Should you ever wash denim?

Last updated 05:45 19/05/2014

DENIM DILEMMAS: If you're not supposed to wash your jeans, then how on earth do you get rid of those pesky spills?

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We've all heard the myth you shouldn't wash your jeans in the first six months of wearing them - or, if you're American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, at all - especially if you've invested in the crème de la crème of the jean world, better known as raw denim.

If you're as fussy about such things as I am, you probably gagged when the sales assistant tried to share this "trick of the trade" and washed them as soon as you wore them on a decent night out.

There is, however, some substance to raw denim's urban legend and, thankfully, also some easy ways to deal with the inherent grossness.

Much like a blank canvas, raw denim is a work in progress, which is why washing them too soon is considered a cardinal sin.

Par Lundqvist is the creative director of Australian denim label Neuw Denim and, as legend has it, owns more than 3000 pairs of vintage jeans dating all the way back to the early 1900s.

He confirms the best way to keep your denim in top condition and prolonging their lifespan is to simply keep your jeans away from the wash as long as possible.

"Prolonged wear without washing will help form the jeans to your body," Par says. "The abrasion of everyday wear and tear will also produce a unique wear pattern that is perfectly formed for you. The longer you wear the jeans before washing, the more intense and unique the wear pattern will be."

Ultimately, what this means is that you end up with two pairs of jeans in one: your original indigo ones and then - should you finally succumb to giving them a rinse - a pair of completely-unique-to-your-body-shape and daily-wear-and-tear-classically-faded blue jeans. But first, you have to wear them. A lot.

So what do the experts suggest doing to keep your jeans odour-free and at their maximum freshness in the interim?

According to the original denim makers Levi's, as well as Mr Hilfiger and the team at Neuw, the easiest way to kill off odour-causing bacteria is to put your jeans through an occasional cryogenic process. In other words, simply stick them in the freezer for a few days.

There are disputes within the scientific community about how much and what kind of bacteria a deep freeze will kill off (if any). From personal experience I can say that, for whatever reason, this seems to do the trick and give them a freshness boost the next time I've worn them. Just remember to take them out a good few hours before you intend to wear them, otherwise risk potential frostbite where you can least afford it.

The second tip is one that may be a little more grounded in scientific research, plus a great one if you're particularly sensitive to odours. Mix up a few drops of lavender or tea trea oil in some water and spray it along the inside of your jeans. Both oils have antiseptic qualities while also help to disguise the scent of things such as the inevitable spilt drink or two. Just be sure to not use too much, lest you end up wafting like a bowl of potpourri - a little goes a very long way.

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Thirdly, and any new parent can probably attest to this, never underestimate the power of the baby wipe. Considering what they were designed to clean up, the job of wiping away the grime of a hard day's work in the office is practically nothing in comparison. Better yet, unlike lavender or the tea-tree option, you can get these in unscented form, and unlike the freezer, you won't need to worry about defrosting before setting foot outside the house.

And finally, Par offers this sage advice - take a bath. There should be only one soap dodger in your home and that should be your jeans. "Most of the dirt and grime that causes smells or makes jeans feel dirty comes from you. So make sure to shower every now and then."

Are you able to go the distance when it comes to raw denim and the belief you shouldn't wash jeans for months on end?

- Sydney Morning Herald


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