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Do's and Don'ts: How to Wash and Care for Your Denim Clothes

by Ann Ferguson

When you finally find a pair of jeans that fits just right or a denim jacket that actually goes with everything, you want it to last. The last thing you want to do is to wash them and see the magic go down the drain!

But with careful washing, you can keep your denim clothes looking (and smelling) fresh for every occasion. However, unlike some of your other clothes, denim takes a little more TLC — and we've got the inside track! Follow our tips on how to wash and care for your denim!

How Often to Wash

Woman holding a pile of denim jeans

Washing denim too often shortens its lifespan by making the fibers too brittle, so how do you know how often is enough? Generally, experts suggest washing after every 10 to 12 wears. Of course, this general rule varies, like how much you sweat, whether you spill something, use it for heavy-duty work, or wear it in humid weather.

In any case, how often you should wash your denim is up to you. But if you purchase new denim, always wash it before you wear it the first time!


It goes without saying that pre-treating stains before a wash is essential, and the same is true with denim. You never know when permanent marker or food bits will spill on them, and acting fast will help keep your denim looking new.

So, use a stain solution to remove any spots, splatters, or smudges.

Pro Tip: Pre-soak raw denim in cold water and scented vinegar to avoid dye transfer and bleeding!

Ways to Refresh Denim

Jeans hanging out to refresh

If your jeans or jacket is starting to smell a little too much, there are some simple ways to refresh them without sticking them in the washing machine. You can:

  • Hanging your jeans outside or near an open window to reduce odor and wrinkles.
  • Spot-clean jean jackets with a damp cloth to give them new life! Use a mild detergent on a toothbrush and massage the stain until it fades, and rinse until the soap is gone!
  • Dilute white vinegar in water and add a few drops of essential oil to make your own fabric refresher!

And if you want your denim to regain some of its shape, stick it in the dryer for a quick tumble!

New Denim Wash Care

It's always best to wash any new denim before wearing it. This helps prevent dye transfer onto other items during the first few wears. First, make sure to check the care label and follow those instructions. But these tips are suitable for any new denim clothes you have:

  • Using the soak cycle on your washer, fill the tub with cold water for dark fabrics.
  • Turn the denim inside out and put them in the water (don't bunch them up).
  • Let them soak for 30 to 45 minutes, then drain the water.
  • Refill the tub and let the denim sit for 10 minutes to rinse.
  • Repeat these steps until the rinse water comes out clear.

Machine Wash

Close up of woman putting jeans in the washer

If you've washed your denim a few times before, you won't need to use the soak cycle. Instead, follow these steps for a clean wash!

  • Set your washer to a cold, gentle cycle to avoid shrinking and fading, and add a mild detergent.
  • Turn your denim clothes inside out before washing to protect the fibers and let them run in the cycle.
  • Once done, either hang up the jeans to air dry or use the no-heat cycle on your dryer to avoid shrinking, fading, or yellow denim.
  • If drying in the machine, remove your denim clothes while they're still slightly damp, stretch out the seams, and then hang them to finish drying.

Even though denim is a tough fabric, it's essential to use the gentle cycle to protect the fibers. This is especially true for dressy jeans, but don't forget to put them in a mesh laundry bag before washing them!

Hand Wash

Jeans being hand-washed

Machine washing your denim is more convenient, but if you have the perfect raw denim jeans or jacket, you want to pay extra attention to, hand-washing them is a good idea.

  • Turn your denim inside out.
  • Fill a bucket or sink with cool or lukewarm water.
  • Add mild detergent to the water.
  • Place your denim clothes in the water and use your hands to move them around.
  • Soak your clothes for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Drain the dirty water, fill it back up, and let the denim soak for 5 to 10 minutes while moving them around to remove the excess dirt.
  • Drain the water again, and roll or fold your jeans in a towel to squeeze the excess water (don't wring them!)
  • Hang to dry!

More Do’s & Don’ts

There’s lots of do’s and don’ts when it comes to washing denim, but here are a few more to be aware!

  • Don’t Freeze Your Jeans: The bacteria will survive the freezing, so its better to wash them when they’re dirty
  • Don’t Wash Your Jeans in The Ocean: The seawater and sand are corrosive and will ruin your denim faster. You might get a subtle fade, but the musty smell will be almost impossible to remove.
  • Do Put Them in the Dryer: Low heat or no heat is fine, especially if you don't mind some mild fading.
  • Don’t Wear Them in the Bathtub: Most denim is pre-shrunk already; only soak your denim in the bathtub if it is shrink-to-fit!
  • Don’t Wash Every Six Months: Some denim-heads swear by this, but by six months there’ll be quite the build up of bacteria, so be sure to wash them ever 10 or so wears instead!
  • Do Wash Your New Denim Separately: Always take out your new denim and wash them separately to avoid bleeding.
  • Don’t Use Fabric Softener: It will ruin the fibers and make the wear-and-tear worse.

Looking Good!

There you have it — the best way to wash and care for your denim! With these tips in mind, you'll be wearing your favorite pair of jeans for even longer. But if your laundry appliances are on their last legs, don't wait—check out D Boy Maytag Home Appliance Center for your upgrade!

Have any questions? Give us a call or stop by!