Updated: Aug 7
Delicate, sensitive, and fragile are not the words that come to mind when we contemplate jeans. Most of the time, we do not think twice about throwing them into a laundry machine, dryer, or performing strenuous activities. Jeans are the staple of a sturdy, take-on-anything material that miners wore during gold rushes. Surprisingly, while jeans can survive strenuous labor activities, they cannot tolerate a regular laundry experience.
As tough as jeans might seem, they require extra care during the washing and drying processes. If we want our jeans to look their best for years to come, we need to learn the dos and don'ts of denim care.
What Is Denim?
To better understand why jeans cannot withstand a laundry experience, we need to review the process of denim making.
Most jeans are made from 100% cotton. Generally, cotton arrives at a denim factory in tightly packed bakes. The bakes are separated, and cotton is reviewed for quality. Then it is placed into special machines with curved brushes to detangle cotton fibers while also cleaning them. During the process, the cotton fibers gather into tiny slivers.
The slivers are then transferred into larger machines that combine multiple slivers. The process further pulls and twists threads into ropes. The pulling creates necessary tension that allows weaving fibers into fabric.
Then ropes go through a spinning machine that continues to twist and stretch threads, further increasing tension.
Once the ropes are ready, the color is applied. The most common denim color is indigo. The dyeing process is a multi-step procedure where the yarn is dipped into the color multiple times to create a deeper, darker denim color. The indigo dye does not bond to the fiber's core; it merely attaches to top layers.
Why Is Denim Sensitive To Heat And Water?
The seemingly simple process of yarn weaving and dyeing shows denim's unique weaknesses.
When you throw jeans into a washer, the hot water agitates denim fibers triggering them to lose tension created during the spinning process. The released tension causes fibers to shrink, making your favorite pair of jeans half a size smaller.
Denim's color is also affected by hot water. When jeans come in contact with hot water, dye molecules separate from fibers and transfer into the water. The more jeans exposed to hot water, the more color will be lost, revealing an undyed core. While the jeans will fade over time regardless, the hot water will speed up the process.
The rigid jean material, which was perfect for miners working in harsh conditions, requires gentle care to preserve its shape and protect its color.
The Best Way To Care For Jeans
While there are many theories on the best jeans care, the experts agree on sensible universal truths.
The less you wash, the better
Turn jeans inside out and zip up before washing
Use only cold water with small amount of detergent during washing
Hand wash in a tub
Soak jeans in cold water with detergent for 15-20 mins
Rinse a few times
Do not wring, twist or stretch
Lay down or hang to dry
The more care and effort you put into washing your jeans, the longer they will keep their shape and color.
Practice Common Sense
Unfortunately, with current fast fashion trends, most people do not even think twice before buying a new pair of jeans as soon as their old ones show aging signs. What most people forget is that jeans are not biodegradable. The old pair is headed into a landfill.
So whether it is jeans, dress or top, do care for your clothes to ensure that they look their best and last for longer. The less we buy, the more money we save for other exciting experiences like dinner with friends or weekend getaways.