The perfect pair of jeans can be a big investment—some high-end labels clock in at upwards of $200—yet when it comes to tips about taking care of these precious commodities, there seems to be a great deal of mystery. Use the machine, don’t use the machine, wash by hand, don’t ever wash—it can get confusing.
In the interest of effectively prolonging the life of your jeans no matter how much they cost—and perfectly breaking them in—we’ve compiled 12 truly useful tips including how to wash them, when you should be washing them, and how to fold like ‘em like a pro. Consider this your ultimate source for keeping that pair of jeans looking killer for years to come!
1. Serious denim aficionados know that raw denim (super-stiff jeans with no washes, fading, etc) can take up to six months to break in and shouldn’t be washed until then.Why? Jeans really do conform to our bodies, and when you wash them, most of the shape is lost.
2. Most jeans today, however, are treated (pre-washed to achieve a faded look) and don’t need to be broken in. These you can wash more often, but only when they’re stained, or when they start to sag.
3. What about odors, you ask? We’re getting to that! To zap the smell that comes with wear, hang your jeans in the bathroom before a shower (the damp steam will keep them fresh between washes), or freeze them in a plastic bag for two days (yup, this one really works.)
4. To prevent fading, wash jeans inside out in cold water on the delicate cycle, or by hand with Woolite. If you actually want denim to fade quickly, wash once in hot water.
5. Add a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle while doing laundry to maintain the wash of your favorite pair of dark jeans.
6. Try not to machine dry denim pieces. If you have to, turn down the temperature to the lowest possible heat setting, and remove before they’re completely dry. Lay flat or hang upside down to dry.
7. How to fold jeans like a pro: Lay a pair on a flat surface, fold in half from left to right. Grab the stacked jean legs and fold them in half so the hem of the jeans lines up with the waistband. Fold the jeans in half one more time. Voila!
9. Denim fibers needs to breathe, so be sure to not pack folded pairs too tightly together on a shelf, or hang denim jackets or vests in a crowded closet.
10. Wash new jeans twice before taking them to the tailor. Why? Because jeans will always shrink in length when washed.
11. If you don’t have time to try on jeans in the store, try the Neck Method: You can determine your size by placing the waistline of the jeans around the diameter of your neck. If the waistline of the pant comfortably meets at back of your neck, then the jeans will fit.
12. Jeans a bit too tight? Let them air dry and tug the damp waistband by hand. For extra stretching, blast with a hairdryer or go over the waistband with a super-hot, steam-filled iron while they’re still damp.