Everyone owns a pair of jeans, but not everyone understands the way jeans are different from other pants.
Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh claimed in 2014 that machine washing jeans is completely unnecessary. Flying in the face of convention, he instead advocated sticking jeans in the freezer when they start to smell.
It was chaos. People revolted. There were fires in the streets.
OK, not really, but it offered a new way to think about cleanliness and conservation.
It’s true that if you compare swabs taken from jeans washed within the last 13 days and those from jeans washed within the last 15 months, you’ll find a similar amount of natural skin bacteria. And this bacteria isn’t likely to do anything harmful, though it does occasionally build up a smell as it feasts on the dead skin cells shed from your legs. So the idea is that the freezer will kill the bacteria, enabling you to wash your jeans far fewer times, saving you work and saving the environment at the same time.
Here’s the problem though.
The freezer isn’t actually cold enough to kill the bacteria that collect on your jeans, and it will do nothing to get rid of the oils and dead skin cells hidden in the cracks and crevices from wear. When the jeans heat back up to room temperature, they will just start to smell again, according to research by microbe experts.
Bergh says he hand washes his jeans when they get really dirty. Unfortunately, that may not be quite enough to fully clean them. Denim is not a delicate fabric, and should not be treated as such. It should be worn into the ground, and then cleaned, and then pummelled again, until it’s so faded and hole-filled it needs to be replaced.
Don’t baby your jeans. The only reason denim fans don’t machine wash their jeans is to preserve the indigo colouring and the hard-earned fades from wear. Just wash your damn jeans every couple of weeks or when they smell, and stop worrying about it.
There’s just no substitute for a good scrubbing.
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