The Jeans Care Secret: Rarely Wash Them
By CHERYL LU-LIEN TAN
Carl Chiara, director of brand concepts and special projects for Levi Strauss & Co., is among the growing number of jeans enthusiasts who believe in washing them as little as possible.
Mr. Chiara, who says he wears jeans every day in both work and social situations, believes that "the less people wash their jeans, the better their jeans become. Denim really does shape to people's bodies, and when you wash a jean you lose some of that shape."
He doesn't like to put his jeans in a washing machine because agitating the denim makes the fibers on the cotton fabric swell and "bloom." That in turn causes the yarns to tense up and actually get shorter, shrinking the jeans. This also mars the "open" look of the denim, Mr. Chiara says. The color may fade or change as well.
He also avoids heat—using hot water on his jeans or throwing them in a dryer—to protect the quality of the jean, he says.
So does he dry clean his jeans? No, because he doesn't like them coming back stiff—and perhaps with a center crease if they get pressed like trousers. "The jeans should take on your personal day-to-day life and look like you," he says. For example, his own jeans bear the weathered marks of his keys, which he keeps in his front pocket, and his bag, which tends to rub against his upper thigh.
This is not to say that Mr. Chiara doesn't ever clean the 15 pairs of jeans that he owns. He gently spot-cleans spills with a damp sponge and "whatever is under the kitchen sink—usually Windex or 409."
At the end of each day, he hangs his jeans on a hook in his bathroom. When he takes a shower, the steam "freshens [the jeans] up a little bit," he says. He prefers hanging jeans by a belt loop to preserve their shape.
After six months of wearing a pair of jeans, Mr. Chiara does a comprehensive cleaning; his method could also be used by those who like to wash their jeans more often. Usually, he fills a bathtub to about six inches with room-temperature water and adds two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner's Magic Liquid Soap, which he likes because it is mild. Then, he immerses the jeans in the tub, laying them flat.