Levi’s Teaches Us the Proper Way to Wash Jeans (Or Not)

how to wash jeans

Is there a better article of clothing than a plain ol’ pair of jeans? They’re durable, they’re good-looking, and they get along with most anything in your wardrobe. You can even throw on a pair of jeans with a blazer and rock the “cool professor” look. As it turns out, jeans have yet another advantage: You don’t really need to wash them.

Levi Strauss & Co. — the legendary jeanmaker whose name is synonymous with jeans — is making a big push to reduce the amount of water wasted on jeans. The big solution is something along the lines of “don’t wash them.” If you can’t handle this concept, you’ll want to soak up Levi’s earth-friendly tips on how to wash jeans. We’d also like to introduce you to Desert Denim Wash, a cool new waterless jean-cleaning product from our friends at Juniper Ridge.


Though the color of our planet may indicate otherwise, water is a relatively scarce commodity — fresh water, at least. For much of the U.S., this is one of the driest summers on record. You’ve likely seen stunning images of disappearing water in California or heard about emergency conservation restrictions. That’s just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg; no disrespect to Californians, but their drought doesn’t get much sympathy from the estimated 750 million people worldwide without access to clean water.


Will keeping your jeans out of the wash quench the world’s thirst? It just might. According to Levi Strauss & Co., the average American washes their jeans after only two wears. At that rate, the average pair of jeans will be washed by 3800 liters of water during its lifetime — the equivalent of three days’ total water use in the average U.S. household. The folks at Levi’s say that washing jeans after ten wears instead of after two wears can reduce the water, energy, and climate impact of jean-washing by 77%.


Instead of tossing your jeans in the wash every time there’s a stain, consider spot-cleaning the stain. “The best advice is to get the stain out quick before it soaks in,” says Levi’s spokesperson Marisa Giller. “We recommend dabbing the spot with a damp cloth that’s been dipped in a little soapy water. Work from the inside out if possible, and put a clean cloth under the stain while you dab the stain away.”


You can probably imagine circumstances in which spot-cleaning simply won’t cut it. In these instances, soak your jeans in water with a small amount of soap and agitate as necessary. If your jeans are profoundly disgusting, then you can put them in the washer. If you do, be sure to use cold water, which will still get your jeans clean while giving your water heater a break.

Related: Levi Strauss & Co. Gets Personal with Its Unzipped Blog

3. SKIP THE DRYERhang dry

Your clothes dryer is one of the most power-hungry appliances in your home. Whenever possible, you should hang your garments on a clothes line rather than put them in the dryer. Sunlight and wind will freshen your jeans in a hurry. Since denim doesn’t wrinkle as easily as other fabrics, you probably won’t have any trouble with stiffness or wrinkles after you put on your jeans. Also, tumble drying your jeans can make them wear out faster. For more suggestions on how to wash and dry jeans responsibly, check out these tips from Levi’s Head Designer Jonathan Cheung.

4. USE DESERT DENIM WASHDesertDenimWash Burned

If you simply can’t abide the notion of not washing your jeans, then we have a pretty cool product for you. Desert Denim Wash comes from Juniper Ridge, an outstanding wilderness fragrance company that distills scents from the wild plants of the American West. Just a few sprays of the Desert Denim Wash will freshen up your jeans by dissolving odor-causing bacteria. It may not eliminate grime, but it will imbue your jeans with notes of desert cedar, yucca bloom, Mojave sunflower, and other wild scents. No water required!

You’ve likely heard whispers about bacteria accumulating on your jeans after a few months. Yes, there will be some bacteria, but not as much as you think. “There are studies out there that say the amount of bacteria buildup after just 11 days of wearing your jeans is about the same as a year’s worth of wear,” says Marisa Giller. “It plateaus pretty quickly.” To sum up, consult your best judgment when deciding when to wash your jeans — then wait another month.

Levi Strauss & CO. has been involved in a number of sustainability initiatives, and has by their estimate saved more than 1 billion liters of water in the past four years alone. Juniper Ridge is also doing its part to help the environment — in addition to sustainably harvesting wild plants for their fragrances, they give back 10% of their profits to assorted wilderness conservation groups.