Whether your favourite denim is dark, bright white or light wash, here’s everything you need to know about how to wash jeans
A good pair of jeans is hard to come by. So once you’ve found your perfect pair it makes sense to keep them looking great for as long as possible by learning how to wash jeans correctly. Washing denim is a bit of a minefield and not caring for your jeans properly can seriously affect the lifespan, fit and durability of your favourite pair. However, with so much conflicting advice on how best to wash and care for denim, it can be hard to know how to keep your jeans in top condition.
Some people say you should never wash denim and yes, while you will achieve that perfect lived-in look and retain the integrity of the denim, it also makes for unpleasant smelling clothing over time. The secret to denim care is to wash it as little as possible. Spot cleaning spills and stains with a damp flannel and minimal rubbing is preferable to chucking them in the washing machine each time they get a bit dirty.
It is not necessary to dry clean or hand-wash denim. It is a hardy material and is perfectly fine to machine wash, with a few caveats.
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What machine cycle should I wash my jeans on?
Cool is key when it comes to washing jeans. High temperatures can cause the fabric to warp or shrink and you’ll also lose colour, particularly in the first few washes. If your denim is especially dirty, you can use a pre-soak function then select a delicate or hand wash cycle to make sure they’re not put through the wringer.
Does it matter what colour they are?
It goes without saying that your wash should be properly sorted into colours. Black or blue denim often leaks dye, especially when new, so keep dark colours together and use an appropriate detergent to prevent colour fading.
On the other hand, white jeans can absorb colours from other garments, so these should only be washed with other white clothes – and you can safely use any brightening products with bleach to keep your jeans looking dazzling white, unless they contain elastane or spandex.
How should I dry my jeans?
We don’t need to tell you this if you’ve ever had to struggle to squeeze back into your favourite pair, but the tumble dryer is the enemy of jeans. The combination of heat and spinning will seriously compromise the fabric. For durability, fit, colour and shape: stick to line drying at all times, you’ve been warned.
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How to wash jeans step-by-step
1. Do they really need a wash or can they be spot cleaned? If the answer is wash, read on.
2. Turn your jeans inside out and fasten all zips and buttons to best maintain the shape of your garment.
3. Load the machine with similar colours and take care to select the right detergent. Choose a specially formulated detergent for dark colours, a gentle, eco formulation or if your jeans are white, one designed for white clothing.
4. Set the machine to a cool temperature – 30ºC is fine – and select pre-wash if your jeans are really dirty. Then you’ll want to use a delicate or hand wash setting and avoid any unnecessary spin cycles. Do not use fabric conditioner, as the chemicals in these can affect the denim.
5. When the cycle has finished, gently squeeze out any excess water before hanging the jeans up to dry inside out on a washing line or in a warm place.
6. Ironing jeans is really not necessary but if you must, be sure to use a low heat setting or steam alone to eliminate creases.
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The best laundry products to wash jeans in 2024
1. Miele UltraWhite Powder Detergent: Best for white jeans
Price when reviewed: £18 | Check price at Miele
Miele is well known for its excellent washing machines but it also makes a range of laundry detergents designed for use in its own machines – or, indeed, any other brand of machine.
With a pleasant, fresh scent, Miele’s powder does what it says on the tin. Whites are bright after just one wash and stains are easily shifted. However, it will lift colours, so make sure you only use it with plain whites. Miele says that its powder is suitable for use at 20˚C, 30˚C, 40˚C, 60˚C and 95˚C, so it should work with a huge range of programmes, including at energy-saving temperatures. You can expect to get around 42 loads from one box.
Key details – Size: 2.7kg; Number of washes: 42; Type: Powder
2. Dr Beckmann Magic Leaves Laundry Detergent Sheets: Best for washing jeans at low temperatures
Price when reviewed: £4.75 | Check price at Amazon
Available in bio and non-bio formats, these eco-friendly laundry sheets are the last word in convenience. They simply dissolve in water to create a soapy detergent that’s effective even at 20˚C. We tested a sheet in a beaker of completely cold water and it still dissolved and frothed up.
Vegan, free from microplastics and preservatives and dermatologically tested to be kind to skin, these sheets are a great eco-friendly choice for gentle washing. We were particularly impressed with the performance at low temperatures, where they still got jeans clean.
Magic Leaves are available in two fragrances: Spring Fresh and Fresh Blossom. We did feel they had a slightly synthetic smell, but this doesn’t linger on your clothes. You can also use the sheets for hand washing and as the packaging hardly takes up any space they would be easy to take on trips.
Key details – Size: N/A; Number of washes: 25; Type: Sheets
3. Smol Laundry Capsules: Best eco-friendly detergent for jeans
Price when reviewed: £5.80 | Check price at Smol
Smol does a range of laundry capsules, including bio, non-bio, and sensitive non-bio. The capsules avoid using plastic altogether and arrive in recyclable packaging made from FSC cardboard. You can order a nine-wash trial for free (bar a £1 charge for postage) on Smol’s website or pick a box up with your shopping at Sainsbury’s. Smol also offers a postal subscription, where you can choose how frequently the capsules arrive.
We found the capsules worked a treat, with the bio version being particularly good at removing even the toughest stains. This is particularly impressive without the addition of harsh chemicals. The capsules dissolved well, even at lower temperatures, with no lumps left in the machine. One tiny thing – the packaging is a bit fiddly to open and we would advise you watch the video on how to do so rather than tearing into it.
Key details – Size: N/A; Number of washes: 24; Type: Capsules