Yes, you should wash your jeans, because freezing them doesn’t do a damn thing!
Look, if you really enjoy slipping into a pair of chilled jeans, by all means throw them in the freezer. But if you’re freezing your jeans because you think it will get them clean, don’t waste the precious freezer space: The efficacy of freezing jeans to eliminate bacteria is a myth. Sure, the jeans will emerge from the deep freeze odorless, but as soon as you put them on and your body heat makes contact with the material, all the bacteria and whatnot that was lurking therein will be reactivated.
The first thing to take into consideration is what type of jeans are in need of cleaning. There’s a difference in how you’d wash those old 501’s you’ve had since college that you wear to weed the garden, and the Rag & Bone jeans you just dropped $250 on. We’re going to leave raw denim aside because raw denim is a totally different animal and also raw denim aficionados can get kind of crazy about their pants-based hobby.
Let’s start with that “never wash your jeans” thing. Look, if you don’t want to wash your jeans, that’s up to you to decide. They’re your jeans! But if that advice sounds a little off to you, well, that’s because it is. Here’s the thing: The never-wash people claim that laundering will break down the denim and cause the dye to fade, but what they leave out is that the buildup of dirt, skin, your natural body oils, and environmental grime will also cause the material to break down. Wear will also cause the dye to fade. So! If you prefer wearing clean pants, go ahead and wash your jeans secure in the knowledge that you’re not doing major damage to them. In fact, in many ways you’ll ensure they last longer.
In terms of when to wash them, it really depends on how much you’ve worn them and what you’ve been doing in them. If they smell, are visibly dirty, or have gotten stretched out or are sagging at the knees, they’re probably due for a spin in the washing machine. Even if they don’t, remember that most laundry soil is invisible (so: that skin, body oil, sweat, etc. is there even if you don’t see it) and aim to wash your jeans maybe every 5-10 wearings.
Turn your jeans inside out before chucking them in the washing machine—that will help to preserve the color, as well as allow the dirtiest part of the jeans, the inside, to get more exposure to water and detergent. For darker jeans, the use of a detergent designed for dark clothing will also help to preserve the color and prevent fading.
Jeans can also be hand washed, which will help to cut back on wear and tear because it’s a much gentler experience for the fibers. Because jeans are bulky, the bathtub or a utility sink is probably the best place for this operation, which otherwise just involves the use of cold water and a small amount of detergent.
While you should definitely wash your jeans, when it comes to throwing them in the dryer, you may want to think twice. In the case of your bang-around jeans, go ahead and dry them. But pricier pairs, especially very dark jeans, are not going to love a high heat-drying experience.
Once the jeans are rinsed, roll them up and press firmly on them to release water but don’t wring them, which will twist and break down the fibers. Then lay them flat or hang them to air dry.