Laundry Tips
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Caring for Jeans


About Denim

Denim is made from tightly woven cotton twill. Lengthwise, yarns are dyed with indigo or blue dye; while horizontal yarns remain white. The tightly woven yarns make the jeans more durable and produce the distinct denim color.

Prewashed vs. unwashed

There are two general categories of denim blue jeans: prewashed and unwashed denim. Prewashed denim, also known as preshrunk or distressed denim, is achieved through bleaching or several mechanical treatments like stonewashes, sandblasting and scraping. Unwashed denim is stronger and most durable but is also much stiffer.

Prewashed denim

Nearly all of the jeans sold today are prewashed, or what is now called garment washed. Prewashed jeans are washed and treated in different ways to give them a worn and used look. The treatments give a second-hand look that is comparable to jeans having been worn for many years.

Reducing fading and shrinkage

Even if your jeans are prewashed, they can still fade and shrink over time, especially if you do not follow the care label instructions. There are certain precautions that one can take to maintain color and fit:

  • Always turn the jeans inside out for laundering.
  • Wash in cold water with a cold water detergent.
  • Never use bleach.
  • If the care label instructions recommend drying in a dryer, be sure not to use hotter than recommended dryer temperatures and take the jeans out of the dryer while they are still slightly damp. Then lay your jeans on a towel to dry or, if possible, hang them so that no part of the jean is folded over.

Caring for unwashed denim:

  • Wear your unwashed jeans as much as possible before the first wash. (They will have a tough surface, almost like they are water resistant.)
  • Do not try to clean local stains, as rubbing can remove the indigo and you may get a bleach spot.
  • When you absolutely have to wash them, a steam wash cycle is preferable. If your washer doesn't have one, turn them inside out so they have some resistance to unwanted crinkles from the machine.
  • To encourage fading and natural worn-in effects, wash in warmer temperatures.
  • To help prevent fading, wash in cold water using cold water detergent.
  • Once out of the dryer, turn them back to normal and shake them flat, otherwise they might get an unwanted crease or fold. When they are still damp, you can stretch the inseam as much as needed. Let them dry naturally by hanging, not folded.

Tips for getting the right fit

Because washing your jeans can cause additional shrinkage, it is important to remember some simple things when shopping for jeans. Try to:

  • Buy jeans that are a little longer than necessary.
  • Try them on with the shoes you wear most often.
  • Wash your jeans before you hem them.

Saving your favorite jeans

Ripped jeans made their way into fashion in the 1980s, and are still very popular today. But if you prefer a more polished look, you can salvage your favorite jeans by patching them. Here's how:

  • Make repairs to denim before the rip, tear or hole becomes too large or the edges become too frayed. Patches can be applied as reinforcement to high-stress areas before worn spots turn into holes.
  • Cut any loose threads from the edges of the rip, tear or hole.
  • Use the zigzag setting on your sewing machine to make a satin stitch along the length of a very clean cut or tear. This option is a good one if appearance is not important.
  • Position an iron-on denim patch on the underside of the fabric. The patch should be large enough to completely cover the damaged area. Press the patch with an iron to fuse it to the fabric.
  • Look for products that let you fuse your own fabric patch to the damaged area. With these products, a denim patch is cut from similar fabric. The patch is then fused to the fabric via a liquid or powdered substance and an iron.
  • Use liquid and powdered substances for a stronger bond than that provided by an iron-on patch.

After your cycle is finished

To help reduce wrinkling, fold or hang clothes as soon as possible after the dryer cycle ends. If this is not possible, slightly dampen a cloth, add it to the load and then run the dryer for a few minutes. The moisture and heat will help the wrinkles fall out. It's also a good idea to run a cool-down cycle at the end of the drying time. All laundry items are more prone to wrinkling if left sitting in a pile when they are hot. If your washer has steam washes, this can also reduce wrinkles.