Achieve Your Raw Denim’s Full Potential
The best-looking jeans are without a doubt those you break in yourself. The process is challenging and time consuming. Success or failure comes down to what you do before you wash your jeans, how you wash them, and what you do after the first wash. In this three-step raw denim wash guide, we show you how to transform a pair of rigid, dark blue, raw denim jeans into something that will make heads turn.
The Starting Point
To achieve a great worn-in look, we recommend that you choose a pair of high-quality raw denim jeans, which (generally) breaks in better. Figuring out whether your jeans are made of a quality fabric is not that easy.
A general rule of thumb is to go for selvedge denim. Fold up your jeans at the bottom and take a look at the outerseam of the leg. If it has selvedge edges, the quality is normally high, although not always. Like in everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
See our guide to buying your first pair of selvedge denim jeans for more hints and tips on finding the perfect pair for you.
Step 1: Before the First Wash
Unwashed denim is often stiff as cardboard. We recommend you to give your jeans a quick soak in the bathtub before you start wearing them. Read how to here.
The initial pre-soak will remove most of the starch and soften the fabric. Even though some argue that rinsed jeans won’t wear in as well as dry ones, the rinse will make your jeans last longer. In this article, you can read more about how to make your jeans last longer.
Before soaking and washing, turn the jeans inside out. Let them soak for an hour or two and then let them hang dry, possibly in your shower. Certainly never in the dryer.
After the pre-soak, wear your jeans as much as possible – preferably for several months – before you wash them for the first time in the washing machine. The more you wear your jeans, the more distinct wear patterns you will achieve.
Several months of intense wear will cause the denim to wear in some areas more than others. Especially in areas with a lot of friction, for example, cuffs, crotch, knees and pockets.
Remember that the rips can be repaired. In our opinion, this only gives your jeans a personal and unique look. Also, although you should be careful, ironing might help soften the fabric. Just remember to iron your jeans inside-out.
Step 2: The First Wash
Once your jeans start looking the ones above it’s okay to wash. These have been worn for eight months straight and they have only been dry cleaned once.
If you still want to postpone the first wash, try airing your jeans before you wash. But, when you start getting comments about the smell, it’s time to wash.
The washing procedure depends on what results you are aiming for. Some prefer dry cleaning to keep the denim as dark as possible. We recommend hand wash – the procedure is the same as for the first rinse.
Adding a few cups of salt and half a cup of vinegar should help fixate the indigo colour.
If you are impatient and want to see some results you can throw your jeans in the washing machine. Again, remember to turn them inside out! You can even wash them on a no-spin cycle to prevent those horrible vertical lines. Dry as mentioned above.
Step 3: After the First Wash
After the first wash, your jeans will be less dirt repellent. To go for months between each washes might be unrealistic. But, you should wear your jeans as much as possible between washes.
This pair of Levi’s Vintage Clothing 1967 505 jeans has been worn every day for four months and washed about 7-8 times during this period.
If you are looking for vintage-style fades with a more even wear pattern and less contrast, then don’t wait months before the first wash. You should wash them more often.