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How to wash jeans: Keep your denim looking fresh with our expert advice

How to wash jeans header washing machine with denim in a basket

Whether your favourite denim is dark, bright white or light wash, here’s everything you need to know about how to wash jeans

A good pair of jeans is hard to come by. So once you’ve found your perfect pair it makes sense to keep them looking great for as long as possible by learning how to wash jeans correctly. Washing denim is a bit of a minefield and not caring for your jeans properly can seriously affect the lifespan, fit and durability of your favourite pair. However, with so much conflicting advice on how best to wash and care for denim, it can be hard to know how to keep your jeans in top condition.

Some people say you should never wash denim and yes, while you will achieve that perfect lived-in look and retain the integrity of the denim, it also makes for unpleasant smelling clothing over time. The secret to denim care is to wash it as little as possible. Spot cleaning spills and stains with a damp flannel and minimal rubbing is preferable to chucking them in the washing machine each time they get a bit dirty.

It is not necessary to dry clean or hand-wash denim. It is a hardy material and is perfectly fine to machine wash, with a few caveats.

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What machine cycle should I wash my jeans on?

Cool is key when it comes to washing jeans. High temperatures can cause the fabric to warp or shrink and you’ll also lose colour, particularly in the first few washes. If your denim is especially dirty, you can use a pre-soak function then select a delicate or hand wash cycle to make sure they’re not put through the wringer.

Does it matter what colour they are?

It goes without saying that your wash should be properly sorted into colours. Black or blue denim often leaks dye, especially when new, so keep dark colours together and use an appropriate detergent to prevent colour fading.

On the other hand, white jeans can absorb colours from other garments, so these should only be washed with other white clothes – and you can safely use any brightening products with bleach to keep your jeans looking dazzling white, unless they contain elastane or spandex.

How should I dry my jeans?

We don’t need to tell you this if you’ve ever had to struggle to squeeze back into your favourite pair, but the tumble dryer is the enemy of jeans. The combination of heat and spinning will seriously compromise the fabric. For durability, fit, colour and shape: stick to line drying at all times, you’ve been warned.

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How to wash jeans step-by-step

1. Do they really need a wash or can they be spot cleaned? If the answer is wash, read on.

2. Turn your jeans inside out and fasten all zips and buttons to best maintain the shape of your garment.

3. Load the machine with similar colours and take care to select the right detergent. Choose a specially formulated detergent for dark colours, a gentle, eco formulation or if your jeans are white, one designed for white clothing.

4. Set the machine to a cool temperature – 30ºC is fine – and select pre-wash if your jeans are really dirty. Then you’ll want to use a delicate or hand wash setting and avoid any unnecessary spin cycles. Do not use fabric conditioner, as the chemicals in these can affect the denim.

5. When the cycle has finished, gently squeeze out any excess water before hanging the jeans up to dry inside out on a washing line or in a warm place.

6. Ironing jeans is really not necessary but if you must, be sure to use a low heat setting or steam alone to eliminate creases.

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