
  • Indigo Transfer – Don’t wash your jeans with anything that you don’t intend to dye blue! Raw denim naturally bleeds indigo–it’s how you get your fades–but it haemorrhages when it’s wet. If you’re washing your jeans in the tub, be ready for a little blue porcelain.
  • Clean your Washing Area – Make sure your tub is clean and free of chemicals, or your washing machine has nothing but the detergent you are using to wash your jeans loaded up. More than a few pairs of jeans have bleached, stained, and everything in between from gunk hanging around.

Washing Methods

Bath Method. (Sanforized)

  1. Run a cool-lukewarm bath and add an enzyme-free detergent. This will give minimal bleeding.
  2. Turn off the water when there’s enough for the jeans to be completely submerged (around 3-4 inches).
  3. Agitate the jeans under the water for a few minutes then place them so that all parts of the jean are underwater. 
  4. Leave your jeans in the tub for 30-45 minutes.
  5. Agitate your jeans one more time and then drain the tub.
  6. Once the tub is completely empty, refill it with again with cold water and leave the jeans in it for another 5-10 minutes. This will rinse out any remaining soap.
  7. Drain the tub and hang your jeans to dry over the bath, a mat or outside–they will drip indigo water for a while.
  8. Let them dry overnight and avoid direct sunlight.

Bath Method (Unsanfortized)

Use the same methods as above but wear your jeans in the bathtub. This will stop over shrinkage and is best when buying unsanforized denim fitting your waist.

Washing Machine 

Throw your jeans/denim in the washing machine inside out. Cold wash and either by themselves or with darker colours as they will bleed. Do a full cycle and DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE DRYER. 

Ocean Washing 

The ocean wash is a trend that used to be very popular, especially when stove pipe denim was introduced. Entering the ocean at low tide wearing your denim and rubbing sand on your jeans/denim. Although this is not a very hygienic way to wash them. If you choose to do an ocean wash, you’ll need to wash again in freshwater, or you will smell like an off fish.
Ok, so these are the three main ways to wash denim. Here is a method I used after a little experiment a few weeks ago.

Shower Wash

After looking into the benefits of wearing denim in a bathtub to wash them, I wanted to mimic this be with as little bleeding as possible but still be able to mould the denim to fit my body better at the same time.

  1. Getting into a lukewarm shower, I make sure everything has been covered in water.
  2. Then I use an enzyme-free detergent and wash like I normally would having a shower but not under the running water.
  3. Then I step back under the water to rinse off all the detergent.
  4. Once the water is running without detergent, I bend and stretch to mould the denim.
  5. Afterwards, simply step out of the shower and allow the denim/jeans to drip dry over a towel or outside.
Let me know the ways you wash denim or if you have a different method below in the comments!