How often should I wash my blue jeans?
November 23, 2010 11:27 AM   Subscribe

How often should I wash my blue jeans?

We're talking your basic Levi 550 relaxed fit jeans. Nothing particularly stylish/expensive. I have an office job and rarely do anything outdoorsy.

My current schedule is to wear a pair for a week/week and a half before washing. Works for me, but maybe everyone would be horrified if they knew (shrug). Ideally I could go as long as socially acceptable :)

Note: yes, yes, special circumstances require a special wash. Stains, particularly dirty weekends, etc. I'm just talking about your average, no-mess week.
posted by sbutler to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (43 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
We just discussed this on MetaChat...some opinions and stuff there.
posted by Miko at 11:31 AM on November 23, 2010


Some people say never. If they start to smell, freeze 'em for a couple days to kill bacteria.
posted by the_blizz at 11:31 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm taking it you wear them to work? I wash mine every 2-3 days, but I have a more active job, and they usually have stuff on them by then.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:31 AM on November 23, 2010


Dang, I wash my jeans, like, never (ok, more like once a month or two). There are people who never, ever wash their jeans on purpose!

I think your current schedule is fine, if not better than most people's.
posted by two lights above the sea at 11:31 AM on November 23, 2010


I'm taking it you wear them to work?

Yes, I wear them to work.
posted by sbutler at 11:33 AM on November 23, 2010


You're fine, and as for people being horrified if they knew, just don't tell them. If your clothes look okay and smell okay, nobody needs to know. Just be mindful that we humans can sometimes get accustomed to our own smell and not think it's too bad when it's actually rather ripe, so, you know.
posted by Gator at 11:37 AM on November 23, 2010


I used to have a real problem with Jeans wearing out way to early.. and at that time I was washing them (at the laundromat) approximately once every week. For the last year or so, I've stopped doing that.. and about once a month or so I'll soak/rinse them out in the shower with me while I'm washing my body. I haven't noticed any major difference in smell.. and they seem to be lasting much much longer. YMMV.
posted by jmnugent at 11:37 AM on November 23, 2010


I average between 2 to 4 wearings between washings. As far as social acceptability, make sure they look clean and don't smell -- and remember that aside from AskMe, nobody wants to know the particulars of your jeans laundering. I had a coworker who announced to a group of people on a smoke break that he only washed his jeans once a month. Don't be that guy, and no one will be the wiser.
posted by spinto at 11:39 AM on November 23, 2010


I wash my jeans maybe once a month. And I only have one pair. Only wear them to work on Fridays, though, so we're talking some days after work and Fridays and weekends.
posted by teragram at 11:42 AM on November 23, 2010


I wash mine after a few wears, but NOT because they are dirty or smelly.

My jeans sag out in the knees, waist and ass after a while and hang on me funny. This is the case with just about every pair I've owned... from Gap, to Levi's to Banana Republic to Lucky. They just stretch out and hang in a slump after a while, and a wash puts them back into shape. I wish I didn't need to do this as often as it wears them out more quickly, and though I wear them to work all the time I'm an urban office worker, so I rarely get them dirty.

I wonder if anyone else here has this issue.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:43 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if anyone else here has this issue.

I have exactly this same issue. I have about four pairs that I wear regularly, and I can go about three weeks before my jeans are just too stretched out and don't fit the way that they should, and that's when I pop them in the wash.
posted by alynnk at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2010


I wash when I reach one of the following parameters with any particular pair:

1. Fails smell check
2. Stained
3. Seven days.

They leave the rotation when they become Sunday jeans (holy!)
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wash them whenever they look or smell dirty - ymmv on that. I tend to wash all clothes more frequently in the summer, but nothing except underwear and socks gets washed after one wear barring a spill or a really sweaty day or something. If you're a fella, you'll want to factor in whether or not you go commando in 'em, too.

If you're worried about keeping the tint in your jeans, wash them inside-out in cold water when you do launder them. Line drying (or, in my case, draping them over the arm of a chair) will keep the fabric in good shape. I cling to the pairs of jeans that work for me for dear life, and the combination of inside-out cold water washing and line drying has kept a couple of dark-tinted pairs in fighting form for 6 years and counting.
posted by superfluousm at 11:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Like jeff-o-matic, I usually end up washing pretty clean jeans simply to get rid of the sagging at the knees and general slumpiness.
If there's a better way to look neat, I would love to know it.
posted by mmf at 11:49 AM on November 23, 2010


If you want them to last longer, you can drip-dry instead of using a dryer. The latter merely accelerates wear and having "soft" jeans seems like an unnecessary luxury. Washing jeans does usually lighten their color, so those fashionable dark blue jeans will turn into 80's era stonewashed.

I won't mention how often I wash my jeans, because by the previous comments, I am one of "those people".
posted by meowzilla at 11:49 AM on November 23, 2010


+1 for wearing jeans until they get dirty or smell bad, which can be quite a while if you aren't sweating in them and you wear underwear.
posted by domnit at 11:57 AM on November 23, 2010


Whenever a pair is visibly stained. That's it. It's not a quality retention thing, I'm just bloody lazy.
posted by spamguy at 12:07 PM on November 23, 2010


I'd say to just wash them when they need it. I can't wear mine more than a small handful of times before they get stretched out or, um, smell. (I'm a girl; are these girl issues?) But don't be surprised if a bunch of people at work notice that you're wearing the same jeans every day. I personally don't notice things like that, but I'm friends/acquaintances with people who are SO all like, "omigod, he wears the same jeans EVERY DAY!"
posted by iguanapolitico at 12:08 PM on November 23, 2010


I tend to do a load of wash (clothing) per week, and always thrown in at least one pair of jeans. I wear a clean pair of jeans on Monday for work, and generally they get worn until the following Monday unless they get particularly sweaty, or stained. While they don't always smell "bad", I can smell the difference between a week old pair and a freshly washed pair. Also, I smoke (not tobacco) and my girlfriend smokes tobacco, so I don't like the idea of smelling like various kinds of smoke while at work.
posted by utsutsu at 12:09 PM on November 23, 2010


I don't have a schedule, but I end up washing them every week or two, but only because visible shit gets on them. Well, not actual shit. Actually, sometimes actual shit.
posted by cmoj at 12:11 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of those people. Other clothes get washed frequently, but pants seem to be happier without frequent washing. The 501's I bought in the spring got washed last weekend. They'd been visibly dirty for months, but it was a uniform layer of grime that looked almost intentional. Hanging them to air out and not wearing them twice in a row keeps them from getting stinky. Admittedly, they probably had a *bit* of odor, but only TSA agents will have their noses that close to your crotch.

Dress pants I wear to work every day get washed once a month or two...at least 10 wears. More for the wool ones. Again, air them out and they won't get stinky and spot clean if they get stained.
posted by pjaust at 12:12 PM on November 23, 2010


Pretty much every time I wear them. I never thought of myself as especially Ungerish but wearing any clothes without washing them makes me itch. Plus as someone said upthread, jeans get all out of shape after they've been worn.
posted by octothorpe at 12:17 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wash mine when they look shabby or I'm about to leave on a trip. The latter means I wash them more than I would like to, but I hate the idea of packing a pair of jeans in with all clean clothes. recently I've taken to wearing the unwashed jeans on the plane on a couple of trips. Still not sure how I feel about that.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:25 PM on November 23, 2010


For the people above who wash fairly clean jeans because they've stretched out, I've found that just throwing them in the dryer for 5 minutes works to eliminate sagginess.
posted by spinto at 12:39 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'll have to try that bit about putting them in the dryer to shape them up.

I have some great Mavi jeans that don't get stretchy and saggy. This is probably because they have a lot of polyester (maybe at least 40%?) They're comfortable and hold their shape really well.

Jeans with a bit of spandex also hold their shape better than pure cotton ones.
posted by massysett at 12:51 PM on November 23, 2010


I wear jeans every single day for work and I wash them every three or so wears unless something bad happens while I'm wearing them and then they get washed immediately. I am perplexed at the idea of wearing the same pair of (grimy!) jeans for months, what is the purpose of wearing dirty clothing?
posted by crankylex at 1:16 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Generally, they get 5-10 wears, based mostly on convenience.

If fold them neatly after wearing them, they're more likely to stay in rotation longer. If they spend more time between wearings in a heap on the floor or draped over a chair, I'm more likely to toss 'em in the wash.

If I'm on the low side of my average weight, I'm more likely to wash them to shrink them up. If I'm on the high side of my average weight, I'd prefer my jeans to stay comfortably stretched out.

Standard exception applies -- if they get dirty or bear any sort of odor (good or bad) they go into the laundry right away.
posted by desuetude at 1:30 PM on November 23, 2010


One more member of the 'meh' camp here. Unless my clothes smell bad or look bad, I don't see the point in wasting the water/energy/time. Haven't had any complaints yet!

(Oh, and I could fill a notebook with the list of things about me that people would be 'horrified if they knew'. Commenting on AskMe while at work, for instance.)
posted by palacewalls at 2:02 PM on November 23, 2010


I am perplexed at the idea of wearing the same pair of (grimy!) jeans for months, what is the purpose of wearing dirty clothing?

If they're dirty - yes, they should be washed. But if they look fine and smell fine, not washing them cuts down on laundry and also helps the jeans last longer. Repeated trips through the washer and dryer wear out clothes faster, and some articles really don't need to be washed all that often.
posted by wondermouse at 2:18 PM on November 23, 2010


Why would you wash your jeans any differently than other clothing items? They're jeans. They're tough. They can take repeated washings. And if/when they wear through, you can replace them. They will make more jeans!

(I wear mine once or twice between washings. Just like my non-jean pants.)
posted by Eideteker at 2:19 PM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


3 to 4 wears, here. But I tend on the sweaty side so more often in the summer, little less often in the dead of winter.

They lose color when washing for sure - I used to live in a place where the washer emptied into an industrial sink and the wash water was decidedly blue. Personally I don't find that to be a downside - I buy them darker and the color loss is a desirable part of the aging process in my opinion.

If you want the best of both the drip-dry preservative and the softer dryer treatment you can simply put them in the dryer for a few minutes after they have air dried. I don't do it for jeans as a rule but I've thrown a damp washcloth in with a load of dried shirts to do a de-wrinkle process on em. Same works with stiff jeans.
posted by phearlez at 2:22 PM on November 23, 2010


Every third wearing.
posted by tel3path at 3:03 PM on November 23, 2010


If they're dirty - yes, they should be washed. But if they look fine and smell fine, not washing them cuts down on laundry and also helps the jeans last longer.

I'm not saying that you should wash items of clothes that are not dirty. I am just amazed at the sheer number of people who apparently do not sweat while wearing jeans. My people-watching has just taken on a whole new dimension thanks to this thread.
posted by crankylex at 3:46 PM on November 23, 2010


Why would you wash your jeans any differently than other clothing items? They're jeans. They're tough. They can take repeated washings. And if/when they wear through, you can replace them. They will make more jeans!

Like leather jackets, jeans look better worn-in. Straight, uniform, clean jeans look odd. The vast number of pre-distressed jeans on the store racks is evidence. Jeans are not like shirts and slacks, which merely look haggard, worn out, and in need of replacement.
posted by meowzilla at 4:01 PM on November 23, 2010


Like leather jackets, jeans look better worn-in. Straight, uniform, clean jeans look odd. The vast number of pre-distressed jeans on the store racks is evidence. Jeans are not like shirts and slacks, which merely look haggard, worn out, and in need of replacement.

Wouldn't that mean you should wash them more, though? Repeated washing and drying wears down the fabric.

I tend to wash my jeans every 3-4 wearings, but I wash new jeans after every time so they wear in faster because I hate it when they're all new and stiff.
posted by vanitas at 4:17 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


We wash ours every time we wear them. I live in Florida, so sometimes it does get hot and sweaty. But we have so much laundry to do already, that I'm thinking of seeing if we could go longer between washes, thanks to this thread. Anything that helps me do less laundry? +1

That being said, if your jeans make the wash water blue, you aren't buying pre-washed, and I recommend doing that to keep them from shrinking when you DO wash them. Pre-washed jeans that don't shrink with every wash means jeans last a LONG time, even among people like me who wash them every wearing.

Like leather jackets, jeans look better worn-in.

Jeans get that worn-in look from washing, not just from wearing them. I'd argue that the less you wash them, the longer they keep that weird straight, uniform look you don't like.
posted by misha at 4:20 PM on November 23, 2010


I wear unwashed denim jeans. I only wear them to leave the house after work and on weekends (so maybe a few hours a day tops). Wash them only once every few months.
posted by pravit at 5:18 PM on November 23, 2010


I wrote a really long comment about how I bought a pair of "selvage" (high-end, expensive-ish) jeans, and how I haven't washed them in the 4 months that I've had them, and how they've formed to the shape of my body and I'm starting to see the first sings of some really nice fades, and how they've changed my life, and how I really like this heritage Americana men's clothing trend generally, etc. but that's not really answering the question. Suffice it to say: I like my jeans. They're comfortable, they look good, pretty girls smile at me, etc.

I love my selvage jeans. They're nice, dark, heavy-duty; they were a splurge but not crazy-expensive. I wear them every day, and they look super-good with everything, which means that in the morning when I'm still half-awake and useless I can just grab whatever out of my closet and know it will work.

To get those really sweet high-contrast fades the kids are all atwitter about, you can't wash them almost at all; I haven't washed mine yet in the four months I've had them. (I spot clean them when I spill something.) They look and feel great, and I do way less laundry now! They smell fine, too!

To answer your question, in the words of Metafilter's Own Jesse Thorn: Wash 'em when they stink. If people hassle you, start throwing around jargon like "selvage" and "whiskering" and "crotch blowout" and they'll leave you alone.
posted by joshuaconner at 6:38 PM on November 23, 2010


I am just amazed at the sheer number of people who apparently do not sweat while wearing jeans.

For my legs to sweat, it's either got to be very hot outside, or I have to be doing something seriously strenuous. In neither of those cases am I likely to be wearing jeans.
posted by desuetude at 7:00 PM on November 23, 2010


I'm bad at smelling, so I wash my jeans once they feel dirty. Not very scientific, but it works for me. Ends up being about once a month (and I wear my favorite pair just about every day).
posted by clorox at 7:49 PM on November 23, 2010


I think I'm going to go to at least a two week rotation, thanks guys! Motivation:

- I just bought two pairs of jeans and I hate clothes shopping. Anything I can do to make these last as long as they can is a major plus.

- If my coworkers care that I wear the same jeans day after day they've never said anything in 8 years. Some have been identifiable from knee holes and tea stains too :)

- I don't like how washed & dried jeans feel. Too stiff and a little coarse, I prefer looser fitting jeans. Although comments suggest they get too loose after awhile... I'll have to check that out.

- Just last year I realized I don't have to wash my t-shirts after every use (I always wear a plain white tee underneath). So I'm kind of re-evaluating my other laundry habits.

- I like to think I'm pretty conscientious about how I smell. Even at the gym -- where efforts are, admittedly, futile -- I'm always checking to make sure that it isn't me. So I don't think that will be a problem.

Two interesting things I've taken from this thread so far:

1) Shower with my laundry? Hmmm... interesting thought but I'm not sure it's for me :)

2) Never thought about packing dirty jeans in my suitcase. I'm one of those people who brings a laundry bag with him on trips so that I can segregate my dirty stuff right away. I might have to deal with this.
posted by sbutler at 8:32 PM on November 23, 2010


For my legs to sweat, it's either got to be very hot outside, or I have to be doing something seriously strenuous. In neither of those cases am I likely to be wearing jeans.

Legs were not the body parts I was thinking about that might sweat.
posted by crankylex at 8:02 AM on November 24, 2010


"I just bought two pairs of jeans and I hate clothes shopping. Anything I can do to make these last as long as they can is a major plus."

How long do your jeans last? Even with my frequent washing, I get several years out of a pair. Not decades, but still.

"I don't like how washed & dried jeans feel. Too stiff and a little coarse, I prefer looser fitting jeans."

It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I learned that some people don't use fabric softener. Are you one of these people? I use Bounce sheets that are free of dyes and perfumes (sensitive skin + allergies), and my jeans are always nice and soft.
posted by Eideteker at 10:42 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


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