How To Save Your Old Jeans

by Hayli Goode
pile of folded jeans
Nomad Outing/Moment/Getty Images

Shopping for jeans can be an exhausting experience. That is why it's important we save our jeans until their absolute, very last breath — no matter how many rips, tears, mud stains, or awkward crotch holes they've accumulated. And because salvaging jeans isn't just for the crafty or fashion-oriented, I've created a list of ways to save your old jeans. Because finding a pair that fits you well is like finding your soulmate. You shouldn't have to let that go because there's a small hole in them... the pants, I mean.

Not too long ago, I realized I needed to go jean shopping. All the denim pants I owned were either too short, too small or had awkward holes and rips I was tired of staring at every time I slipped my legs into the material. But I put off actually going shopping for another two weeks because I'm cheap and because I knew it had the potential of ruining my day, and possibly next week, depending on how finding the correct pants went.

Long story short: My jean shopping experience was blessed by the denim gods. At the second store I visited, I found jeans that fit me well and that didn't make me self-conscious, no matter how far down I squatted. And because it was such a rare, good, jean shopping experience, I will do everything I can to hold onto my current stock of jeans. Because my next one surely won't go as well. Here are 15 ways to extend the life of your favorite denim.

1. Sewing

You don't have to be an expert to learn how to pick up a needle and some tough thread. If your jeans have a small hole in them, simply pick up a needle and thread and sew it right up.

A beginners guide to quick, easy and effective sewing I taught myself in high school: First, thread the needle by placing the end of the thread through the needle, then tying a knot. After that is secured, start at the edge of the tear and go over and under through the jeans at a very close proximity to the last sew.

This is especially easier if the hole is near a seam, but it's not necessary.

2. Patchwork

Patchwork denim is a classic style. The trend has been around since before Woodstock, and it's still here to stay. Simply take fabric from an old T-shirt, blouse, or plaid button-up and lay it on the inside of the denim. For best results, use a sewing machine to sew the patch work into the denim. But if you don't know how to use a sewing machine, or don't have access to a machine, use a grave amount of patience to hand-stitch the patch work, edge by edge, into the denim.

3. Stain Stick

Shout Advanced Ultra Gel Laundry Stain Remover Brush, $3, Amazon

As the queen of ruining nice things, I will forever swear by this tool. Whether I drip a tiny spot of jam on my jeans or spill an entire cup of coffee on myself — a true instance that happened just last week — this stain remover gets everything out. Don't throw out any pair of stained jeans without first trying this.

4. Bleach

If your jeans are already a little stained, play into it by splattering them all over with bleach to create an acid wash effect.The technique is similar to tie dye: Bunch all up the areas of your jeans together with rubber bands and soak just that area in bleach. Then wash with lukewarm water.

5. Rips

Thank goodness distressed jeans are back, right? If your jeans rip ever so slightly, simply make the rip a little bigger. The key of the ripped jeans: always, always, always cut from side to side, never up and down. Jeans never naturally rip long-ways.

And if the rip is v high up on your legs and you need to wear this to a social occasion, use the side of the scissors to pull a few threads loose. The rip will still be there, but will be slightly covered by the loose threads.

6. Cuffing

If your pants are too long, awkwardly too short, or simply don't fit too well around your ankles but fit perfectly everywhere else, don't get rid of them. Instead of ruining the bottom of your pants by stepping on them or having them catch on outside objects, cuff them so they look like they end just above the ankles. They'll still go with any type of shoe.

7. Vinegar

Market Pantry Distilled White Vinegar, $2, Target

To prevent colored or dark jeans from bleeding out, start hand washing them in vinegar. Since this will likely cause your jeans to produce a strange odor, after you hand wash them in vinegar, throw them in the washing machine with detergent and fabric softener, if only for the extra lavender-smelling qualities.

8. Air Drying


According to Levi Strauss' CEO Chip Bergh, it has been scientifically proven that drying jeans in the dryer shortens their lifespan and can lead to unexpected damages. So, especially if your denim is starting to look a little worn, just hang them out to dry instead.

9. Infrequent Washing


Tommy Hilfiger has admitted he "never washes [his] Levi's."And last summer, Bergh went on Good Morning America stating he has jeans that have not touched a washing machine for a year. Mary Bruno, the head of design for J. Brand Jeans, told Who What Wear the brightening ingredients in detergents can alter the jean's color. If you have a fear of fading, stick to washing every five wears at most.

10. Key Rings For The Zipper

If the zipper gets stuck on your jeans, don't give up on them yet! Instead, loops a key ring into the zipper and use that to zip your pants up and down. Once they're up, put the button inside the key ring so the giant ring is hidden and not awkwardly flopping in front of you with each step. Honestly, since this is much easier than a typical stubborn zipper, I've been known to loop a key ring on just because.

11. Sandpaper

Rubbing sandpaper on jeans creates a rough texture, and can perfectly rip jeans with the threads still hanging on. This is perfect to make ripped jeans look intentional, or as a method to disguise a stubborn stain. Like creating rips in jeans, however, make sure to sand from left to right instead of up and down.

12. Zippers At The Ankles

Full disclosure: This tip does require technical sewing skill. If you need a slightly wider ankle, or something rips at the ankle of your jeans, sewing a zipper into the seam will create an edgy update to your typical pair of denim jeans. You must know how to use a sewing machine, however, and simply sew the zipper onto an extra piece of fabric, then sew that fabric onto your jeans. The extra piece of fabric is key because your jeans already ripped, or will be cut, where the zipper should go. And that rip, made up of loose threads, is unreliable.

If you're at least familiar with a sewing machine, don't worry about sewing the zipper on the inside of the jean's seam. Instead, intentionally pick a print or fabric to complement your jeans. IMO, leather is always a good idea.

13. Safety Pins For The Zipper

Singer Safety Pins, $4, Target

I never travel without a safety pin. Safety pins are like the Duct tape of fashion — they can fix anything.

What they surely can survive, and fix, is human strength. If a button breaks off on your jeans, fasten them using a safety pin. Just be careful sitting down or standing up. They're not the most trustworthy of tools. Additionally, if your jeans are too loose on the waist a belt is no where near, these can perfectly take in your jeans for an afternoon event. Both solutions, however, are merely temporary. After a quick fix, sew a button back on and/or buy a belt.

14. Dye

If the color of your jeans is all over the rainbow, fix it by simply dyeing the jeans all one color. According to Primer Magazine, this process is "so simple" and doesn't require a crafty persuasion. Simply buy a high quality fabric dye. Fill a bucket, large enough to hold water and completely drown your jeans, with very hot water. Pour half the bottle of dye into the water and stir until the dye is spread evenly. Soak the jeans for an hour, stirring intermittently. For the best results, use something heavy to ensure the jeans don't float.

15. Worst Case Scenario: Blanket

Denim Linen Quilt, $329, Etsy

In case your jeans are beyond saving, but you still have a difficult time getting rid of them, simply use the fabric to make into a square blanket! Then you never have to say goodbye to your favorite pair of jeans.

Images: Getty Images; Courtesy Brands