Here’s How To Clean Your Denim Jeans Without Washing Them

Knowing how to clean your denim jeans without washing them can extend their lifespan. Plus, it allows you to keep them looking like new for longer. As Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh told OK! Magazine, “A good pair of denim doesn’t really need to be washed in the washing machine except for very infrequently or rarely.”

Bergh believes that washing denim speeds up wear and tear. On top of that, it’s bad for the environment. The average washing machine uses over 40 gallons of water per load, reports the National Park Service. That’s one of the reasons why Levi’s CEO prefers to wash his jeans by hand (via Levi Strauss).

So, what can you do to clean your favorite pair of jeans without tossing them in the laundry machine? For starters, you could hang them outdoors, as sunlight can kill bacteria and eliminates odors, according to the Pennsylvania State University. If you see any stains, you can spot-clean your jeans with a napkin and warm water. And while you may have heard that freezing your clothes eliminates germs, it’s better not to do it. That’s just a myth.

What's the right way to clean your denim jeans?

OK! Magazine recommends freezing your jeans to kill bacteria. Unfortunately, it’s not simple. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, bacteria cannot survive temperatures below minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The average freezer can only reach 0 to 4 degrees, which isn’t cold enough to kill the germs on your clothes.

However, this doesn’t mean you must wash your jeans for a deep clean. One option is to use antibacterial spray with odor-neutralizing properties, recommends The Guardian. Simply spray your jeans inside out and wait five to 10 minutes before putting them on.

If you prefer a natural alternative, mix white vinegar and water and then add a few drops of essential oil (via MasterClass). Some essential oils, such as oregano, basil, fennel, and thyme oils, exhibit antimicrobial properties, reports a 2016 research paper featured in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Similarly, white vinegar may kill some viruses and bacteria, according to the David Suzuki Foundation. Plus, it’s a natural disinfectant.

How to get stains out of your jeans without washing them

Levi’s recommends washing your jeans after wearing them 10 times or until they develop bad odors. The Cleveland Clinic, on the other hand, says that it’s better to do it every two or three wears. Since there are no set rules on how often you should wash your jeans, it’s up to you to decide when to do it. Generally, if your jeans feel icky upon wearing or have bad odors, they could probably use a wash.

Note that most stains can be removed through spot cleaning. Levi’s suggests using a damp cloth and mild soap to get stains out of your jeans. You may also use a wet napkin or an old toothbrush, depending on how bad the stain is. Pour a small amount of liquid soap or mild detergent on a damp cloth or toothbrush and then gently rub the stain. Rinse with cold water and let your jeans dry. Ideally, hang them outside for an hour or longer.

Another option is steam cleaning. This method works best for minor stains, dirt, and debris. It also makes it easier to clean your denim jeans without washing them whenever they need a quick refresh. Simply run the steamer over your jeans and let them dry. If you’re dealing with stubborn stains, consider washing the jeans by hand. Use a mild detergent and cold water to prevent them from shrinking and preserve their color. 

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