If there's one article of clothing most of us own, it's a pair of jeans. If you're like the majority of guys I know, you have several pairs and for good reason. Jeans are the ultimate pant. They're comfortable, versatile, rugged, and easy to maintain... as long as you know the simple rules of denim care.
However, this article is not about jean care, but denim care in general. Denim is an excellent fabric, whose use goes beyond jeans. Once synonymous with cowboys and the dungarees they wore to tame the Wild West, denim has made its way into the worlds of coats, jackets, shorts, overalls, vests, hats, and even wallets. Its comfort and durability make it an excellent choice for many casual styles of garb.
Despite all denim has going for it, today's fashion doesn't embrace denim the way it did years ago, or even as recently as the 1980s. Don't get me wrong, denim use is still in full gear; however, today's primary use is to make that pair of jeans you're probably wearing right now. Regardless of whether the world is still sporting denim like it once did or not, we need to properly care for the denim in our wardrobe. There's really not much to it, so giving denim the TLC it requires should keep those jeans looking and fitting great for years to come.
Some denim fans believe the best way to address new or raw denim is to never wash it, and use Febreeze or other odor eliminating sprays to keep it wearable, or should I say bearable. Other denim aficionados opt to wash it every six months, while some choose to freeze the bacteria away. Interesting, but I don't think I'm there yet, and doubt many of you are. So, on that note, let's discuss how to wash denim, please!
- Read the care instructions found on the inside tag and follow them. I know tags give limited information, but use it as a guideline.
- Denim, whether it's made from 100% cotton or not, bleeds when it's washed the first few times. For this reason, it's imperative to wash new denim separately, or with denim of the same color. If this isn't done, expect the other clothes to be stained by the dye that leaches out of the denim, turning everything the same color. Been there – done that!
- Turn denim inside out before washing. This simply protects the outer fabric a bit.
- Wash in cold water to avoid shrinkage and excessive bleeding. Never wash in hot water, unless you're intentionally trying to shrink or fade the denim.
- Wash denim on the "delicate" cycle, or if you're really energetic, try your hand at hand washing. Although denim is a tough fabric, it will definitely hold up better in the long run if gently handled.
- Wash with mild laundry soap, which will help retain color and the fabric's integrity. Be sure not to use more soap than is recommended, since residual soap that stays in fabric dulls and destroys it; resulting in denim with a shorter life expectancy.
- Dry clean if you'd prefer. Dry cleaning is beneficial for dark denim, since it reduces fading.
- When air-drying, lay denim flat, or hang it over something like a shower curtain rod that allows airflow to circulate around the denim. Hanging jeans upside down accelerates drying of the waistband and pockets. Avoid hanging on a hanger, or there will be protrusions or "nipples" present once it's dried.
- Although air-drying has its advantages and is best for the fabric, denim can be dried in a clothes dryer. However, I don't recommend this method if you want to avoid shrinkage.
- When drying in a clothes dryer, keep the temperature on low. Shrinkage isn't the only reason low heat is best. It will also preserve the fabric, since hot air makes material brittle over time. Basically, the less heat the better.
- When ironing denim, avoid spray starch or it will end up with a nice glossy sheen. Nothing's worse than shiny denim.
- No bleach! Bleach will turn denim white instantly.
- Do not over-wash denim. I'm sure many of us appreciate this tip! How often you wash your denim is up to you, but unless it's visibly soiled, there's really no need to wash it every time it's worn. Jeans always feel better the second time around!
Denim is not a high maintenance fabric, and doesn't require jumping through hoops to care for it correctly. Still, putting these guidelines into practice will keep denim looking great longer... and that's good news for our wallet, as well as our wardrobe. So, whether your denim is in the form of jeans, or a fat Newsboy cap like my grandfather wore, give it the respect it deserves and it will make you proud!