JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Should you ever wash raw denim?

Date

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

Purists proclaim that raw denim only fits properly when it's rarely or even never washed.

Purists proclaim that raw denim only fits properly when it's rarely or even never washed.

We've all heard the myth you shouldn't wash your jeans in the first six months of wearing them – or, if you're American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, at all – especially if you've invested in the crème de la crème of the jean world, better known as raw denim.

If you're as fussy about such things as I am, you probably gagged when the sales assistant tried to share this “trick of the trade” and washed them as soon as you wore them on a decent night out.

There is, however, some substance to raw denim's urban legend and, thankfully, also some easy ways to deal with the inherent grossness.

Much like a blank canvas, raw denim is a work in progress, which is why washing them too soon is considered a cardinal sin.

Par Lundqvist is the creative director of Australian denim label Neuw Denim and, as legend has it, owns more than 3000 pairs of vintage jeans dating all the way back to the early 1900s.

He confirms the best way to keep your denim in top condition and prolonging their lifespan is to simply keep your jeans away from the wash as long as possible.

“Prolonged wear without washing will help form the jeans to your body,” Par says. “The abrasion of everyday wear and tear will also produce a unique wear pattern that is perfectly formed for you. The longer you wear the jeans before washing, the more intense and unique the wear pattern will be.”

Ultimately, what this means is that you end up with two pairs of jeans in one: your original indigo ones and then - should you finally succumb to giving them a rinse - a pair of completely-unique-to-your-body-shape and daily-wear-and-tear-classically-faded blue jeans. But first, you have to wear them. A lot.

So what do the experts suggest doing to keep your jeans odour-free and at their maximum freshness in the interim?

According to the original denim makers Levi's, as well as Mr Hilfiger and the team at Neuw, the easiest way to kill off odour-causing bacteria is to put your jeans through an occasional cryogenic process. In other words, simply stick them in the freezer for a few days.

There are disputes within the scientific community about how much and what kind of bacteria a deep freeze will kill off (if any). From personal experience I can say that, for whatever reason, this seems to do the trick and give them a freshness boost the next time I've worn them. Just remember to take them out a good few hours before you intend to wear them, otherwise risk potential frostbite where you can least afford it.

The second tip is one that may be a little more grounded in scientific research, plus a great one if you're particularly sensitive to odours. Mix up a few drops of lavender or tea trea oil in some water and spray it along the inside of your jeans. Both oils have antiseptic qualities while also help to disguise the scent of things such as the inevitable spilt drink or two. Just be sure to not use too much, lest you end up wafting like a bowl of potpourri – a little goes a very long way.

Thirdly, and any new parent can probably attest to this, never underestimate the power of the baby wipe. Considering what they were designed to clean up, the job of wiping away the grime of a hard day's work in the office is practically nothing in comparison. Better yet, unlike lavender or the tea-tree option, you can get these in unscented form, and unlike the freezer, you won't need to worry about defrosting before setting foot outside the house.

And finally, Par offers this sage advice – take a bath. There should be only one soap dodger in your home and that should be your jeans. “Most of the dirt and grime that causes smells or makes jeans feel dirty comes from you. So make sure to shower every now and then.”

Are you able to go the distance when it comes to raw denim and the belief you shouldn't wash jeans for months on end?

30 comments

  • This is bunk. I bought a pair of $100 Levis and $300 Nudies about 4 years ago, washing the Levis as normal, while giving the Nudies the raw treatment (ie never washing them). 4 years on they look and feel the same as each other. This is the sort of guff that wine tasters and audiophile types love to spout to make themselves sound more important than they are. The most important thing to making jeans look good is the person wearing them. Brad Pitt will still look hot even wearing a hessian sack.

    Commenter
    Kris
    Date and time
    May 16, 2014, 10:44AM
    • You havent washed your Nudie jeans in four years? Thats dedication

      Commenter
      four years?
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 16, 2014, 11:34AM
    • But were the Levis raw denim?

      Commenter
      Jeanie
      Location
      Blulegrass
      Date and time
      May 16, 2014, 12:09PM
    • Your problem are the nudies. Get some real jeans - Samurai's, Flathead, Ironheart, Imperial, SugarCanes etc. Nudies are terrible, really.

      Commenter
      Blake
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 16, 2014, 12:51PM
  • Just one question... I get that you're not supposed to wash your jeans... but what about all those wonderful chemicals that the demin is treated with when they are made? I bought a pair of Nudie jeans and did the right thing (so I was led to believe) and did not wash them. They were horrible to wear ! There were shiny, they didn't breathe, and every time I wore them my legs would itch like crazy. So I washed them good and proper and presto - all the problems disappeared !

    Commenter
    Intrigued
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    May 16, 2014, 10:47AM
    • One trick i learnt when i used to be a demin researcher at Calvin Clein was to smoke the denim over the breakfast fire. It gave the jeans an unsual smell, but then again everybody likes bacon and also imparted a very unique 'smoke partern', that is perhaps similar to acid wash in many ways. Most people really enjoyed it, except for vegitarians and fire fighters. Try it at home!

      Commenter
      GKB
      Location
      here
      Date and time
      May 16, 2014, 11:00AM
      • I tried that one time and a hermit crab fell out.

        Commenter
        Me2
        Location
        At a long breakfast
        Date and time
        May 16, 2014, 11:46AM
    • This is satire right? You're really asking men, in an Australian climate, to not wash their pants? We'd be stinking up the joint everywhere we went. It's almost like you DON'T want us to be at our best.

      Commenter
      Ergh
      Location
      Gold Coast
      Date and time
      May 16, 2014, 11:03AM
      • Agree absolutely! Never wash raw denim - you're wasting your time and money if you do. Jeans were designed to take a beating, including getting filthy. It's totally part of the experience. And seriously - the average man barely breaks a sweat during the day so there is no reason to ruin a fantastic pair of denims just because wore them out once or twice. On top of that - saves water, better for the environment and you money in the long run. NO TO WASHING!

        Commenter
        Rhys
        Location
        Belconnen
        Date and time
        May 16, 2014, 11:30AM
        • After working retail for years, there is one thing I've learnt - jeans last a lifetime if treated well. Notice how most things you chuck in the washing machine tend to end up just a little ruined after a while? Same thing with jeans. Unless you find yourself doused in some kind of toxic chemical spill a la Alex Mack (90s kids will know who I mean) there is no reason at all to wash them. Raw denim is MEANT to be hard and stiff - it was what blue collar labourers wore to work and it was intended to be able to take a daily thrashing. The more you wear them, the softer they get. Simple. And all this rubbish about 'chemicals' - to get them that pretty powdered blue isnt just about a wash - they bleach the hell out of them which requires, you guessed it, chemicals. Get them raw, well them lots, and have a friend for life.

          Commenter
          Denim
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          May 16, 2014, 11:39AM

          More comments

          Comments are now closed
          Advertisement
          Featured advertisers
          Executive Style newsletter signup

          Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

          Sign up now

          Advertisement