Denim enthusiasts seek out premium American and Japanese jeans, knowing that over time, the indigo-dyed fabric will show off the garment’s individual design. “Indigo not colorfast and water soluble, so microscopically it just sits on the surface and is trapped in the cotton fiber,” said Scott Morrison, founder of the premium denim brand. 3×1. It is this unique feature that makes the method of washing raw denim such an important topic.
Over time, raw denim becomes unique to the owner, folding and creasing to create a complex set of fades. These fades occur over several months of wear, but if the denim is washed during this period, the fading can be reduced to nothing. To create your own signature raw denim look, start with Morrison’s steps below to properly care for your jeans. “Raw denim is a commitment,” Morrison said. “It’s a liability because you won’t see a return on your investment for 9 to 12 months. But having said that, it is impossible to compare with the beauty of jeans worn from raw material. There’s just nothing like it.”
Advice from experts
Our expert: Scott Morrison, founder of the premium denim brand 3×1
Do not wash them for the first few months
“I recommend taking as long as possible to wash raw denim the first time,” Morrison said. “In an ideal world, that’s 4-6 months of daily wear.” The preferred way to wash untreated jeans is to soak the jeans in a tub of water; it’s more delicate than machine and helps preserve unique creases and wear patterns. “Every time your untreated jeans come into contact with water, the indigo is re-deposited on and around your jeans,” Morrison said. “With every wash, you’re essentially removing the color from your jeans.”
“If you want an incredible fade, you want to make sure your jeans are very well distressed, as the distressed areas of your jeans will form whiskers and honeycombs due to the chipping of the indigo in those specific areas of wear – ie. knees, crotch, pockets,” Morrison said. “Once you ‘set’ these areas, you’ll find they stay there with subsequent washes, even as the base shade gets lighter and lighter.”
How to wash jeans
Step #1: Soak and wait
“When you’re ready to wash them, run a tub of cold water. I suggest putting a full cap of ours Denim solution (Woolite Dark and regularly castile soap also work well) in water. I then turned the jeans inside out and placed them in the tub. There’s no need to scrub or agitate the water, just let them soak for 45 minutes or so.” This is a similar method to hand washing wool sweaters and delicates, only in a larger basin. Don’t use hot water (try to reach a warm starting temperature).
Step 2: Rinse
“Pull them out, rinse them with clean, fresh water. Make sure you rinse the car thoroughly as you don’t want any soapy residue left behind.’ Turn them right side out and make sure all residue and any stains are washed off.
Step 3: Dry
“Then let them air dry, or if you’re a little crazy like me, I put them on and wear them around the house for a while.” Jeans can be placed on a hanger, ideally pinned or hung on a hanger. Once they are dry and just damp, you can wear them to stretch.
Step #4: Control odor until next wash
“Placing your jeans in the freezer helps with bacteria build-up between washes. From a scientific standpoint, I’m not sure if this method actually reduces bacteria build-up – however, we do notice that it helps with odor. Personally, I like to spray a little Febreze when they start to smell and then hang them up. Which reminds me, always hang up your jeans, never fold them.’ Weekly washing is not required, it will prevent the development of discoloration. After a few more months, you can re-soak to wash, or if you prefer, throw them in the washing machine inside out in cold water.