How to wash jeans without fading or stretching

Our expert-approved method to wash jeans the right way

Multiple pairs of jeans folded in pile
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While denim is a pretty hard-wearing material, learning how to wash jeans properly will help you get the most out of your clothes. We asked the experts the best ways to look after these wardrobe essentials without damaging them.

You may even be wondering if you have to wash jeans at all, since some advice says they don't need to be laundered. The answer is yes, and doing so will improve their lifespan and keep them in good condition. 

Our guide covers the easy methods recommended by laundry experts, and everything you need to know about caring for denim. While it may seem as simple as throwing your clothes in the washing machine, learning how to do laundry the right way will help avoid fading and tears in your favorite garments. 

How to wash jeans, according to the pros

Once you have all your laundry room essentials, such as a mild laundry detergent and stain removers (we like this Miss Mouth's stain treater available on Amazon), it's time to wash your jeans. 

Denim doesn't need to be washed as often as other fabrics but it's important to keep odors at bay, kill off bacteria, and treat stains. See how to wash light and dark jeans without stretching out the denim or fading the color. 

Jeans in soapy water in close-focus

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1: read the care label

Every pair of jeans is slightly different and will have different materials making up the fabric. Modern jeans can be made with a mix of cotton, polyester, and other materials. It's important to check the care label on the inside and read the laundry symbols to know how to wash your specific pair. 

James Joun, laundry expert and co-founder of Rinse, says, “You should always check the care label before doing the laundry, even for a pair of jeans which may seem more straightforward. Different materials will call for different washing methods and some are hand-wash only."

James Joun
James Joun

James Joun is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Rinse. He is a second-generation dry cleaner and has over 20 years of industry experience having first worked at his parents' store. 

Step 2: turn the jeans inside out

Turn your jeans inside out so the seams are on the outside. This will help protect the fibers from too much friction. If the fibers get damaged, your jeans may lose their shape and become stretched out. 

Washing them inside out will also help retain the color and prevents fading. Remember to wash your jeans with similarly colored clothes to prevent any color bleeding during the cycle, especially in the first few washes.

Step 3: wash on a gentle cycle

Turns out the delicate cycle isn't just for undergarments. "Wash your jeans on a delicate cycle to protect the weave of the fibers. High-powered washing machines can be pretty harsh so it's best to go for a gentle option," says Joun.

We recommend using cold water to prevent color fading and a mild laundry detergent such as Tide Free & Gentle detergent, available on Amazon. You can skip the fabric softener as this can actually harm the fibers of the denim over time (it's a pretty common laundry mistake).

Step 4: air dry

While you may be able to toss your jeans in the dryer on a gentle cycle if your care label allows it, we'd recommend letting them air dry to stay on the safe side. 

"Air drying is always best because it ensures your clothes won't shrink or get warped. Plus, it cuts back on energy costs," says Angela Rubin, a cleaning expert from Hellamaid.

Use a drying rack, like this Amazon Basics rack with over 60k reviews to dry your clothes in a small space. If you have more room for drying space you can install this retractable clothesline from Amazon.

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services. 

Jeans turned inside out drying on clothesline

(Image credit: Getty Images)


How often should I wash jeans?

Contrary to common laundry myths, you jeans need regular washing to restore their shape and get rid of stains and odors. We'd recommend washing every two to three wears but if you'd like to extend their wear time, you can wait up to five wears. 

It's also important to wash a new pair of jeans to remove excess starch from the fabric. Starch causes the fibers to become more brittle which means they will rip and your jeans won't last as long. 

Bear in mind some brands like Levi's pre-shrink their jeans to avoid shrinkage on the first wash.

Can I freeze jeans?

Some denim enthusiasts recommend freezing jeans instead of washing them, but this does not actually do anything to clean the fabric itself. "The old temperature may kill some bacteria but it does nothing to get rid of odors, dirt, and stains," says Rubin. 

Skip the freezer and wash your jeans in the washing machine instead.

We get it, jeans are a staple in your closet and deserve the royal treatment when it comes to laundry time. Investing in a great pair means you want to keep them looking fresh and tidy for as long as possible. 

Some simple laundry hacks like turning your clothes inside out before washing and using cold water can help save your load from turning into a mess. 

Emily Lambe
Deputy Editor

Hey! I’m Emily and I’m the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. I’m here to bring you the latest decor trends, inspirational ideas, informative how tos, the latest celeb homes style and the best budget-friendly buys. I live in a rented apartment, making the most of small spaces and using accent pieces to make things pop. When I’m not writing, I’m usually doing yoga, eating chocolate or working on my skincare routine.