How to hand wash jeans (and other denim garments)

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If you need to wash your jeans, but you don’t want to change the way they look, wash them by hand.

Why? Because, compared to machine washing, washing denim garments by hand removes less indigo from the fabric.

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Hand washing is also the most gentle way you can wash your jeans because there is less agitation. That means less risk of unwanted creases throughout the garment.

If you’re breaking in a pair of raw denim jeans, gently washing by hand also helps to keep the whiskers and honeycombs in place after the jeans are washed.


What you need
  • Jeans
  • A container (sink, bucket, bathtub or similar)
  • Water
  • Liquid detergent
  • White vintage [optional]
  • A place to try the jeans
5-step quick guide
  1. Turn your jeans inside out
  2. Add lukewarm water to your container
  3. Add liquid detergent and the optional white vinegar
  4. Gently agitate the jeans to remove dirt and let them soak for at least 60 minutes
  5. Hang dry the jeans

Each step is explained in more detail below.


Step-by-step guide to wash your jeans by hand

Step #1: Prep

Empty the pockets. Button up the jeans. Unfold cuffs. And turn your jeans inside out (this last bit is super important!).

Step #2: Add water

Fill your sink, bucket or bathtub with plenty of lukewarm water. If you use your sink, make sure to clean it properly before your add the water.

Step #3: Add detergent (and vinegar)

Add a few drops of liquid detergent. You get the best result with a detergent made for delicates (such as wool and silk) or for black fabrics.

DO NOT use detergent with bleach!

You can also add ½ cup (1 dl) of white vinegar (the clear kind), which will help prevent excessive indigo-loss. Don’t worry, the smell will go away.

Blend the mix with the water.

INFO: Vinegar prevents colours from fading. Denim fades because the colour is unstable. When washed, pigmented mineral compounds are released, which means the colour ‘bleeds.’ Vinegar absorbs and neutralises these minerals. It also works as a biodegradable fabric softener. And it kills bacteria.

Step #4: Wash the jeans

Put your jeans into the water. Agitate the jeans gently for a few minutes and remove any spots without excessive rubbing.

Let the jeans soak for 60 minutes (at least).

Tip: You can use a couple of glasses or mugs to keep the jeans submerged.

Once the jeans have soak for at least 60 minutes, drain the water and rinse the jeans thoroughly.

Step #5: Dry the jeans

At this point, the jeans are soaking wet and you have two approaches to dry them:

1) You can either let the jeans drip dry in your shower or outside (if it’s not raining, obviously). Alternatively, you can flat dry the jeans on a drying rack.

2) Or, before you hang your jeans to dry, you can remove some of the water in your washing machine with a ‘spin only’ programme of maximum 900 RPM.

WARNING! DO NOT turn your jeans right-side before you put them in your washing machine. Doing so may lead to vertical faded streaks as a result of the spinning. You don’t want that!

Also, be aware that the spin cycle might cause a slight loss of indigo and create overall creasing, which results in a ‘onewash’ look.

If you want the denim to stay as dark and ‘raw’ as possible and don’t want to risk flattening the whiskers and honeycombs, AVOID this optional step.

We do not recommend tumble drying jeans. Tumble drying shrinks the denim and likely dulls the colour. Only tumble dry if you are prepared to accept this.


And that’s how you hand wash your jeans.

You can also use this approach to shrink down unsanforized ‘shrink-to-fit’ jeans. Just skip the detergent in step 3.

Brands and retailers! You’ve got questions, and we can help you learn the ins and outs of the denim scene and its loyal customers. Contact us here.

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