For many diehard denim aficionados the simple answer to the question of how to wash your jeans is, you don’t. For true denim heads, the idea of washing a perfect pair of raw Japanese selvedge jeans is akin to blasphemy. For the rest of us, that sounds kind of gross.
However, in the case of super expensive, raw denim or selvedge jeans, the stiffness and creases are inherent to the quality and the look of raw denim; natural whiskering and breaking-in occurs in the actual wearing of selvedge jeans, not so much in the washing process. Break in your new selvedge jeans by wearing them for a good six months, then pack them off to the dry cleaner, if at all. A biannual dry cleaning is plenty for raw denim, you can always freshen them up with a little Febreze or hang them outside to get a little fresh air in between cleanings. Ditto on the dry cleaning if you’re the kind of guy that likes to wear jeans with a lot of embellishing, factory whiskers, stone washing or strategic holes. Machine washing these types of jeans will also remove or exacerbate the embellishments, maybe not such a bad idea, but, if you like that sort of thing, you probably want to keep the details you paid extra for.
Caring for your ‘every day’ denim, your simple, good old-fashioned 501’s for example, is not quite as expensive as dry cleaning. For many denim styles, the fading and softness that accompanies machine-washing is inherent to the breaking in process. The biggest concern here is, not shrinking your jeans too much, which is easily avoided.
The best way to machine wash your denim is to start by turning them inside out. Don’t overload the machine, and wash with similar, heavy duty, dark color clothes, or just a few other pairs of jeans. Wash them in cold water using half as much detergent as you’d normally use on a similar size load of laundry. Immediately remove them from the machine when the cycle is over, don’t let them sit around in a wrinkle inducing wet heap. Turn them right side out, smoothe out the wrinkles, and line dry for a day or two, preferably outdoors. NEVER dry them in the dryer, not even on low. If you don’t have access to outdoor line drying, hang them off your shower curtain for a day or two with the window open. When they’re dry, if there are persistent wrinkles, run a cool iron over them, yes, you can iron your jeans, just keep the iron on a low to medium setting, unless you want to iron in a crease, in which case you’ll need to use a higher setting.