How to care for raw denim jeans - when and how to wash raw denim

How to care for your raw denim jeans - How and when to wash raw denim jeans

This is probably Hawksmill’s most frequently asked question

Our advice is to keep an eye on your jeans and to gently wash only when needed, and to make sure you do wash when needed. This is more important than following any prescribed timetable of wear / wash etc. as it is completely different for every wearer, depending on their use, fit, needs and many other variables. If you want to have your jeans taken up or adjusted, PLEASE wash them first as they will shrink a little, particularly in the length (the waist will give after washing through wear). You may also choose to give them a light wash if you need to avoid colour transfer (light colour seats etc).

Caring for raw denim jeans is a bit of a balancing act: washing them means some of the deep indigo colour will wash out (meaning less contrast between the areas faded through wear and the remaining darker indigo colour), but not washing them when needed means risk of real damage to the actual fabric threads leading to holes and ‘blow outs’.

Raw denim gurus Heddels say “if you’re ever in doubt, you should probably wash your jeans”. Washing means using water and suitable detergent.

For this, we will assume that you want your jeans to last you for years and to slowly develop some nice deep contrasts and fades in places and for your jeans to not wear holes in prematurely.

We agree with the advice to not want to wash your jeans too much or too harshly – simply because you are washing some of the deep indigo colour out and won’t get so much contrast with the faded areas. Most people advise to wear them ‘for as long as possible’ (particularly before your first wash) before you wash them, as the longer you can wait, the deeper the contrast in the fades. 

BUT crucially, when we say to wait ‘as long as possible’ it doesn’t just mean until they look or smell gross, but to keep a proper eye on them. Whilst we tend to wash most of our clothes far too often, washing does more than just get rid of visible dirt and smells. Tiny bits of dirt and grease can add to the wear of clothing, partly by adding to abrasion (rubbing). This can greatly contribute to issues such as crotch blow out (where a small abrasion turns to a small hole, then gets bigger and bigger in the groin). So keep an eye on your jeans, if there is an area where they rub or crease especially which is wearing quickly and causing threads to break – it’s probably time to give them a gentle wash. You can try spot washing – that’s hand cleaning the area that’s dirty or rubbing, or you can soak them (don’t forget some indigo will likely seep out and could stain a bath, albeit usually temporarily ) or you can machine wash on a gentle (low spin, turn the number down), cool wash inside out. 

This should be cool water, they should be inside out. You might want to give them a gentle hand wash concentrating on the place they are particularly wearing. A machine is OK as long as it is cold (no more than 30) and the spin is set low to avoid lots of creases caused by the machine and to minimise it knocking out the hard-earned creases you created through wear. Obviously, don’t stick them in with your lights wash – they will stain other stuff blue.

The drying process is important too. Don’t tumble dry them. Don’t tumble dry them. Don’t tumble dry them. Also, don't wring them (don't wring any clothes you like - you'll damage the fibres forever). Hang them to dry out of direct sunlight and heat but take the time to try and best straighten out the small random creases from washing and help put them back into their natural shape (don’t pull out your wear creases). You might want to do this a few times whilst they are drying.

We don’t recommend dry cleaning for various reasons.

What about freezing your jeans? Um, there are is much better uses for your freezer space - (hello vegan sausage rolls) and not really any science to support this method of stopping your jeans from smelling:

What detergent should you use - a nice gentle one. We will soon be doing a blog on some of our favourites.

A lot of this advice goes for most of your favourite items of clothing. You can make them last longer, look better and save a lot of water and energy if you don't over-wash your clothes. 

There is so much advice out there on forums and denim websites but our top advice is to keep an eye on them. The very best denim in the world can still wear out quite quickly if not looked after.

Image features a pair of Hawksmill indigo jeans after two years of frequent wear and several washes.

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