Raw Denim: (i.e "dry denim") Jeans made from denim that hasn’t been washed, bleached or distressed artificially after the garment is finished. These jeans basically go directly to you, straight off the loom.

One of the things that draws so many of us to raw denim is its ability to tell an authentic and personal visual story about our lifestyle. Each fade and crease is made by your own individual way of sitting, walking, even which pocket you put your phone,wallet and keys in. Since fades take so long to develop, you want to make sure that you are not doing anything to undo your hard work. This is why questions about how to wash raw jeans continue to be an important topic in the raw denim world.

If you’re new to the raw denim scene, the answers below will help you come to battle armed with a proven fading and washing strategy. This is everything you need to know about how to wash your raw denim.

Before we start, there are a few things to take in consideration, especially if this is your first time washing your raw jeans. 

Shrinkage – All jeans shrink when they are first exposed to water. Unsanforized (“Shrink-to-Fit”) jeans will reduce in size roughly 5-10% throughout the jean after the first wash and dry, but even pre-shrunk Sanforized jeans will still shrink about 3-5% on first wash. The waist on sanforized jeans will eventually stretch back out, but what you lose in inseam length will not. If you hem your jeans before the first wash, please keep this in mind or you might have to pass these along to your shorter younger brother 

Temperature – The warmer the water, the more indigo you will lose and the more the denim will shrink. This is true for any sort of wash.

Indigo Transfer – Don’t wash your jeans with anything that you don’t intend to dye blue! Raw denim naturally bleeds indigo–it’s how you get your fades–but it Bleeds when it’s wet. If you’re washing your jeans in the tub, Get ready for an argument with your wife,Mother or other.

So how do you wash your raw denim? Below is my straightforward way that’s easy to use and will give you fresh jeans with minimal indigo loss in 6 simple steps: 

1. Run a lukewarm bath in your tub or a large basin and add your soap. I recommend Marc Nelson “Do No Harm Denim Wash”, a mild detergent that is perfect for cleaning raw denim. 

2. Wait for the soap to be completely dissolved in the water and place your jeans in it. Turn off the water when there’s enough for the jeans to be completely submerged (around 3-4 inches).

3. Scour the jeans under the water for a few minutes then place them so that all parts of the jean are under water. Leave your jeans in the tub for 30-45 minutes. Scour your jeans one more time and then drain the water.

4. Once completely empty, refill again with cold water and leave the jeans in it for another 5-10 minutes. This will rinse out any remaining soap.

5. Drain once more and hang your jeans to dry over the drain or outside–they will drip indigo water for a while.

6. Let them dry overnight and there you go–clean jeans

Alternate Methods: Here are a couple other methods you might have heard about and why i think the tub soak is the best method out there. 

1. Washing Machine. Quite a few people simply toss their jeans in the washing machine, which is a perfectly valid and probably more sanitary way to wash your pants. The caveat here is that the way you earn your fades in your raw denim is through the creases that set into the denim. Washing machines tumble, spin, and agitate, which could not only remove those creases but also add a few of their own. If you do choose to wash with a machine though, DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE DRYER. The dryer will shrivel your jeans into a raw denim raisin with a host of weird new creases.

2. Freezing. Some believe, freezing your jeans to kill the bacteria is a fantastic option. Just fold up your jeans, place them in a plastic bag, and leave them in the freezer for several hours. Research, however, says otherwise. Freezing is bacteriostatic - it does not kill the bacteria, it just slows their growth and helps them mutate. So, if you’re okay with breeding super bacteria in your jeans, freezing your denim will only temporarily get rid of the smell your jeans wil get between washes and nothing more.

In Conclusion: The general rule of thumb is to wear your raw jeans for as long as you can stand before washing them. That means that while a go-to pair could ideally go six months, a year, or even longer without a deep cleaning you can rest easy knowing that when you do need to give your favorite denim a thorough clean, it doesn’t have to involve any complicated processes.

Stay raw Denim Heads,
(some editorial content for this blog was inspired by Heddels as well as other favorite brands and denim officials.)

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