One quick google search will bring up lots of information both supporting and denying that a great alternative for washing your jeans in the traditional fashion (in the washing machine) is to stick them in the freezer. I did not google this before trying. Sure, I’ve heard of it, so it’s probably totally legit, I thought. But turns out, maybe not.
I love the look and feel of a great pair of vintage Levis. That’s why I buy them… they’re already perfectly worn in all the right spots by someone else – but they can be pretty pricey these days online and are few and far between at the Goodwills and thrift shops – which leads me to have to wear my own new denim a little more often to try to get that great lived in vintage look and that takes quite some time. We also at our house like to find small ways to reduce our water usage, specifically by wearing things maybe a few more times if we can before we throw them in the wash. So after our last camping trip, and a good week of wearing one of my less than broken in new-ish pair of levis, they were starting to finally feel and look really good. And while I wouldn’t say they smelled bad or were extremely dirty, I felt they could be freshened up a bit but I wanted to keep this lived in feeling and process going. I had heard about people wearing jeans for a full year !!! or more without machine washing them, but instead putting them into the freezer to clean them. So I blindly packed them in a plastic bag and threw them in the freezer next to the sourdough bread and tuna steaks. And then I honestly forgot about them, until this past Friday when I couldn’t find them anywhere. I happened to need some ice, and ah-ha! There they were. It was 82 degrees that day, and putting those babys on in a non air conditioned house was heavenly! But now they not only still smelled a little dirty as my body heat warmed them up, they also smelled a little like freezer burn. Not cute. So I finally decided to actually do some research into why anyone would put their jeans in the freezer to clean them? Does it even really work? I certainly was not sold on this method. Here’s what I learned:
The freezer will not kill the odor causing bacteria in your dirty jeans. It makes total sense when you think about it, scientifically, right? In fact, often scientists freeze bacteria to preserve it. And as you wear a pair of freshly frozen jeans, your body temp will eventually warm those bacteria up and reactivate them. So yeah, the notion that your jeans will come out of the freezer smelling better and being cleaner is pretty much a load of BS.
Washing your jeans will not break the denim down any faster than never washing them. Washing your denim properly (however frequently you chose to) isn’t going to break the denim down any slower or faster than all the dirt and oils from your body will. The choice of frequency is obviously yours, but here are a few things to do to prolong the life of your denim:
DO use the least amount of detergent possible. More detergent doesn’t mean more clean. Too much detergent can create a build up over time and actually be a disservice to the life of your denim. Hand washing is also a great option. Let them soak in the tub or the sink with a little bit of detergent for 15 minutes or so and then rinse out, skipping the machine all together.
DO turn your denim inside out before you wash them. Doing this exposes the part of your jeans that is in constant contact with your skin, aka the dirtiest part of your jeans – and it also helps to save any wear to the color that might be happening while rubbing around the inside of washing machine.
DON’T dry them on high heat in the dryer. Line drying is most likely the best bet when it comes to preserving your denim, but sometimes after wearing certain pairs of mine a bunch of times in a row, they tend to stretch out more than I’d like. I then choose a medium to low setting in the dryer to shrink them back up a bit.
I’m sure there are other tips and trick out there – and it all probably comes down to personal preference and situation, but at the end of the day it makes most sense for me to do what I’ve always done and continue washing my jeans infrequently and let them line dry if possible. Though I would definitely consider throwing them back in the freezer to put on, on a hot day.