Seven simple—and unexpected—ways to keep your white jeans white, from skipping the bleach (really) to the best recipes for removing everything from grass to ink to wine.
As much as we love our white jeans, they present a bit of a conundrum. They’re the unofficial uniform of summer, meant to be worn at a time when nearly every activity involves being outdoors, and yet they’re pretty tough to keep clean. But rather than over-wash them or, worse, not wear them at all, we called up Cameo Cleaners, which washes everything from red carpet dresses to vintage denim, to ask how to keep stains to a minimum and whites looking white.
Their advice is probably easier (and better for your jeans) than what you’ve been doing. Instead of tossing your denim into the wash after every wear, follow their washing tips and one of the stain-removing recipes below, if necessary. Here, how to make your jeans last through summer and far beyond.
1. Stop what you’re doing. Chances are you’re doing the white-jeans-washing thing a little wrong. From here on out, no more bleach, dryers, scrubbing, soaking or stain-remover pens.
2. Avoid bleach. Even chlorine-free or color-safe bleach will cause white denim to turn yellow over time. While you’re at it, skip white vinegar too, a popular but ineffective substitute. Vinegar does prevent dark or black jeans from losing their dye (we call this “bleeding”) but it won’t noticeably freshen up your whites.
3. Wash less often. Excessive cleaning breaks down denim’s fibers so jeans are more prone to rips and tears. Use a natural cleanser—we like Tangent Denim Wash—and toss them in the washing machine once every five wears to make them last (and to be kind to the environment too).
4. Bring them into the shower. Hang yours in the bathroom during a hot shower for an easy refresh between washes. The shower’s steam will move through the fabric to release light wear, and as they air out they’ll regain some tightness.
5. Treat stains differently. You may have the same reaction to a coffee and a wine spill—blot! scrub! soap! freak out!—but what’s happening deep inside your jeans is pretty different. The one similarity stains have? They’re all treatable with a mixture of warm water and specific ingredients, which we’ve outlined below. Blot the stain on the outside and inside, gently rub the mixture into the fabric and then rinse well.
For coffee and grass: Add concentrated dish soap (the one you have hanging around your sink).
For ink: Use glycerin-based soap (available at your local drugstore).
For red wine: You’ll need hydrogen peroxide (you know that brown bottle sitting in your first aid kit? That’s the one.).
6. Rinse stains in hot water. Stains are most likely to loosen and lift with 85-degree water—think the temperature you’d shower in. If the water’s too hot to touch, it could bake the stain in.
7. Let them age gracefully. Really, really white jeans aren’t realistic, at least not in the long term—and we like them that way. In fact, we like to let our clothes break in over time. Follow these tips to keep your jeans fresh, and the white will slowly soften to a more natural, milky shade. It’s proof that you have loved—and lived in—them.