How often should you wash your jeans? It turns out it’s not such a straightforward question, with extremes at both ends of the debate. BlackBetty’s resident laundry expert picks up the story.
"I’ve had the same jeans on for four days now” sang The View’s Kyle Falconer in the band’s 2007 accurately-named hit Same Jeans. But how should the connoisseur of the denim trouser take this news? Is Kyle emphasising his hedonistic credentials by disregarding society’s clean-cut demands? Or is he making a mental note that he’ll need to wash them in six months’ time? Because when it comes to washing jeans, there’s an actual debate about how many wears you should put them through before they go in the washing basket – or indeed if they should ever be washed at all.
The issue became contentious in about 2015 when an article in Vogue revealed that the author, Marjon Carlos, doesn’t wash her jeans unless she really has to, and that it causes social stigma. The following year Levi’s CEO and President Chip Bergh backed her up, saying that you should never, ever wash jeans.
Ah, you assume. These people are millionaires who only wear jeans once before chucking them out. Or they’re jeans manufacturers who would like you to keep buying new ones … or just people with questionable standards of hygiene and appearance. After all, who hasn’t dribbled ketchup on their lap at a barbecue? You gotta clean that up, surely? We should say that they do follow up their admissions with some cleanliness tips, such as freezing jeans to kill bacteria and cleaning just the dirty parts with a toothbrush, but the basic principle remains.
Of course, we all know why you would want to avoid washing jeans. Denim fades like nothing else after washing, and that fading starts straight away. If you’ve spent quite a lot of hard-earned cash on your designer denim, you’re going to want them to remain looking like they were, you know, designed. But the realities of life mean you just have to wash them, don’t you?
It’s fair to say that most of us fall somewhere in between those who never wash our jeans and those who wouldn’t dream of pulling on a pair that’s been worn yesterday. Oh, and it’s also worth noting that in the video to Same Jeans, Kyle literally wakes up in bed wearing his jeans then goes off to the disco in the middle of town. So when he says four days, he means it: 96 straight hours including bedtime and boogie time – and maybe even a barbecue on the Sunday afternoon.
With so many opinions flying around, it made sense to find out if there was a right and a wrong when it comes to sanitising our skin-tights. We asked 1000 jeans-wearers from up and down the land one simple question – “How often do you wash your jeans” to find out whether it’s normal to let nature deal with our jeans or whether something more proactive keeps them at their peak. We got some interesting results.
The overwhelming opinion seems to be that most of us wash our jeans once a week. Across males and females, all age ranges and all four nations of the UK, the answer “once a week” was given by at least 40% of respondents, with only a few percentage points’ variation.
How often we wash our jeans, split by gender
How often we wash our jeans, split by age
The second answers were slightly more revealing. For men, the second most popular answer was “every two weeks” (19%) but for women, the second answer was “once they’re visibly stained”, which means that if they’re careful, many women will theoretically never need to wash their jeans. That said, women made up the bigger “every week” group, with 57% of females obeying this cleaning routine.
Of the four UK nations, it’s Wales that’s the cleanest. On average, 59% or Welsh people wash their jeans every week, divided between 57% of women and 61% of men. Of all demographic categories, this makes Welsh men the cleanest of all.
Welsh people are the cleanest
In Northern Ireland it’s a different picture, with 60% washing at least every two weeks, and 18% never washing their jeans. However Northern Irish people FLATLY REFUSE to wash their jeans twice a year. They see that as utterly unacceptable.
Northern Ireland residents are least likely to wash their jeans
The publicity surrounding the view that jeans should never be washed is either a fair reflection of society or has influenced some people, because across all groups, there were significant numbers who claim never to wash their jeans. Overall, 12% of respondents never wash their jeans, although it’s predominantly males (at 18%) rather than females (7%) who make up the numbers.
No significant trends emerge when we group the no-washers by age – the figure fluctuates between a low of 9% (35–44-year-olds) and a high of 16% (45–54-year-olds). And there’s no stand-out nation of the UK, either. It seems that wherever you are in the UK and whoever you’re with, about one in ten of the people wearing jeans will never have washed them.
The average person in the UK seems to wash his or her jeans once a week whether they need to or not. While Marjon Carlos and Chip Bergh might despair, that’s just the way it is. And let’s face it: if never washing your jeans was so normal, it would hardly merit an article in Vogue, would it?
Smart fabric technology always seems to be on the horizon that would make washing clothes a thing of the past, and there are advances in washing technology that include ultrasound and ultraviolet to deliver ultraclean clothes that never fade in the wash. So in a few years, this discussion could all be moot – so enjoy your lifestyle choice while you can.
Next week: how many meals should you eat off your plates before you wash them?