You're Probably Washing Your Jeans Too Often - Here's The When-To-Wash Sweet Spot

Jeans are a wardrobe staple worth investing in. However, that doesn't mean you should only be buying designer jeans. On the contrary, vintage and sustainable denim can be super durable and affordable. But whether you buy something expensive or budget-friendly, it's worth learning how to maintain your favorite pair of pants. When cared for properly, a good pair of jeans can be part of your wardrobe for decades. 

There's a lot of conflicting information about when, where, and how to wash your denim and whether or not washing will cause damage. Some swear that throwing their jeans in a cold wash after each wear is the way to go. Others are committed to only handwashing their denim and air drying it very sporadically. So, what's the truth? Well, it's complicated, but you may very well be washing your jeans wrong. Below we slice through the confusion to uncover precisely how (and when!) you should wash your denim.

How often you wash your denim depends on your lifestyle

The simplest answer to how often you should wash your jeans depends on your lifestyle. If you wear jeans daily, that will require more washes, but even that depends on multiple factors. For example, if you drive to work, going from home to your car to your desk, the risk of picking up other people's germs or bacteria is much less than if you ride the subway to and from your office daily. As a good rule of thumb, if you're out and about in your jeans all day, wash them every 3-4 wears. If that sounds kind of gross, don't worry. According to Katie Couric Media, a study done by a biologist at the University of Alberta, most bacteria picked up by jeans aren't dangerous.

Still, it's a complicated line to straddle. Don't wash enough, and you risk dirt and odor build-up, wash too much and risk the jeans' quality. As a result, denim and fashion experts remain divided. While some say every few wears, others say you can go much longer. "Denim is a thick fabric (unlike your average T-shirt), so you can get away with more wears between washes," Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, cofounders of the Laundress, assured Real Simple. We recommend washing after 10 or so wears — or whenever jeans smell stale or unpleasant." In between washes, remove odors with a fabric freshener. At the end of the day, how often you wash comes down to personal choice.

How you wash your denim depends on the pants

Far more important than how often you wash your jeans is how you wash them. Once you've established a wash frequency that works best for you, it's time to get down to business and wash those pants. Here's where things get complicated. You've got more than a few options, and it all depends on the fabric count and blend of your jeans. The safest way to wash blended fabrics and maintain their quality is inside out in a bathtub of cold water and then letting them air dry.

Then, there's raw denim. Experts suggest wearing a new pair for about six months before their first washing. Avoid the washing machine, as it can cause the dye to bleed and ultimately damage the fabric. Then, handwash very sporadically to help maintain their color. If your raw jeans get dirty between their washes, opt for spot cleaning first and only wash as a last resort.

What if you do not have the time or patience to hand wash your jeans? Don't worry because you can usually get away with machine washing them, regardless of the fabric. As a rule of thumb, wash your jeans inside out, with items of similar color, and on a gentle cycle like lingerie. Then, for best results, air dry. And if that's not an option, then fluff dry on cold air only.