This blog was originally posted May 23, 2014 and has since been edited and updated.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how to take care of designer denim. Some people think you should throw them in the washer and dryer after sitting at a desk for a few days, riding a bike to the grocery store, or some other simple activity. Don't do that. For one, your bodies natural oils soften and condition denim. Tossing them in the washer is like stripping your hair with sulfates and parabens. For two, throwing them in a dryer is...well, it's tantamount to torturing your wallet, because they will shrink.
Denim is made to be worn and to marble and conform to the wearer's lifestyle. If you sit at a desk all day, like many of us, then your jeans will show heavier honeycombing (the wrinkles on the backs of the legs) than someone who stands at a post. Just check out this pair of Andy jeans worn 367 days straight.
But what if I spill beer on my thigh? Splash mud on my calves? Defecate on myself?
Well, friends, that's where this guide comes in handy. Let's break it down by the type of denim you own.
This type of denim is completely untreated. It is the rawest of raw denim, and if handled improperly can shrink up to 30%. But as we've stated above, some things happen. You'll want to lay them flat in a tub of cold water and soft detergent. Then hang dry.
Now, here is the key: every hour on the hour, until they are completely bone dry, pull on the legs and waistband to reduce shrinkage.
When you put them back on, there will be a crisp feeling—don't be alarmed. They'll soften after a couple of hours of wear.
This type of denim has been pre-shrunk. And it is more likely to be treated as a normal pair of pants by most people, but you're not most people. This jean will still shrink about 2% after washing and drying, which translates to about a 1/4 of an inch in length.
You can wash it in a machine with like colors: raw denim will bleed, folks. Dry it on a gentle cycle or hang dry.
All of our jeans come sanforized except the selvedge Andy jean made from Cone Mills denim.
Stretch Denim (Raw)
This denim has been woven with spandex or elastic, but is not washed. The care instructions are the same for sanforized denim.
Stretch Denim (Washed)
This denim has been woven with spandex or elastic, and has been washed. This means it's pre-shrunk. You can wash it flat in a tub with gentle detergent, but you want to avoid the washing machine and multiple washes.
Why? Because you bought this denim with a particular wash, that is, with a particular fade pattern and color. If you throw it in the washing machine every few week those fades will fade to something unrecognizable and you'll have good money for something you no longer own.
Think: The Whiskey Collection (coming again in February 2020)
This denim is 100% cotton and has been pre-shrunk. Again, you can wash it in a tub, laying the jeans flat, with a gentle detergent.
What's unique about this jean, however, is that it may lose shape after you wash it. If so, you can place the denim in the dryer for 20 minutes on medium heat and they will snap back into place.
Please, for the love, don't wash your custom denim. The mistakes that emerge from washing this type of jean is mind-bogging, and is to be avoided at all costs. But, friends, if you must, hand wash it in a tub. Preferably dry clean only.
So there you have it. Those are the ways to take care of your different types of denim. The reality is, barring a crisis, you should practically never wash your denim.
- Unsanforized Denim: lay flat in tub, gentle detergent, pull while they dry
- Sanforized Denim: wash with like colors, will bleed
- Stretch Raw Denim: wash with like colors, will bleed
- Stretch Washed Denim: wash in tub, lay flat, gentle detergent
- Washed Denim (100% cotton): wash in tub, lay flat, hang dry
- Custom Denim: Dry Clean only, or hand wash