6+ Simple Ways to Wash Jeans (2023)

Jeans are popular today in a variety of contexts, especially in a casual context. There’s a good chance that you have a pair (or more) of jeans in your closet, but strange though it may seem, you may not know how to wash jeans.

Did you know that blue jeans were invented in 1871 and patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob W. Davis in 1873? Jeans have been popular for over a century. They were especially popular with the greaser subculture in the 1950s and the hippie subculture in the 1960s; the popularity continued through the 1970s and 1980s with the punk rock and heavy metal subcultures.

There’s a specific way to wash jeans and it’s a bit more complicated than just throwing them in the laundry once a week. In this article, we’re going to make sure you know everything there is to know about washing jeans. You’ll learn how to wash jeans, how often to wash jeans, and as an added bonus, how to dye jeans.

6+ Simple Ways to Wash Jeans (1)



Page Contents

  1. How Often to Wash Jeans
  2. Ways to Wash Jeans
    • How to Machine Wash Jeans
    • How to Hand Wash Jeans
  3. How to Dye Jeans
    • How to Dye Jeans in Washing Machine
    • How to Dye Jeans in a Bucket
  4. How to Acid Wash Jeans
  5. It's in Your Jeans

How Often to Wash Jeans

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If you’ve ever searched the Internet for a definitive jeans-washing-schedule, there’s a good chance you’ve realized that everyone says something different. The CEO of Levi, Chip Bergh, suggests that washing your jeans is unnecessary. The alternative usually recommended is to put your jeans in the freezer, which will kill the smell-causing bacteria.

Then again, other sources suggest that freezing your jeans does virtually nothing, as the freezer isn’t cold enough to kill the bacteria — so washing is necessary unless you want to walk around with stinky jeans.

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Here’s the source of the controversy: when you wash your jeans, you weaken the fabric and cause the coloring to wash out. That’s why your jeans get that light, faded look after a few washes. If you’re going for the faded look, it’s not a problem. But, if you want to preserve the dark blue color, you’ll want to wash as infrequently as possible.

Ways to Wash Jeans

Wash your jeans when they start to smell, if you need to remove latex paint from jeans or remove spray paint from jeans, or have other stains like grease. Treat stains before washing so the grease or paint does not “set” into the fabric. The same holds true when you need to remove slime from jeans. Take care of it prior to washing them.

Avoid putting jeans on a set cleaning schedule — such as “once a week” — and instead, let the jeans tell you when they need washing. You’ll still see the fading, but you’ll get the most out of the dye by delaying the wash for as long as possible.

6+ Simple Ways to Wash Jeans (4)

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How to Machine Wash Jeans

Before washing your jeans in a washing machine, check them for stains. Getting set-in mud stains out of jeans is important to ensure the mark does not “set” into the fabric during the cleaning process. After eliminating stubborn stains, turn your jeans inside-out to help preserve the color and fabric in the washer. Take care to read the washing instructions.

As we covered in our Ultimate Guide on how to separate laundry article, wash your jeans only with other heavy articles of clothing. Use the gentle washing cycle, which will reduce the wear-and-tear of your jeans experience. Use cold or lukewarm water. Hot water washes out the color faster.


Washing Jeans

  • Washing machine
  • Fabric softener
  • Mild detergent
  • Water


Place the jeans in the machine and begin the wash cycle. Once the cycle finishes, rinse the leftover soap residue. Air dry them to preserve color and prevent shrinkage.

You can always unshrink clothes if needed, however. To stretch denim, put them on and sit in a tub of warm water for a little while. The pants will conform to your body. Carefully take them off and let them air dry to preserve the stretching.

If you’d prefer to dry your jeans in a dryer and are not worried about them shrinking, set it to medium heat setting and allow it to dry partially before air drying.


Recipe for Hand Washing Jeans

  • Sink/bucket
  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild detergent


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How to Hand Wash Jeans

Jeans are heavy, so a washing machine is preferable. Then again, if you don’t have access to a washing machine, you’ll still need a way to wash them. Handwashing is ideal for shrinking stretch jeans since you can control how much shrinkage you want with your hands.

Add water and mild laundry detergent to the sink (or a bucket) and place your jeans in the soapy mixture. Washing soda is another option for cleaning. Use it instead of laundry detergent in your washing machine or when washing jeans by hand. Let it sit for 45 minutes, and avoid letting the jeans wrinkle. Once the 45 minutes is up, rinse off soap residue and hang your jeans out in the open to dry.

How to Dye Jeans

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Sooner or later, your jeans are going to get washed out. Given the cost of jeans nowadays, this can be an uncomfortable truth. So what happens when the washout happens? Do you just throw your jeans away and spend more of your hard-earned money on a new pair?

Not necessarily. You might consider using dye to color your jeans and restoring them to their former glory. In this section, we’re going to talk about coloring your jeans blue, black, or brown.

How to Dye Jeans in Washing Machine

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Dylon is the recommended dye if you’re looking to color your denim blue, black, or brown, as Dylon is specifically for denim. Use Dylon pre-dye if your jeans are currently a color other than blue, black, or brown. You can dye your denim other colors too if you like, but these methods require different amounts of salt and drying methods.

Dyeing jeans using your washing machine involves doing the opposite of what you do to wash them: use hot water. Start by setting your washing to the hottest wash cycle available. You’ll be washing your jeans at degrees Celsius or 100+ degrees Fahrenheit.

Run a full cycle, using the wash and dye inside the detergent compartment. Take care to ensure that it runs an entire cycle using as much water as possible.

Wash the jeans a second time using only mild detergent and a hot washing cycle once you’ve run the initial cycle. Avoid putting the jeans in the dryer, but instead, allow them to air dry. If there’s any residue of the dye left over, put them through a rinse cycle, and again allow them to air dry.

How to Dye Jeans in a Bucket

If your jeans are dirty, you’ll want to wash them before trying to dye them. Use bleach to whiten your jeans before dyeing them if you plan to dye your jeans a bright color.

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Dyeing Jeans

  • Bucket
  • Bleach
  • Dye
  • Salt
  • Boiling water
  • Scale
  • Dishwashing liquid


Mix one part bleach with one part water and immerse the jeans for one hour. After bleaching, rinse the jeans and set aside. To get the right quantity of dye to use, weigh jeans on a scale. Use half a bottle of dye for every pound of jeans.

Get a big bucket and fill it halfway with boiling water. Pour the required amount of dye into the boiling water. In a small container, dissolve a half cup of salt into one cup of water and add this to the dye mixture from the previous step.

Add two squirt of dish washing liquid to the dye mixture. Wet the jeans with warm water before submerging into the dye mixture. Wring jeans occasionally in the dye mixture.

After getting the desired color, run cold water through the jeans and do a final round of washing with mild detergent. Allow the jeans to air dry.

How to Acid Wash Jeans

Sometimes you’ll see jeans that appear blotchy and white, as though the owner put them through a laundry cycle with bleach. Those are acid washed jeans. Acid washed jeans can cost you a pretty penny depending on where you’re shopping, so use this guide if you wish to create acid washed jeans at home.

There are a couple of things you’ll want to do before taking the plunge and acid washing your jeans. First, if you’re new to acid washing jeans, consider using an older pair of jeans before committing to newer jeans, or jeans to which you feel sentimental attachment.


Acid Washing Your Jeans

  • Pumice stone
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Washing machine
  • Spray bottle


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Wear protective clothing. Wear gloves, old clothing, and eye protection. Additionally, work in a well-ventilated area, or outside if possible. In short, avoid inhaling bleach or letting it contact your bare skin.


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Soak a pumice stone in laundry bleach and leave it to sit overnight. In a spray bottle, mix two parts of bleach with one part water and shake the mixture until well combined. Spray the bleach solution where you want the acid wash to appear. Use the pumice stone to scrub the jeans, which will aid in the fading process.

Wait for about 10 minutes. Load the jeans in the washing machine. Once the wash cycle completes, dry the jeans in the open air. You’ll want to dry your jeans at home in the open air because if you apply heat to them, they’ll shrink. Additionally, avoid drying jeans in direct sunlight as this will fade the color.

It’s in Your Jeans

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Depending on your style, jeans might be a fundamental part of your wardrobe, or you may only wear them now and then. Whatever the case, when you wear them, you want them looking and smelling fantastic.

In this article, you learned how to wash jeans. You learned how often to wash jeans, how to dye jeans, and how to acid wash jeans.

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Do you have a friend who likes to experiment with different clothing styles? Maybe a family member that seems to have trouble keeping jeans from fading. Using the buttons below to share to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!


6+ Simple Ways to Wash Jeans? ›

Denim may seem like a tough fabric, but that doesn't mean you should choose a heavy duty wash cycle. Instead, opt for a delicate or gentle cycle, and use cold water to avoid shrinking or fading. Opt for a mild detergent, especially one made specifically for dark clothes if your jeans are blue or black.

What is the best way to wash jeans? ›

Denim may seem like a tough fabric, but that doesn't mean you should choose a heavy duty wash cycle. Instead, opt for a delicate or gentle cycle, and use cold water to avoid shrinking or fading. Opt for a mild detergent, especially one made specifically for dark clothes if your jeans are blue or black.

What is the best way to wash jeans so they don't shrink? ›

To avoid shrinking jeans in the wash the main thing that you want to avoid is the usage of heat. Use cold water in the washing machine and use either tumble dry low in the dryer, or choose to air dry your jeans after you have finished washing them so that your jeans do not suffer any shrinkage.

Should you turn jeans inside out when washing? ›

New or old, you should always turn jeans inside out before placing them in the washing machine. This helps minimize the abrasion that causes fading as well as the wear that can happen along the hems, pockets, and fly and waistband edges.

Should you wash jeans in hot or cold water? ›

machine washing

Always wash your jeans with cold water, unless you're washing white denim, in which case you can use warm water on the same short, gentle cycle. Don't ever use high heat to wash or dry denim unless you're actively trying to shrink your jeans.

How often should jeans be washed? ›

A good rule of thumb is to wash your jeans after every 3-10 wears, or when they start to smell. If you're regularly active in your jeans (think: manual work, anything where you work up a sweat), wash them every 3 wears, but if you're working at a desk, you can probably go through multiple wears without washing.

Do jeans get tighter after washing? ›

In general, expect up to 3–4% shrinkage, which on a pair of jeans with a 32″ inseam would mean shrinking about 1″–1¼” in the length. The width is much less prone to shrinkage because there is less applied tension in that direction during fabric construction. This can vary from brand to brand and style to style.

How many washes until jeans stop bleeding? ›

You can get past the major bleeding stage faster by washing and drying the denim 3-4 times before wearing. The hotter the water, the more the dye will come off—using a little detergent will also help.

Do jeans shrink in cold water? ›

Jeans are fairly bulky and can take up a lot of space, especially when they are wet. Fill up a large sink or a bathtub about halfway full with water that is slightly below room temperature. Cold water will prevent the jeans from shrinking and fading because it doesn't break down the fibers of the denim.

Should I put jeans in the dryer? ›

Never Put Your Jeans in the Dryer False. To help your stretched out jeans regain their shape, put them in the dryer for a quick tumble. Follow the instructions on the fabric care label and remove the jeans when they are slightly damp to prevent unwanted creasing.

What is the best detergent for jeans? ›

Which detergent is best for denim? Harsh detergents can strip your jeans of color, so use a mild soap to preserve the indigo. Ryu likes Woolite Dark ($17.99, target.com) or Persil Color ($14.86, walmart.com).

How do you refresh dirty jeans? ›

How to Hand Wash Jeans
  1. Fill your sink or bathtub with cold water. ...
  2. Add a denim-friendly detergent to the cold water.
  3. Submerge your jeans for a few minutes, moving them around in the water.
  4. Let the jeans soak for 30 minutes.
  5. Drain the sink or tub and fill it up again for a rinse.

Should you wash jeans or dry clean? ›

Dry Cleaning Is Gentler Than Conventional Machine Washing

Considering its seemingly tough makeup, we think it is alright to machine wash our jeans. However, this will lower our jeans' lifespan. On the other hand, dry cleaning is gentler than conventional machine washing.

Do jeans shrink in the dryer? ›

In general, expect up to 3–4% shrinkage, which on a pair of jeans with a 32″ inseam would mean shrinking about 1″–1¼” in the length. The width is much less prone to shrinkage because there is less applied tension in that direction during fabric construction. This can vary from brand to brand and style to style.


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