A close up of light gray jeans.

How to wash and dry jeans

Whether you wear them while doing yardwork or a fun night out with friends, the right pair of jeans is a must-have for your wardrobe. While denim is known for being a durable fabric, it’s important to care for it properly so it lasts long and looks great. This guide can help you learn the basics about how to wash blue jeans, as well as black jeans, white jeans and what to do when you purchase a new pair.

Are you supposed to wash jeans?

Denim can and should be washed when needed in a washing machine. If your jeans are not heavily soiled, they can usually be worn more than once between washings to help maintain their color and reduce normal wear and tear. 

But, if you need to clean your jeans more frequently, washing them in cold water, closing the zippers and turning them inside out can help prevent fading and protect the fabric.

A person folding laundry with a Whirlpool® washer and dryer nearby. A person folding laundry with a Whirlpool® washer and dryer nearby.

How to wash jeans in three basic steps

Once considered basic, durable work attire, jeans now come in a huge range of styles and colors. While you should always check your care instructions before washing or drying jeans, there are a few simple steps that apply to all types of denim.

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Step 1. Use a delicate or gentle cycle

Denim may seem like a tough fabric, but that doesn’t mean you should choose a heavy duty wash cycle. Instead, opt for a delicate or gentle cycle, and use cold water to avoid shrinking or fading. Opt for a mild detergent, especially one made specifically for dark clothes if your jeans are blue or black. To help keep your clothing clean and fresh, check out Swash® Laundry Detergent from Whirlpool Corporation for your family’s needs.1

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Step 2. Wash jeans inside out and by themselves

Turn your jeans inside out when washing them to help protect the fibers on the outside of the jeans from friction and direct exposure from detergent, which helps prevent fading. However, it’s not rare for jeans to bleed dye, especially if they’re new. Before you toss your jeans in the laundry, read the care instructions to see if you should wash them separately at first. If you must wash your jeans with other clothes, try to wash them with similarly colored jeans or clothing.

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Step 3. Hang your jeans up to air dry or use a no heat cycle

Exposing your jeans to direct heat in the dryer can shrink, fade or yellow denim, and it can also cause damage to stretch denim fabrics that contain spandex or Lycra. If you need to use a dryer, select a low or no heat cycle and use dryer balls to keep your jeans tumbling. The best way to dry jeans is by hanging them up to air dry: 

 

Remove the jeans while they’re still slightly damp, then stretch the seams and hang them up to finish drying. Once they're completely dry, you can hang or fold your jeans to store in a drawer or on a shelf.

A person rubbing stain remover on jeans. A person rubbing stain remover on jeans.

How do you wash new jeans?

For new or lightly-soiled jeans, you can use the soak cycle on your washing machine:

1. Let the tub fill with water, then mix in a gentle detergent made for dark fabrics. 

2. Turn your jeans inside out and lay them in the water—you can fold them to fit if need be, but don’t bunch them up. 

3. Let your jeans soak for 30 to 45 minutes, then drain the water, refill it and let your jeans sit for 10 minutes to rinse. 

4. Repeat the rinsing steps until the water is clear.

If you don’t want to use your washing machine, you can also repeat the same steps with your bathtub, kitchen sink or a large basin with a few inches of cold water.

How often should you wash jeans?

The frequency in which you wash your jeans depends on their soil level and how often they are worn. If you use your jeans for heavy-duty jobs (like construction or landscaping), or if you frequently wear jeans in warm, humid weather, you’ll probably want to wash your denim more often. If you wear designer jeans for work or casual outings, you can probably wash your jeans less often.

Simply spot treat stains and let your jeans air out for at least 24 hours between wearings. That being said, always refer back to your jean manufacturer’s care instructions before determining how frequently you should wash your jeans.

A person doing laundry with a Whirlpool® washer. A person doing laundry with a Whirlpool® washer.

How to wash black jeans and prevent fading

The guidelines for caring for black jeans are similar to those for most dark denim—use a gentle cycle with cold water, wash separately or with black clothes, turn the jeans inside out and use a detergent formulated for dark clothes.

How to wash white jeans

When it comes to washing white jeans, wash them separately or with other white clothes. Use cold water for a lightly-soiled pair and warm water for more heavily-soiled ones. In addition to using a gentle cycle, choose an extra rinse option to make sure that all detergent is thoroughly removed.

Should I bleach my jeans?

You should avoid using bleach when washing your jeans as it can cause yellowing or damage to the fabric. Fabric softener should also be avoided since it can cling to the fabric and cause a dulling effect. As with other jeans, let them air dry or put them in a low or no heat dryer cycle.

Four pairs of folded blue jeans. Four pairs of folded blue jeans.

How to wash raw denim without shrinking or fading

If your jeans are not labeled as pre-shrunk or faded, then you may have purchased “raw denim” —denim that hasn’t been shrunken or had its dye set during manufacturing. This allows you to wear your jeans so they mold to your body and develop their own unique fading patterns over time.

To prevent shrinking or bleeding, only use cold water to wash your jeans, and wash them separately or with similarly-colored denim. If you decide to hand wash your new jeans, don’t wring them out when you finish rinsing them. Instead, fold or roll them before squeezing out the leftover water. Once they are damp, hang up your jeans to finish drying.

Shop Whirlpool® washers & dryers

Select Whirlpool® washers and dryers are designed to care for your clothes with features like Intuitive Controls and Advanced Moisture Sensing for the right washer cycle combinations for your fabric and the right dryer settings for ending the cycle at the optimal time. Discover the washer and dryer set that can help you take the stress out of laundry day.

Learn more about Whirlpool® washers and dryers

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1. Swash and the recommended brands are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.