Throwing our clothes in the wash after we wear them is usually pretty habitual. But there is at least one item of clothing we shouldn't toss in the laundry right away, according to experts — our jeans.
While Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh has previously suggested going as far as never washing your denim, some of us may not be as into that, especially after the last couple of years.
However, there is a balance you can strike between the two extremes. We spoke to three experts on how you should be treating your denim. Read on below to get the skinny on all things jeans.
How often should you wash your jeans?
Jeans should really be washed "as little as possible, if at all," denim atelier Benjamin Talley Smith tells Shop TODAY via email.
Patric Richardson, laundry expert and host of "The Laundry Guy" on Discovery+, tells us, "The perfect number is after nine or 10 wearings, like to me, that is the ideal." At that point, they likely have acquired a few stains and "they're probably a little sweaty by that point, so you need to wash 'em," Richardson says.
When it comes time to wash them, Richardson recommends using a warm setting on a short cycle. "Warm will activate your detergent, it will make everything work really well, but that short cycle just keeps them from tumbling too much, because the abrasiveness is the worst thing," Richardson says.
Though keeping the number of washes at a minimum is mainly for sustainable reasons, to no surprise, the more you wash your jeans, the faster they'll fade — and the weaker the jean becomes, Smith says. Jeans with a darker wash will lose the most color since the indigo is "supersaturated," while jeans with a lighter wash have less of a chance of fading.
Smith recommends washing your jeans in cold water and hanging them outside to dry, or letting them tumble dry on a low-temperature setting.
Is it gross to not wash your jeans?
While not washing your jeans too often can benefit their longevity, for sanitary reasons, you may want to reconsider.
"Do you need to wash your jeans after every causal wear, likely not," Director of Global Health at SUNY Upstate Medical University Dr. Stephen Thomas, tells Shop TODAY via email. "I think three wears is a good threshold to trigger a wash."
However, exercising good hygiene can never steer you wrong. If your clothes are visibly dirty or putting off a "foul odor," wash them. "If clothes are not visibly dirty, gauge how often you wash them based on how often you wear them," Thomas says.
If the idea of waiting that long to wash them doesn't sit right with you, there are a few hacks you can try to keep them clean — just don't put them in the freezer; Smith says this is a myth and your jeans will only end up smelling like frozen food.
Smith and Richardson both recommend spot-treating your jeans with soap and water as needed but shockingly, you can also spritz them with something you might have in your liquor cabinet.
"When you get home spray (your jeans) with vodka," Richardson says. "Vodka, first of all, will remove the odor from anything, but more importantly, vodka is an anti-bacterial."
While it may seem unconventional, it's actually a practice that Broadway dressers resort to in order to keep stage costumes fresh in-between shows.
Expert-recommended jeans that will stand multiple washes
With the above in mind, you might be looking at the faded pairs of jeans you've had in your closet forever and wanting to replace them. Smith recommends looking for "well-made" jeans that "have a slightly heavier weight, as they will hold up longer and be more durable," Smith says.
Below, we rounded a few picks from brands that Smith recommends shopping from when it comes to jeans.
Smith prefers to find a good pair of Levi's at a vintage store or flea market, but says they're a good staple. These straight-leg jeans boast a high waist and come in a range of dark and light washes.
Smith recommends denim from this Los Angeles-based brand, and says they have size offerings that "fit most body types." These high-waisted jeans have a "lived-in vibe" and a loose fit.
Another brand Smith recommends is Agolde, "a mid-priced 90's inspired brand with lots of rigid jeans." These oversized jeans are a '90s-inspired style made from non-stretch cotton, according to the brand.
A newer luxury denim brand on the market Smith recommends is Slverlke. According to their website, the Los Angeles-based brand says they use a "premium vintage" indigo denim that allows them to deliver "rich authentic looking washes."
More bestselling jeans to shop
American Eagle claimed to be "home of the world's best jeans," so Shop TODAY editors put one of the retailer's bestselling pairs to the test — and they passed with flying colors. If there's one thing all seven of them agreed on the most, it's that they are extremely comfortable (and stretchy ... and flattering ... )
With over 3,000 five-star ratings, it seems shoppers are impressed by these classic jeans from Old Navy. They hit on the straight-leg trend without looking too baggy or feeling too tight, according to reviewers.
With over 13,000 verified five-star ratings from Amazon reviewers, these slimming jeans seem to be a favorite among shoppers. They're made from a blend of cotton, polyester and spandex, so they have a less rigid feel than your standard pair of jeans, but still have an authentic look to them.
These button-fly jeans don't have a lot of stretch, but that's what gives them a vintage feel. According to the brand, they fit snug at first but then hug you in all the right places the more often that you wear them.
These jeans have been making the rounds on TikTok, and for good reason, according to reviewers. They have over 1,000 five-star ratings and come in a range of washes, sizes and lengths.