Your laundry load may get a little lighter. The debate that has plagued America — whether to wash or not wash your jeans — rages on. According to BrainStuff – HowStuffWorks’ latest video, “Do You Really Need To Wash Your Jeans?” host Ben Bowlin explains you don’t have to wash your jeans as often, as, say, your underwear.
Knowing the material of your jeans will help you understand how often they should (not) be washed. Denim is a kind of cotton with a twill textile weave where the thread called the weft passes under at least two warp threads, says Bowlin in the video. In most jeans, only the warp threads are dyed, while weft threads remain white (the inside of jeans). The blue shade on the warp threads comes from a dye called indigo, which sits atop the yarn on the surface of each thread.
Over time, indigo moledules chip away and cause the fabric to fade. This fade is so unique that the FBI analyzes denim patterns when tracking criminals. So, the more you wear a pair, the more broken in they become. There are cases where washed denim is artificially distressed to give it a worn look, while raw denim fades naturally over time, depending on the wearer’s activities.
Jean companies debate how long you should wait to wash your jeans. For example, Hiut Denim will ask you to wait at least 6 months before washing your jeans, because if you wash them early, the indigo will wear off. The longer you go without washing your jeans, the more defined the pattern becomes. Meanwhile, Levi’s recommends freezing your jeans to kill bacteria and prevent them from becoming odiferous.
In 2011, a microbiology student at the University of Alberta went 15 months and one week of wearing his raw denim jeans without washing them. He tested the bacterial content, along with the bacterial content of another pair that was washed about two weeks prior. There was barely any difference found — just normal skin bacteria.
The decision of whether to wash or not to wash your jeans is contingent on your lifestyle, and hygiene preferences. The purpose of why you choose to wear your jeans should dictate how you treat them.