How to Care for Denim

Denim is a staple in many of our wardrobes. This basic works so well because it’s simple which goes with pretty much anything. As it may get a lot of wear, you’ll need to know how to give it the best possible care. So let’s look at some of the ways you can optimize your normal care routine for your precious denim.

back view of woman holding her denim jacket
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Wash on Low to Medium Heat

Most types of denim are very durable. Since it’s constructed with a twill weave, it gives the fabric a strong foundation that makes it less susceptible to wear and tear, particularly if it’s of good quality. Therefore washing denim in the washing machine on medium heat should not be a problem.

You’ll want to avoid using the highest temperature since the main proportion of denim is made up of cotton. When it’s exposed to heat, it causes some level of shrinkage which won’t be ideal if you have a more fitted style. You’ll be able to tell when you pop on your jeans and it feels a lot tighter.

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But this is good to know as you might have a cotton blend denim, such as a cotton/polyester/elastane blend. This mixture makes your denim more flexible, but the elastic can start to loosen up after a while. By washing it on the hottest setting, you can get your denim to return to a somewhat similar size to when you first bought it.

However I would personally recommend washing it on low to medium heat. If you are washing lighter colored denim, then put it on medium heat to ensure that all visible stains are washed out. If you’re washing darker colors, then you can get away with choosing the cooler wash. This will also prevent your darker denim from losing its color and fading.

Inside Out

When you’re putting denim in the washing machine, turning it inside out will help protect the outside of the garment. The material is thick enough that doing this will create a sufficient boundary between the outside and inside of the denim.

Turning it inside out is also going to keep your dark denim pieces from fading more quickly. With less direct contact to the water and laundry detergent, it will retain the richness of the color for longer.

I usually do the same for my white denim jeans too, just in case there is anything in the same wash that might stain the color by accident. Though I’m careful not to mix colors into the white color wash, you can never be too careful, especially if garments have a different colored trim for instance.

And sticking to a lower temperature is going to be better for the environment as well, so keep that in mind if you want to be eco-friendly.

Dry Naturally

Once you’ve washed your denim, try to avoid using heat as much as possible. So this means not putting it in the tumble dryer, which will apply heat and cause damage and shrinkage. If you choose to put it in the dryer, then keep the temperature as low as possible and limit the amount of time it spends in there.

I would also limit the amount of time that you leave it on the heater. During the winter, it’s tempting to help denim dry quicker by putting it on the radiator. It will dry quicker, but it can damage the cotton in the long run. You’ll notice that feeling when the denim is dry and crisp after it has sat in the heat for a while. If possible try to avoid this.

two hanged blue stonewash and blue jeans
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Your best course of action is letting nature do its thing. Air drying outdoors is the most ideal method, as you give bacteria limited space to thrive in natural daylight and fresh air. When you limit these conditions, your denim won’t dry properly, and can be susceptible to smelling damp and unpleasant. If you don’t have outdoor space, then aim to keep it on a drying frame with good ventilation in the room.

Iron or Steam?

The answer is both! Denim is very hardy and ironing it can be the best way to take out those stubborn wrinkles. To minimize damage, keep the iron on a medium heat at most, so that the cotton doesn’t suffer.

Ironing it inside will protect the exterior for longer too, so you don’t leave any unwanted marks that ironing can cause.

As for steaming, this is a great way to deodorize and refresh thicker denim pieces. However for taking out creases, this works better for thinner cotton blended denim. In general, I find denim looks after itself well, but either drying it flat or giving it a light iron is most effective.

Minimal Care Requirements

Apart from washing and ironing your denim, the fabric is quite easy to maintain. You’re not likely to see it fray or come apart at the seams all too quickly, and it lasts very well with many wears.

The main consideration is whether it is a pure cotton denim piece, which is likely to be stronger and more durable, or whether it is a cotton and polyester blend, in which case it could be more cheaply made and prone to signs of wear. Whichever you prefer, take care to follow the guidance of care labels to make it a staple in your wardrobe for years to come.

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