How To Wash A Denim Jacket The Right Way, Because Not All Methods Are Equal

When it comes to laundry, denim is a touchy subject, especially in jacket form. But have no fear, there are a few things you can do to learn how to properly wash a denim jacket so you can avoid laundry mishaps and major headaches. As every denim jacket fan knows, the piece is crucial to the lifeline of any wardrobe and cannot be tainted by improper cleaning practices!

Trust me, I know this based on personal experience. I have quite a few denim jackets that are easily the most-worn and best-loved pieces in my closet. And while I am certainly no professional at doing my laundry (as evidenced by my bleach-stained T-shirts and the cashmere sweater that can now only fit a small dog), my love of denim has required me to thoroughly research the art of washing jean fabric. While anyone can follow the wash-only-with-like-colors rule for jeans, jackets need some extra TLC.

I've outlined 11 tips for washing jean jackets that you can use the next time your fave topper needs a good wash. From spot cleaning, to which washer setting to use, here are a few tips and tricks to ensure that your denim jacket will come out of the wash looking just as it did when you put it in.

1. Spot Clean

If you're simply dealing with a single stain, spot cleaning is be the best option, because a dollop of mustard or a bit of dirt isn't enough to waste a whole load of laundry on your denim jacket. According to Levi Strauss & Co.'s head designer, Jonathan Cheung, spot cleaning denim is as simple as dapping a soapy cloth on the fabric. Work from the inside out, if possible, and put down a clean cloth to work on so the rest of your jacket doesn't get wet. If stains are more stubborn, a trick I've used is to gently brush the stain with an old toothbrush soaked in soap or a dab of detergent.

2. Hand Wash

If it's more than just a small stain, hand washing your denim jacket is the next best thing to spot cleaning. With just a dollop of basic detergent, soak your jacket in cold water. Thomas Hall of denim brand Self Edge told Jack Threads that since "People that were originally wearing denim were working in the worst conditions possible and they were washing their jeans on stones using ice cold river water," this is the best thing you can do for your jeans. Wait an hour and rinse with more cold water before letting the jacket dry on its own.

3. If Necessary, Use A Washer

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

If you can't spot clean or hand wash your denim jacket, you can throw it in the washer. It's best to do this at home as opposed to getting your denim jacket dry-cleaned since the chemicals they use can take a toll on the fabric. Plus, there are ways to make your wash-at-home method very effective if you're doing a deep clean.

4. Wash It Alone

Laundry is tedious, you don't have to tell me. But when it comes to a precious piece like your denim jacket, taking the time to wash it alone, or with other denim pieces, really pays off. Since denim fabric is so sensitive, and most denim pieces have zippers and rivets, letting them circulate freely in the wash will allow them to be thoroughly cleaned, as Good Housekeeping recommends.

5. Wash With A Cold Cycle

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Cold water will ensure that the dye threads in your denim jacket won't bleed or leech out, thus maintaining the shade and tone without unnecessary wear and tear, as Refinery29 points out. So, whether you have a light wash, dark wash, or even white wash, the cold water will make sure your jacket comes out the same as you put it in.

6. And Use A Gentle, Short Cycle

Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Along with cold water, you should also use the shortest, gentlest cycle on your washer. I know this from personal experience, since I once made the mistake of putting my jacket through a 45-minute long cycle with two washes, two rinses, and 15 minute spin. It looked beat-up afterwards, and not in a good way. Don't make my mistake, and follow Catherine Jacobs, a jeans and denim expert's, advice to use a short, gentle cycle when washing jean fabric.

7. Use A Mild And/Or Natural Detergent

Seventh Generation Natural Liquid Laundry Detergent , $12, Amazon

Like I said before, dry cleaners can use rough chemicals to wash clothes. Unfortunately, those same chemicals may be lurking in your own detergent, too. Check the labels of your products and see if they've got large amounts of substances you can't pronounce. Ingredients like those can make your denim's dye fade faster and can loosen the fabric's grip. Opt for a mild and/or natural detergent instead.

8. And Just A Little Bit Of It

Don't go putting a whole cup of detergent in the wash with your denim jacket, because it only needs a tiny amount. Half a teaspoon will do the trick.

9. Wash It Inside Out

Another way to ensure the color won't fade too much when washing deni is to flip your jean jacket inside out. This trick will thoroughly clean the areas that probably need cleaning (those pits can get bad), without tampering with the dyes, or at least ensures they fade evenly as OUT Magazine states. You can also button the jacket completely to add reinforcement.

10. Lay Flat To Dry

Repeat after me: never, ever will I put my denim jacket in the dryer or hang it up to dry. First off, dryers will constrict the denim and make it harder for you to mold the shape back into the garment. Second off, hangers will cause weird indents near the shoulders of your jacket. Do you and your jacket a favor and lay it flat to dry on an old towel. If your jacket becomes stiff, though, denim pro Mary Pierson from Madewell recommends tumbling it on low heat for a few minutes to soften your jacket post wash and dry.

11. Use A Steam Iron To Reshape

You may notice that after fullly drying, the collar and the sleeves of your jacket look unstructured. Don't worry — that can easily be fixed with a quick steam iron. Use the iron in the places that need it to both shape and and flatten your jacket. You can also do this from the inside of the jacket to ensure no damage to the outside.

Finally, you and your jacket are reunited once again! Enjoy your clean topper, and be sure to treat it with care.

Images: Eli DeFaria/Unsplash, Melodi Erdogan/Bustle (2), Drugstore.com,