There are no hard and fast rules when caring for your jeans. It depends on your lifestyle and how you want to wear them. Denim is a living organic fabric that evolves with age and wear.
Care labels are always a bit of a foreign language. They are there as guidelines to help the customer, hence the reason they are often on the cautious side. Most of our jeans come with the following instructions:
Washing tub with a number: Maximum temperature to set your machine cycle.
Triangle with a cross: Do not use bleach with your detergent.
Square with a circle and dot: Tumble dry on a low heat.
Iron with two dots: Iron on medium heat.
Circle with a P: Can be professionally dry-cleaned.
Inside your jeans, often alongside the care label, you will find the fabric composition. It helps to know what this is when washing your jeans, as 100% cotton denims are very resilient and stable, while denim that has a percentage of stretch is less so.
In the beginning your jeans will often shrink back to shape after washing, and can even feel smaller than they did before. However, after a lot of washing, the stretch fibres will start to loose their elasticity, and that is why your older jeans begin to feel baggier. (On labels, stretch fibres have a variety of shortenings: EA, EME, EL, PES, PU)
It is always best to limit the amount you wash your jeans if you expect them to last forever.
If you want your jeans to keep their colour, (particularly when dark and crisp), the colder the temperature of the wash and the less detergent you add, the less colour they will lose. So while wash instructions often say 40 degrees, a cold cycle is a good option.
Modern detergent is also pretty strong stuff and unless your jeans are very dirty washing with water alone, or a fraction of what your normally use, should do the trick.
Always wash dark jeans with like colours as even when using a cold cycle. Colour will bleed for the first few washes and tint anything lighter. It’s also a good idea to wash your jeans before wearing for the first time to reduce any colour transfer to anything you sit on, especially white sofas...
Drying machines are both heaven-sent and a real enemy for clothing, speeding up the ageing process and shrinking almost everything.
However, to get the best out of your jeans, shake them out after the wash, flattening any creases and twists and hang dry, away from direct sunlight, (it can cause colour fading). Even though they will feel very stiff at first wear, it will only take a short time for them to go back to their normal softness.
Irons and jeans are not automatically put together, but using one can solve a lot of the issues mentioned above in the washing process. A light steam all over will instantly soften the fabric if you have dried them naturally.
Don’t be afraid to alter your jeans, even cropped styles, as we all have different leg lengths and one size cannot fit all. If they were designed to be ankle length, shorten them until they hit just at the top of your ankle bone and for full length jeans, think about what shoes you will wear with them and do the alterations with them on.
A golden rule is always to make sure you’ve washed your jeans at least once before taking to them with scissors to allow for natural shrinkage.
A last tip is that a good seamstress should be able to re-attach the original hem to ensure you keep the same thread colour and any wash effects at the edge.
We are often asked if you should dry clean denim, would suggest only when you want to freeze a moment in time, or the ‘age’ of your jeans, be it shop bought, or love worn. It is the least invasive form of ‘washing’, even though it uses considerable chemicals.