A close up of light gray jeans

How to wash and dry jeans

Whether you wear them while doing yardwork or for 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. Learn how to wash a jean jacket in our denim jacket guide.

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.

How often should you wash jeans?

The frequency with which you wash your jeans depends on their soil level and how often they are worn. If you wear 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 the manufacturer’s care instructions before determining how frequently you should wash your clothes.

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 nearly all types of denim.

1. Use the 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 the Delicate or Gentle cycle, and use cold water to help avoid shrinking or fading. Opt for a mild detergent, especially one made specifically for dark clothes if your jeans are blue or black. Try a detergent such as Swash® Laundry Detergent1 to help keep your clothes clean and fresh.

A Whirlpool® dryer with an open door A Whirlpool® dryer with an open door

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. The care label instructions will tell you 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.

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 help 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.

Cleaning tip:

Washing clothes by hand can help maintain the integrity of some materials over time, whether you’re washing a baseball hat, delicate laundry, or even your jeans.

How to wash black jeans and help prevent fading

The guidelines for caring for black jeans are similar to those for most dark denim—use the Gentle or Delicate 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 those that are more heavily-soiled. In addition to using the Gentle or Delicate cycle, choose an extra rinse option to make sure that all detergent is thoroughly removed.

Can you bleach jeans?

You should avoid using bleach when washing 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.

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

How do you wash jeans for the first time?

Begin by turning your jeans inside out and zipping up the zipper. Then, you can wash your jeans in the washer or by hand using cold water. Be sure to clean your jeans alone to avoid tinting other clothes. 

If you choose to clean your jeans in the washing machine, use cold water on a short, Delicate cycle.

If you are washing your jeans by hand, use cold water in the sink or bathtub and lay them down flat. Then, rinse them thoroughly with cold water so the water runs clear, ensuring that all the suds are washed out. Hang the jeans up to dry when finished.

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

How to wash raw denim jeans

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 help 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. Hang up your jeans to finish drying.

How much does raw denim shrink?

Raw denim, which hasn't been preshrunk, can shrink up to 10% after its original washing, so it's important to buy a size up or two from your regular waist size.

Explore Whirlpool® Washers & Dryers

Select Whirlpool® Washers and Dryers are designed to care for your clothes with select features like Intuitive Controls and Advanced Moisture Sensing which team up the right washer cycle combinations for your fabric with 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.

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1. Swash® products and the recommending brands’ products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.