Tips for Washing and Protecting Denim

Is it possible for a piece of fabric to be high-maintenance and low-maintenance at the same time? Denim fabrics say yes! It’s the only fabric that doesn’t need regular washing. But when laundry day comes, you must be extra gentle with the material. 

Make your jeans last longer with these tried and tested tips for washing and protecting denim. These guidelines will help you minimize damage to keep your denim looking brand new.

Different Types of Denim

Denim was originally made of pure cotton fibers through a twill weave. Now, it has many variations because of fashion trends and demands. 

Denim can be categorized according to its weight. We use ounces to measure its heaviness, typically a square yard of the fabric.

  • Lightweight denim weighs up to 8 oz.
  • Midweight denim weighs 8 to 10 oz.
  • Heavyweight denim weighs between 11 to 20 oz.

We can also classify denim according to its material and manufacturing process.

  • 100% cotton denim is the original denim fabric which is sturdy and universal
  • Raw denim is dyed denim that is unwashed
  • Washed denim is softer and less prone to shrinkage
  • Bull denim fabric is more robust because of its twill fabric
  • Stretch denim includes a blend of synthetic fibers to make it stretchable.

Does Denim Shrink?

Denim excessively shrinks on its first wash cycle while encountering relaxation. It sizes down at 3-4%, depending on the type of denim you have. So if your jeans have a 32-inch measurement, the shrinkage would be approximately an inch. 

The next shrinkage is called progressive shrinkage, which typically ends after five cycles. To prevent your denim from shrinking, use lukewarm to cold water and air-dry it instead of tumble-drying.

Tips for Washing and Protecting Denim

Take a look at these tips for washing and protecting your denim fabric.

Don’t Wash Your Jeans After Every Use

It seems gross to think you shouldn’t wash your bottoms after every use. But cleaning it as seldom as possible makes the fabric last longer. 

Extreme denim experts might ask you never to wash your denim jacket or pants, but that’s unhygienic. Instead, wash it every three months or after ten wears. If your clothing starts to smell, you can remove odors with perfumed sprays without washing them.

Denim is a thick material. Unlike cotton, polyester, and linen, it doesn’t quickly hold odors, germs, and dirt. But if you’re going for a worn look, you can try washing your jeans every three to five uses. 

Hand-Wash Your Jeans

Don’t be afraid to use your hands when washing denim. Sure, it’s heavy and tiring. But it will keep the fabric brand new and durable compared to machine-washing. 

One tip when hand-washing is to use your bathtub. Always use lukewarm to cold water to keep the fibers from wearing out and shrinking. A gentle liquid detergent is also a must. You get the best results when you only add a few drops.

If you have dyed denim, add a few drops of vinegar to prevent it from fading. This chemical absorbs and neutralizes the released pigments in the water while killing bacteria.

You can perform a gentle scrub on your denim. But it’s best to let it soak for one hour before rinsing and air-drying.

Spot-Clean Denim

Immediately remove tough stains if you spill some gravy, wine, or hot sauce on your denim fabric. But don’t try washing the whole thing. All you need to do is scrub that specific part with a cleaning solution.

Mix water with a stain-removing detergent. Then, saturate the stained portion and wipe with a clean cloth. You may also use a brush with soft bristles to scrub the marks.

Read the Garment Tags

Not all denim fabrics are made equally. Your denim jacket might be machine-washable, but your bedazzled denim jeans aren’t. Read the tag on the material to know how to wash it.

Denim with studs, laces, pearls, and other elements typically requires more delicate care. If it says, “dry clean only,” then it should never touch your washer.

Turn Your Jeans Inside Out

Turning your jeans inside out is vital whether your denim fabric is machine-washable or handwash only. Doing so keeps the material from bleeding pigments and loosening its fibers. It will also prevent the material from rubbing against other materials.

Learn How to Machine-Wash Denim

Some denim clothing and furniture are machine-washable. Despite being heavy-duty, denim should be treated like lingerie. Both fabrics are “delicate” when we’re speaking of machine-washing.

Put your washer on a gentle cycle to protect the fabric. A lower speed will prevent friction, agitation, and bleeding. Your denim is less likely to rip and tear if you machine-wash it the right way.

Another tip for washing denim is to stop overloading your machine. Do not put different clothes inside the washing machine, especially if they’re all jeans. The maximum number of denim in your washer should be four.

Do Not Put Denim in the Dryer

Air-drying plays a crucial role in making your denim pieces last longer. Never place your denim fabric in a rough-and-tumble dryer as it can cause shrinking, wrinkling, fading, and distress. 

Mister sun does better at absorbing the fabric’s moisture without ruining it. Once you’re done washing your denim, use a pants hanger to drape the jeans and place it on a rack. You can also use pegs to hang them, so the denim stays in the open air.

Do Not Freeze Raw Denim

Some “experts” might recommend that you put your denim in the freezer to kill the bacteria. But this theory has been debunked before. All it does is remove the odor temporarily. 

But once you take it out of the freezer, the denim gets used to your body temperature, and the foul odor returns. In the end, all you did is waste electricity consumption from freezing your jeans.


Denim jeans and jackets are an investment. They can withstand wear and tear for a long time as long as you know how to take care of them. I hope these tips for washing and protecting denim help you preserve the quality of your wardrobe. Only wash your denim when necessary to avoid abrasion, fading, and shrinking. And check out our selection of quality denim fabrics for your next project.

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