When I lived with my (now) ex-boyfriend, I didn’t realize how blessed I was to have an in-apartment washer and dryer. After moving out, I quickly realized that having a functioning laundry in your home is kind of like finding a Gucci Marmont handbag on sale. (Read: incredibly lucky/doesn’t happen.) Now, cleaning clothes is a strategically-planned event and I’m more aware of how often I should be washing different items in my wardrobe to prevent me from hauling anything to the laundromat unnecessarily.
While some articles of clothing obviously need a wash after one use—like, say, workout clothes—other items are a little less clear, like denim. If I had to wash my jeans after every time I wore them (or, honestly, every two times I wore them), I would spend more money on laundry than on coffee… and I spend a lot of money on coffee. Plus, I try to do laundry as little as possible because I’m both interested in conserving water and kind of lazy when it comes to household chores. So how often do you need to wash your jeans? Is it really that gross to wear them approximately 10 times before throwing them in the wash? I turned to the experts to answer my laundry-related queries.
Heather Loduca, wardrobe stylist and fashion expert, says that how often you need to wash your jeans comes down to what they’re made out of. For instance, vintage Levi’s are typically 100 percent cotton. “These are meant to form to your body and actually become very comfortable with time,” Loduca says. “They are like a fine wine that gets better with age. Unless you have spilled something major on them, or gone to a hot yoga class in them, you can get away with spot treating for [awhile].” She generally recommends waiting for at least three to four wears before washing them. This rule also applies to modern “vintage style” jeans, or any jeans that don’t really have a lot of stretch.
For jeans that are stretchy and have a lot of elastane, you may need to wash them more frequently because they have a tendency to stretch out. “If they’re supposed to be really fitted skinny jeans you can get away with washing after each wear because you want them to shrink back to their original shape,” she says. The exception: If they’re dark blue or black because those will fade quickly if you wash them too much.
When you do go to wash your jeans, make sure you zip the zipper and fasten the buttons, says Suzanne Holmes, who manages the product evaluation laboratory at Cotton Incorporated. This means she oversees the testing of cotton fibers for strength, appearance, and durability. (In other words, she knows a thing or two about denim.) “Also, turn them inside out. This helps protect the machine, the jeans (and metal adornments like rivets, buttons, and zippers), color and the finish on the material,” she explains. Dry them on low or air dry, especially if they have stretch to them. “Spandex doesn’t respond well to heat,” she says.
Another option: Pop them in the freezer next to your Trader Joe’s frozen chicken breasts and cauliflower gnocchi. “Jeans are not really meant to be washed much. You don’t need to throw them in the wash,” says Diane Pollack, designer and wardrobe consultant. “You can put them in an airtight bag in the freezer and the cold will kill the bacteria.” Just don’t forget where you put them, otherwise, you may spend a week wondering what TF happened to your favorite pair of front butt-defying denim.
In case you need a refresher, this is how often you need to wash your activewear. (Spoiler: It’s a lot.) And it should go without saying, but you should definitely change your socks every day—here’s why.
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