First introduced to the US by Levi Strauss & Co in 1873, blue jeans were originally worn by cowboys and miners due to their durability. It wasn’t until the 1950’s, after James Dean popularized them in the movie Rebel Without a Cause, that jeans became “cool” and eventually an American staple for casual wear. Skinny, straight leg, boot cut, boyfriend… we love our denim. Here are some tips to keep them looking sharp:
- Make them last
Reduce the amount you wash your jeans– or don’t wash them at all. After only two years of use, an average pair of jeans consumes roughly 3,500 liters of water –of that, nearly half of the total water consumption is from washing (ref). In fact, Levi’s CEO, Charles Bergh, claims that you don’t have to wash your jeans. Instead, he suggests not to machine wash them at all and simply spot clean your jeans with a toothbrush or sponge, a mild detergent and air dry.
- Keep them Fresh
If you decide to join the ‘no wash’ movement, there are still many ways you can freshen up your jeans to keep you from feeling dirty. Do they need a “refresh”? Hang them in the bathroom while you shower. Have a stain? Rub your jeans with a damp cloth and spot clean. Get rid of a smell? Hang them to air dry on a sunny or windy day. It is also suggested to lay your jeans in the hot sun (even though this might fade them). You can also throw your jeans in the freezer to kill bacteria. Freezing your jeans will also neutralize coffee spills, sweat and other bodily fluids that might collect in the “seat area”.
- Maintain their fit
If you decide you can’t go without washing your jeans, be sure to wash them inside-out and on cold to keep them from shrinking. By doing this you’ll also be saving energy! Warm to hot water will actually cause the fabric to expand and then shrink. Once washed, shape — smoothing wrinkles and tucking in pockets– before you hang to air dry. Never put your jeans in the dryer, because it breaks down the fibers! Once dry, remember that the denim fibers need to breath, so instead of folding your jeans tightly in a drawer, give them ample space on a hanger in the closet or on a shelf.
- Lock in their color
When washing, always turn your jeans inside-out. To maintain that deep shade of blue, soak your newly acquired jeans in 1 gallon of cold water and 1 cup of vinegar for about an hour. Hang or lay flat to dry. The vinegar, which will also clean your jeans, won’t be noticeable in smell once the jeans dry.
If you are still weary about the vinegar burning your nostrils, you can replace it with 2 tbsp of salt . Be sure to dry in a shaded area to avoid sun bleaching.
- Keep them intact
If you are not one for the “distressed” look, there are numerous ways you can mend your jeans to keep them looking sleek and nice. First off, if you have a sewing machine, you can patch holes or mend your the crotch of your jeans on your own. Here are a couple helpful tutorials:
If you are not much of a DIYer, a local tailor will be more than happy to help you. You can go to them if you are looking to fit a new pair of jeans, you’ve outgrown your old ones and need alterations, or you are needing repairs or patches.
Andrea Plell is EcoHabitude’s Director of Communications and the Editor-in-Chief of the EcoHabitude blog. Since 2007, Andrea has been on a mission to support a paradigm shift in the fashion industry. She currently runs her own PR and ethical fashion production company in San Francisco, CA – working with several ethical brands on the West Coast.
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