The age old questions for fashionistas and renegade cowboys alike always boil down to our favorite hues of indigo and light washed denim. More specifically, the best ways to wear, wash, and dry your jeans with minimal to no wear and tear. Many people in the denim business have very clear stances about how to wash and dry your jeans, but there is one question that seems to have no definitive answer: "Can you put your jeans in the dryer?"
Since I was born, my mother's take on washing our jeans has been to turn them inside out and hang them up to dry. We also washed them much more often than appears to be recommended by denim professionals and connoisseurs.
In college I found it was faster for me to keep them inside out but started putting them in the dryer. The jeans I bought were generally pretty stretchy, and I didn't see any visible wear and tear. However, after doing some research for this article, I realized the error of my ways.
I came across a video of Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh telling Fortune that you should not wash your jeans, like, ever. Famed American designer Tommy Hilfiger apparently agrees — he told TMZ last October that he, "never wash[es his] Levi's," according to the Daily Mail, and claimed that, "They'll fall apart. I love them broken in."
Having jeans lose their wash, quality, stretch, et cetera seems to be the main concern here. But, what about personal hygiene people? Delving deeper into the rules of denim care, I found a few hacks that were supposed to make me feel maybe a little bit better about the total upheaval of my regular jean care? I think? They included dry cleaning, sticking your jeans in the freezer, salt water, vinegar treatments, and dryer sheets in the pockets!
Some experts, however, do believe it's all right to put jeans in the dryer, with some caveats. According to Good Housekeeping "All fabrics and especially jeans benefit when you take them out of the dryer slightly damp. Simply tug and smooth them into shape and let them finish drying flat or on a hanger. If, even after tumbling on low heat and a delicate cycle, you see lots of lint on the dryer's filter, you may want to switch to line drying your jeans to help preserve the fabric."
That sounds like a green light, right? That said, those denim experts do have some compelling arguments. Yahoo News even went as far as to call the dryer "denim's kryptonite." Oof.
Yahoo News also interviewed the founder of denim repair service Denim Therapy, Francine Rabinovich, and she said that most of the requests are the result of damage from the dryer. “The heat of the machine damages the cotton and weakens the fabric,” she told the publication. “You should really be getting two or three years out of an average pair of jeans.”
At this point, it seemed like tumble drying on low was still just not going to cut it. Just when I thought I'd have to radically change my denim care or risk continually wrecking them. And then, I found her. Man Repeller's resident fashion mercenary and founder Leandra Medine says that this argument is moot: "Other aficionados-in-the-making say washing them cold and allowing them to air dry elongates their lifespans while I, I have jeans that I have been wearing for years — some that have been washed at least 100 times and others that haven’t been washed once, ever."
Perhaps whether or not you wash and dry manually, by-hand, or not at all depends on personal preference —much like choosing a low-rise acid washed pair over a high-rise dark wash. Perhaps your jeans are meant to serve you more than you are meant to serve them. It's certainly a more comforting notion for busy women like me. Although, after all of this research, I probably won't be washing and drying my jeans as often now. Smells like freedom? Let's hope so.
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