How To Care For Jeans - Tips From An Expert
This is a fun and interesting interview with a real jean expert, Carl Chiara, Director of Brand Concepts for Levi Strauss & Co., the worlds leader in the manufacture and sales of jeans. It's an intimate look at a jean fanatic who really knows how to care for jeans. It's well written by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan who welcomes email at email@example.com.
Mr. Chiara, who says he wears jeans every day in both work and social situations, believes that "the less people wash their jeans, the better their jeans become. Denim really does shape to people's bodies, and when you wash a jean you lose some of that shape."
He doesn't like to put his jeans in a washing machine because agitating the denim makes the fibers on the cotton fabric swell and "bloom." That in turn causes the yarns to tense up and actually get shorter, shrinking the jeans. This also mars the "open" look of the denim, Mr. Chiara says. The color may fade or change as well.
He also avoids heat—using hot water on his jeans or throwing them in a dryer—to protect the quality of the jean, he says.
So does he dry clean his jeans? No, because he doesn't like them coming back stiff—and perhaps with a center crease if they get pressed like trousers. "The jeans should take on your personal day-to-day life and look like you," he says. For example, his own jeans bear the weathered marks of his keys, which he keeps in his front pocket, and his bag, which tends to rub against his upper thigh.
This is not to say that Mr. Chiara doesn't ever clean the 15 pairs of jeans that he owns. He gently spot-cleans spills with a damp sponge and "whatever is under the kitchen sink—usually Windex or 409."
At the end of each day, he hangs his jeans on a hook in his bathroom. When he takes a shower, the steam "freshens [the jeans] up a little bit," he says. He prefers hanging jeans by a belt loop to preserve their shape.
After six months of wearing a pair of jeans, Mr. Chiara does a comprehensive cleaning; his method could also be used by those who like to wash their jeans more often. Usually, he fills a bathtub to about six inches with room-temperature water and adds two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner's Magic Liquid Soap, which he likes because it is mild. Then, he immerses the jeans in the tub, laying them flat.
Sometimes, with dark jeans, he'll add 1/8 cup of white vinegar to the water. "The vinegar sets the indigo and keeps it from fading," he says.
Mr. Chiara is careful not to scrub the jeans or move them around vigorously. He just lets them soak for 20 minutes before hanging them by the belt loops to drip dry. While letting the jeans air-dry, he may slip a "woodsy" scented sachet of potpourri into the jeans as he lays them flat.
If it's sunny out, Mr. Chiara sometimes likes to wear the jeans when they're "almost completely dry" and sit in the sun. "This final phase of drying them out on my body helps the jeans take on my shape," he says.