How to Care for Your Denim Collection: Washing and Storage

Unlock the secrets to impeccable denim care with our comprehensive guide and elevate your denim care routine.

February 8, 2024
min read
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In this article:

Welcome to a denim lover's haven, where the art of caring for your cherished denim collection takes center stage. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey through the nuanced world of denim care, unraveling the secrets to maintaining the integrity and style of your favorite jeans. Whether you're a denim aficionado seeking to extend the lifespan of vintage treasures or someone who simply wants to elevate their denim care routine, this guide is your go-to resource.

Our exploration begins by delving into the diverse landscape of denim fabrics, deciphering the characteristics that make each weave unique. From there, we navigate the intricate process of denim washing, ensuring that every pair retains its color vibrancy and structural integrity. The science of denim drying is demystified, accompanied by insights into stain removal techniques that rescue your denim from unexpected mishaps.

As we venture into long-term storage strategies, we unveil the delicate balance between hanging and folding, all while introducing the natural touch of cedarwood moth prevention. The journey doesn't stop there – we guide you through handling denim repairs, alterations, and embracing sustainable practices that align with your eco-conscious values.

Whether you're a denim devotee or a novice seeking expert advice, this guide is crafted to cater to every denim aficionado's needs. Join us as we unravel the chapters of denim care, empowering you to preserve the essence of your denim delight for years to come. Let the exploration begin!

Chapter 1: Understanding Denim Fabrics

Denim refers to the rugged cotton twill fabric used to create durable pants, jackets, skirts, shirts and more. The iconic diagonally ribbed texture comes from the signature 3/1 weave construction. Understanding characteristics of different washes, weights and quality indicators allows you to select long-lasting pieces.

Unveiling the Characteristics of Different Denim Weaves

Lightweight: Ranging from 7-9 ounces, lightweight denims offer comfortable wearability in hot weather while retaining shape from some stretch. Great for everyday jeans and shirts.

Midweight: The 10-13 ounce standard for classic jeans strikes a balance between durability and maneuverability. Horizonal falling lines result from the signature weaving pattern.

Heavyweight: Thick 14 ounces and up denim is rigid at first but molds perfectly to the wearer over time. The extra density lends to fewer snags and holes. Perfect for workwear.

Stretch: The addition of 2-5% spandex fibers into the cotton base boosts flexibility without compromising structural integrity when moving. This denim retains its silhouette while offering increased comfort in skinny and slim jean fits.

Selvedge: Denim made on old-style shuttle looms creates a signature self-finished interior edge that prevents unraveling. It’s easily identified by the vibrant contrast stitching visible when cuffs are turned up.

Identifying High-Quality Denim: A Buyer’s Guide

Seeking out pieces made to last requires a discerning eye even among premium denim brands. Ensure longevity by inspecting these key indicators of quality craftsmanship:

  • Even Dyeing Without Fading
  • Structural Stitching Done in Strong Thread
  • Sturdy Buttons and Rivets
  • Durable Zippers and Hardware
  • Finely Woven Fabrics Without Slubbiness
  • Dimensional Care Tags With Content Details

Now let’s explore how to care for these treasured denim pieces so they withstand everyday adventures.

Chapter 2: Mastering the Art of Denim Washing

Wash denim only when necessary as too much laundering accelerates fading and breakdown in fabric integrity. When cleaning is needed, use these gentle techniques suited specifically for denim.

Gentle Wash Techniques: Preserving Color and Fabric

  • Turn jeans inside out before washing to prevent abrasion damage to the outer dyed surface, helping colors stay rich.
  • Wash on the cold and delicate or permanent press setting. Some also opt to wash by hand in cool water using gentle soap. Never use hot water.
  • Pack the drum evenly but avoid overloading to minimize harsh constant friction during cleaning.
  • Hang dry damp jeans completely after washing rather than machine drying to preserve fit from damaging heat shrinking. Proper air flow also prevents retransfer of indigo dye.

Cold vs. Warm Water: Impact on Denim Fading

Cold Water: The ideal temperature for washing denim is in cold water under 30°C to prevent premature fading and allow dyes to remain firmly set within the fibers rather than bleeding excessively.

Warm Water: Warmer washes around 40°C cause fibers to relax and loosen, allowing more dye to leak out. Great when intentionally trying to break jeans in faster with pronounced fading but damaging to the longevity of dark tones.

Choosing the Right Detergent for Denim Care

  • Use a mild liquid detergent without added bleaches or enzymes that gradually strip color intensity out of denim with repeated exposure.
  • Some choose woolite detergent formulated for delicates or a gentle soap like castile or olive oil soap to prevent dryness in cotton denim fibers over laundering.
  • Minimal detergent is needed given most soil on jeans is dry particulate matter easily rinsed out rather than oily residues requiring heavy chemical breakdown.
  • Fabric softener can coat fibers and reduce the breathability of denim, so skip this unnecessary step.

The Myth of Freezing Your Jeans: Debunking Common Practices

Some sources advise washing jeans minimally by freezing them instead to save dye and prevent over-washing. Unfortunately freezing denim offers limited benefits:

  • Temps below -10°C are needed to even temporarily halt bacteria growth. Standard freezers only reach -18°C so odor issues rapidly resurface once thawed.
  • Freezing may make denim stiffer initially through subtle ice expansion but offers no long term cleaning effects once at room temperature again.
  • No studies have concluded freezing replaces proper periodic washing needed to lift dirt and grime trapped within denim fabrics.
  • At most, freezing helps set wrinkles temporarily in a desired position so consider using this trick only to prepare jeans for an upcoming event, not for cleaning.

While creative in theory, freezing cannot replace washing altogether when jeans become dirty. Stick to gentle cool water washing paired with proper drying for freshly clean denim that maintains its color and structure across many wears.

large collection of denim jeans

Chapter 3: The Science of Denim Drying

Drying practices greatly impact shrinkage and form retention as denim relaxes. Follow these guidelines for ideal drying suited to different denim items.

Air Drying vs Machine Drying: Pros and Cons

Air Drying

Prevents Shrinking: Air drying allows jeans to naturally relax into their intended silhouette without excessive heat damage.

Retains Color: Air circulation helps redistribute loose dye back onto fabrics evenly compared to heat setting inside machines.

Supports Finishes: From distressed destruction to permanent creases, air drying stabilizes intentionally created fade and wear detailing.

Drawback - Slow Process: Air drying thick denim can take 24-48 hours pending humidity climate conditions.

Machine Drying

Fast & Convenient: Tumble drying denim pieces like shirts and light jackets lasts under an hour using medium heat.

Fluffs Fabrics: The agitation from spinning and heated airflow restores cushioning to cotton fibers softened while wet.

Energy Intensive: Machine drying increases costs, carbon footprint impacts, and unnecessary wear on denim with heat overexposure.

Preventing Denim Shrinking: Tips for Proper Drying

To prevent unwanted shrinking from heat damage, follow these guidelines:

Hang Dry Heavy Raw Denim Jeans

Lay or hang extra rigid unsanitized denims flat to air dry uninterrupted for 48 hours, keeping hardware open. This allows natural shape memory to resume smoothly as cotton relaxes.

Machine Dry Lighter Denim On Low

Tumble machine drying is acceptable for pre-shrunk denim clothing like jackets, shirts, and stretch skinny jeans using low heat for 25 minutes before hanging to finish air drying.

Lay Flat Misshapen Items

Gently coax askew seams, warped waistbands and shrunken lengths back into proper alignment by laying entire pieces flat on a towel before final drying. Weighting hems can help lengths hang straight too.

Hanging vs Folding: Best Practices for Drying Denim


  • Ideal for heavy jeans, rigid raw denim styles reliant on gravity to straighten vertical seams as cotton fibers relax when wet.
  • Use wide pant hangers placed evenly along waistbands rather than hanging loops alone to prevent strain damage.
  • Fully close zippers and buttons first to dry flat without tugging hardware alignment.


  • Best suited for pre-shrunk lightweight denims with spandex blend content like jean jackets, shirts and soft jeans.
  • Fold along seam lines and lay flat supporting overall silhouette structure rather than tightly stacked.
  • Change towel or pad folded items are left on every 12 hours to prevent rewetting base layers transfering moisture back into supposedly drying items resting atop.

Chapter 4: Stain Removal for Denim

Denim's cotton blend makeup readily absorbs spills, making immediate action vital for removal before permanent setting.

Tackling Common Stains

Oils: Apply cornstarch, talcum powder or baking soda directly on grease-based stains. Let sit for 10 minutes to absorb slick oils, then brush off residue gently. Repeat if needed. Wash normally after.

Dirt and Mud: Allow dried soil to flake off naturally using soft brush. Pretreat remaining dirt by rubbing liquid castile soap lathered in damp cloth gently onto area using circular motions. Wash as usual afterward.

Ink and Dark Liquids: Spritz hairspray liberally on fresh stains. Let set 2-3 minutes to break down pigments before dabbing edge to center repeatedly with lint-free white cloth, rotating to clean areas as saturation lifts color. Rinse and check if removal is complete.

Blood: Run denim under cold water behind stain to prevent spreading. Make paste of meat tenderizer and cool water. Apply and let stand 5 minutes before rinsing and washing with oxy-cleaning detergent.

Wine: Sprinkle salt generously onto wet spill right away. Once fully dried, the salt pulls out and absorbs the majority of moisture. Vacuum up salt and stain debris.

DIY Stain Solutions

Minimize chemical exposure by trying these homemade alternatives first:

  • Baking Soda Paste
  • Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Lemon Juice + Salt

No matter the stain, gently dab - never aggressively rub - and always test treatments first in inconspicuous areas to ensure no damage or discoloration.

rolled denim for storage

Chapter 5: Long-Term Denim Storage Strategies

Use these methods to store denim items neatly without risk of distorting shape or fibers long term when not worn regularly.

Hanging vs. Folding

Hanging: Ideal for heavy raw denim jeans and jackets to retain structure. Use wide shoulder hangers. Fully zip and button first.

Folding: Only fold cleanly laundered, pre-shrunk lightweight denim apparel like shirts and soft stretch jeans with spandex along seams. Refold lines every few months to avoid imprint creasing if not worn often.

Preventing Musty Smells

Allow air circulation around stored denim to prevent moisture buildup that breeds odor-causing mildew and bacteria over time.

Cedarwood Repels Insects

Line storage bins and closets with cedar products. The aromatic cedar oils naturally deter moths and carpet beetles from laying eggs or nesting within undisturbed fabrics.

Creative Small Space Solutions

Use furniture suited for narrow spaces that fully maximize hanging and folding capacity, like wall racks, underbed roll-out drawers, hanging closet rods that double storage density, and stacking storage bins optimized by category and season.

Chapter 6: Handling Denim Repairs and Alterations

With proper mending, distressed denim and Alterations revamp ill-fitting pieces.

Denim Repair Fundamentals

Patching: Carefully trim hole edges into a neat square using sharp fabric scissors. Cut patch 2” wider than hole from scrap denim swatch. Fray edges lightly for blending texture. Hand sew a tight whipstitch around all patch sides using sturdy thread. Remove threads.

Invisible Stitching: Where subtle mending is ideal, turn damaged area inside out. Use thin curved upholstery needle and strong cotton thread matching denim color to stitch damage securely closed with narrowly spaced topstitch running folds. Knot neatly inside.

Finding a Specialist Tailor

Look for alterations experts specialized specifically in precision denim adjusting like:

  • Hemming inseams or outseams evenly
  • Tapering exaggerated flares
  • Resetting loose waistbands
  • Repositioning pockets

Consult ahead what level of distressing detail to leave or remove when adjusting areas. Bring the shoes you plan on wearing the jeans with to properly calibrate exact personalized length.

Chapter 7: Sustainable Denim Practices

Show environmental awareness when shopping for, caring for and repurposing denim pieces.

Eco-Conscious Denim Brands

Support labels utilizing responsible eco innovations like:

  • Organically grown cotton
  • Natural indigo dyes
  • Water recycling production systems
  • Ethically sourced materials and labor
  • Biodegradable packaging and tags

Repurposing Denim

Get creative, convent old favorites unwearable into:

  • Accessory patches
  • Quilt batting insulation
  • Pet bed filling
  • Upcycled tote bags

Check local craft fairs and Etsy for artisanal goods making sustainable use of disposed textile waste.

The Global Impact

Remember denim production carries one of the largest carbon and pollution footprints per yard due to intensive water, pesticide and chemical use. Minimize unnecessary purchases and waste.

Conclusion: A Holistic Denim Care Approach

Caring properly for denim today ensures beloved pieces last for years. Implement a routine for washing, drying, storing, repairing and shopping intentionally to reduce unnecessary environmental impacts. Rediscover and treasure tried and true pairs already owned as building classics unmatched by fleeting seasonal trends. With mindful ownership, quality denim becomes an investment paying dividends through enduring comfort and style.

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About Wood Blocks

Our mission is to empower you with the knowledge to curate a wardrobe that not only reflects your personal style but also aligns with environmentally friendly practices. From exploring the wonders of natural mothballs and sustainable garment storage to diving deep into DIY solutions and green living, we're here to guide you on a journey towards a more eco-conscious, stylish, and intentional lifestyle.

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