How Often Should You Wash Your Jeans? The Levi's CEO Has an Answer

The dean of denim has thoughts on what to do when your jeans get gross.
How and when to wash jeans is a debate for the ages.
How and when to wash jeans is a debate for the ages. / Kristina Strasunske/Moment via Getty Images

Fashions come and styles go, but blue jeans remain a wardrobe staple. Denim stands up to pretty much anything, looks good on anyone, and can last for years, if not decades. But there’s always debate about how often you should wash jeans, or whether you should even wash them at all.

One expert source has recently weighed in: the CEO of Levi’s.

Charles Bergh spoke with CNBC recently and advised that his own personal practice isn’t a question of washing or not washing, but in being careful how he washes. Bergh doesn’t use a washing machine. Instead, he spot cleans as needed.

“True denim heads, people that really love their denim, will tell you to never put your denim into a washing machine,” he said. “So that’s what I do … If I drop some curry on my jeans, I’m gonna clean it. But I’ll spot clean it.”

Sometimes, jeans need a little more scrubbing. In those instances, Bergh suggests washing them in the shower. While wearing them. And yes, he’s serious. “And if they get really gross you know, if I’ve been out sweating or something and they get really gross, I’ll wash them in the shower.” Bergh added that you can keep the jeans on and then soap them up like you would a bare leg.

No-wash advocates believe jeans that aren’t exposed to the agitation of a washing machine will last longer, as less stress is placed on the fabric. Washing also fades the indigo dye used in jeans, which normally sits on the top of the threads. Pro-washers believe jeans need a soak to get rid of germs.

Bergh’s comments echo those of other jeans experts, who encourage people to wash their pants as infrequently as possible. If you’re not into clothed showers, you can set your washing machine for a short cycle to reduce tumbling, then air-drying. Others think one wash every 10 times a pair is worn is sufficient.

Well-washed or not, jeans are pretty resistant to wear. Those tiny metal rivets on the pocket help keep them in one piece.