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The Do’s and Don’ts of Denim: How to wash your Denim properly!

By mbcrew November 20, 2012.

Love Your Denim

At meetbernard.com we are very passionate about jeans with our favourite brands being Nudie, Edwin and Carhartt. As you may know, breaking in a pair of new jeans can be a challenge, but once you do, they are like a second skin. Regardless of your lifestyle, your jeans become a log of months gone by. Taking care of your denim is essential especially if you are going to invest in a great pair of jeans and want them to last, however there may be more than you think required to prolong the life of your most love jeans.

Clean freaks beware, the best advice to give about washing your jeans, is to not wash them! Or at least wait 6 months before washing them at all. In fact, scientists have tested the bacteria levels of jeans worn everyday for 15 months and another pair for 13 days and found the bacteria levels in both pairs after washing to be almost identical at a ‘normal’ level.

Before any washing instructions, you should know a little bit more about your special pair of jeans… Unwashed denim or ‘raw’ denim is unwashed denim fabric that has not been shrunk or exposed to water after the drying process. It is typically very dark, and made on old style shuttle looms. Selvedge denim, which is more often than not raw and is priced at a premium because of low production runs, the need to use older equipment and more fabric per pair, and the fact that it is made in higher labour cost countries. However, raw denim overall is more durable, and many raw denim advocates claim to wear their jeans thousands of times before they wear out, thus making them a strong value when you look at the number of wears vs the amount paid.

Even for the more liberal clothes washers out there, there comes a point where you just need to wash your jeans, whether it is due to a smell or the mere thought of the bacteria. We should state that we do not necessarily condone washing raw denim; we instead advise that you wear them for at least 6 months, thereby achieving the second-skin feel.

Typically with blue jeans, the indigo dye cannot be completely fixated onto the cotton fibres so after you wash your denim, you are losing that deep blue/black colour as well as the ridged feel due to starch loss. Hence you want to wash your jeans for at least 6 months prior to washing, but no longer than 1 year, otherwise the crotch in your denim will rip or ‘blow out’. But when you are ready to wash your jeans it is important that you follow strict instructions.

Our research shows that it is best to hand wash your jeans in bathtub if possible… The guys at Rawr Denim produced these videos:

Washing – do not be afraid to machine wash. Keep it at a low temperature, go easy on the detergent and turn them inside out. This will help the indigo dye stay within the denim.

Separate – Due to the natural indigo bleeding during washing, always wash your raw denim separate from other clothing pieces. If you are lucky enough to own more than one pair, then wash them together.

Water temperature – General rule of thumb: the hotter the water, the greater the shrinkage.

Drying – Always hang dry flat. Do not place on a heat radiator, use a dryer, or crumple when drying as it will damage the fabric and ruin the fit, fade, contrast and overall quality.

Spillage – if you ever spill any liquids etc. on your jeans, then try rubbing or dabbing with a kitchen towel. Do not use soap or any other cleaning solution since you will risk losing some indigo dye and create an uneven fade.

Smell – I you find that your denim starts to smell before the 6 month mark, then the best solution is to use a light cleaning spray such as Febreze and hang dry flat (preferably outside for 24 hours).

Hemming – do not hem your raw denim jeans prior to washing as the denim will naturally shrink in length.

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