The answer might just shock you.
It’s highly likely that at some point in your denim-wearing life you’ve pondered how often you should be washing your faithful jeans. As we hit deep winter here in Canada and many of us are re-wearing our favourite pairs time and time again, we ourselves wondered this very question.
Denim has a pretty bad rap on the environment front – from the dyes used to colour to the toxic chemicals used in production and the huge amounts of water used to produce a single pair, there’s a lot of negatives that come along with the wardrobe staple. According to Stephen Leahy, the author of The Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products, it takes 7,600 litres of water to make one pair of jeans. This figure takes into consideration the growing of the cotton, as well as manufacturing, but does not account for the number of times the jeans will be washed during their lifecycle.
As a result of such startling figures, fashion brands like Reformation are trying to tackle the issue by producing eco-friendly denim made using organically grown cotton and renewable, alternative materials like TENCEL Lyocell (a semi-synthetic fibre that is almost identical to cotton but made from renewable wood materials). However, this still doesn’t alleviate our jean-cleaning needs so we asked Ref’s founder, Yael Aflalo, for her advice. And it turns out, it’s not unlike something you would have tried during 10th grade science. “When it comes to denim, consider bagging and putting your jeans in the freezer for a day or two. This will kill bacteria and odours and will keep your jeans in better shape,” she offers. No water and fresh denim? Sounds like a win-win to us.
However, if you do find you need to throw your jeans in the wash, Aflalo says, “Up to two-thirds of our individual environmental impact occurs at home when we are washing our garments. If necessary, wash using cold water and skip the dryer, only wash as needed and use that spot cleaner.” She also adds that she prefers to avoid the dryer for an added eco-friendly bonus. “I prefer to hang dry my denim – it takes longer but line drying your clothes can reduce up to 700 pounds of greenhouse gases annually.”