Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Day 35 | More about dry cleaning your jeans

I covered a bit of light dry cleaning on day 18, but not nearly enough to cover some of the questions I've been getting. So I decided to go digging around a bit to find out more. I stumbled across a poll on fabsugar.com where 1288 people voted on the following question:

Do You Machine Wash or Dry Clean Your Jeans?
Uh machine wash - who dry cleans their jeans? 76% (979)
Uh I do! It's the best way to preserve them! 8% (98)
A bit of both - depending on which jeans. 12% (153)
Other - do tell! 5% (58)

As you can see it's totally in favour of machine washing at 76%, with a bit of both in second on 12%. You could also argue that most people don't know anything about denim, but be that as it may, my Dr.Denim Harris jeans, will not see a washing machine or water for six months, and thereafter I will wash them in a machine for the first time. I obviously will try avoid the odd bit of rain or snow getting on them.

If the jeans are a cheap, run of the mill, everyday, pair, then by all means wash them in a machine, but try 40˚ water, especially in the beginning, and wash them separately at first. I mean they're still denim and you should still look after them.

The more expensive they get, the better you'll want to take care of them, because the longer you would want them to last. But here's an opinion from someone who seems to know: "Dry cleaning actually will ruin your jeans faster than the machine wash will. Dry cleaning is meant for items that will wrinkle, pill, or spot when exposed to water. The downside is that the chemicals at a dry cleaners deteriorate most fabrics quicker than plain water will. If you want to preserve, hand-wash your jeans; dry cleaning them is actually decreasing their shelf life." She, however, did not say by how much it decreases shelf life.

If you really want to look after your jeans, then it seems you have to wash them by hand.


  1. I've had the same question put to me as an owner in this field by a local TV station. So we conducted a test wherein we dc'd(dry cleaned) a pair of pants 10 times, and washed an identical pair 10 times. We then compared them side by side. It was no contest the pair that was dc'd looked as good as they did on day one only softer. The pair that was washed looked older and lost color. So it depends on your goal, the value of the jeans, and the solvent the cleaner uses. He needs to use hydrocarbon and not perc. And to wash them, they need to be your cheap pair. The jeans you want to keep for a long time and keep lookin good should be dry cleaned by a professional dry cleaner. To watch the test go to thedenverchannel.com and search for the story on cleaning jeans. I'd be glad to answer any dry cleaning questions you have.

  2. Thanks a lot. This info really helps. My goal with this test though, is to "wear in" the jeans first, then wash them in water, so that they shrink the 1-5% for a perfect fit. The won't shrink with dry cleaning. The discussion about dry cleaning though, came up from some questions I've been getting.

    Are you saying then that there is no shortening of shelf life with dry cleaning?

    Thanks for the link to the video, I'm definitely going to check it out.

  3. Hey Darryl -

    Dependable Cleaners in Denver is right on about extending the life of any garment through proper garment care. Dry-Cleaning in Hydrocarbon, CO2 and Solvair will return the jeans looking like new or better with no shrinkage.
    If you are looking for shrinkage any couture level cleaner and many high end cleaners will be able to safely wet-clean your garment and achieve any level of shrinkage you would want to achieve through controlling the drying process. Wet-Cleaning uses water as the solution bringing the detergents, surfactants and conditioners in contact with the garment. In short, bring any garment you value to a garment care organization that you have experience with, or has been recommended by local clothiers. For a third party look at who the best cleaners in the country are go to www.americasbestcleaners.com (tooting my own horn, as we were choosen as one of the top 50 in 2008)
    Tim McCann
    President, Founder
    Best Cleaners
    Capital Region, New York

    1. Tim summarized it very well. If you want to extend the life of your jeans and keep them looking good, dry cleaning over washing will accomplish it. If you want that faded worn in look, water is your best bet. But when you spend $200 plus dollars for a pair, I'd suggest a longer life is the best option.
      Dependable Denver

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