Jill Layton
February 19, 2016 11:03 am
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Today in denim news, we learn that machine-washing a good pair of jeans can be super damaging to the material. So basically, those of us who have been washing our jeans (even every once in a while) have been going about denim care all wrong.

While this news makes some sense, it’s hard to imagine not washing a pair of jeans that a) smell and b) have stretchy butt (you totally know what we’re talking about here). But here’s the logic behind all of this kinda uncomfortable information.

Levi’s CEO and President Chip Bergh says he never washes his jeans, but “spot cleans” stains with a toothbrush. This seems like it would be a lot of extra unnecessary work, but according to Bergh, if you want your jeans to last a long time, don’t wash them.

While talking to Fortune in a video from 2014 that is making its rounds on social media, Bergh said, “The point I was trying to make… it was a wake-up call to consumers that we go into autopilot. And after we’re finished wearing something, we just automatically toss it into the laundry.”

Which, according to Bergh, is exactly the behavior we need to change. “A good pair of denim doesn’t really need to be washed in the washing machine except for very infrequently or rarely,” he said. He argues that washing a good pair of jeans (we all know the difference between a solid pair of jeans and jeans that basically fall apart after one wear) is not only a waste of water, but it damages the material.

Bergh wrote this piece for Huffington Post back in 2014 where he explained that it’s fine to wash your hang out jeans, but not jeans that are meant to be your nice pair. “I believe we don’t need to wash jeans as often as most people think we do,” he wrote, adding “Now, to be fair, these were also my very best pair of Levi’s, which I normally wear to the office — not for playing soccer in the park with my daughter!”

If you’re still not sold on the idea, other denim companies give the same advice on their websites. Hiut Denim offers this advice: “Raw denim is best given a good six months before washing. The longer you can leave it, the better your jeans will look.The reason for this is that the indigo will have worn off in places where you make natural creases. Just by sitting down, putting your phone in and out of your pockets, your hands in your pockets. All these daily little things will make your jeans look great.”

“When it comes to the big day, the indigo will fade where you made those little creases to reveal the contrasts that give it the well worn look,” the website continues. “If you wash your jeans too early, the indigo will wash off uniformly so it will give it an even, dark indigo cover which means the magic will have gone. Like anything in life, there are no short cuts.”

So there you have it. No more washing your nice jeans, unless they’re really dirty, in which you can clean them using a toothbrush — preferably not the one you brush your teeth with. Unless you’re cool with that.

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