Denim Glossary - Care Guide

Care Guide

A bit of advice on how to care for your dry denim, how to wash, dry and store and how to deal with the complications of shrinkage...

Dry Denim
Dry denim is at its very best in a raw state – left unwashed the cotton becomes an organic map of its wearer's body and a record in fabric of their story.

Particular abrasion patterns, locations of wear and whiskering will appear over time as the fabric shifts and settles; the longer the denim is kept dry the more developed and indelible these coveted features become.

Knees, ankles and crotch will develop wear and fading, which can be accelerated with grease or oil treatments. With this in mind, raw denim's first wash should be put off for as long as possible (if it has to happen at all). 6 months is considered the optimum time to let natural creases consolidate in the fabric but many true denim aficionados opt out of washing their raw denim altogether. Stuffing pockets with tumble dryer sheets or hanging jeans outside over night are ways to combat smell without compromising the true nature of raw denim.

Washing (If youmust)
Use as little soap as possible and if you can find a neutral or non-biological washing powder use this. Biological washing powder contains enzymes best avoided to preserve your denim. Don't tumble dry. Even if you want shrinkage tumble drying doesn't guarantee an even reduction. Re-shaping when wet is better. To maintain consistent colour dry indigo jeans flat. The dye can 'marble' when it's wet if the denim's resting unevenly.

Dry thoroughly, it can take denim up to 2 days to air dry. Hanging outside is best for your jeans but not always possible. To dry indoors you need a well ventilated room or airing cupboard. Never place directly onto a heat source such as a radiator, this will damage fabric and its finish.

If your jeans are heavily pigmented dry or raw denim, washing cold with salt for the first cycle should help to set any loose dye in the fabric. Do be aware that fresh indigo dye will transfer, getting it on your hands or legs is fine – it'll wash off but avoid light upholstery, white leather shoes etc for the first wear or two.

As creases and contours mature, dry denim will fall into them naturally when you take them off. The best, easiest storage is to unbuckle your jeans and leave them where they fall.

Traditionally before denim is woven, the threads it's made of are treated with wax or resin to stiffen them and make them easier to weave (although with most repro denim starch is used instead.) When dry/raw/unwashed denim is washed for the first time the fibres constrict and the denim shrinks. Raw denim can be sanforized (treated with a sanforizing process that lessens shrinkage) but all raw denim will shrink to some degree upon immersion in water, up until it's first wash.

Un-Sanforized Denim
Raw, unsanforized denim (untreated with the sanforizing process that minimizes shrinkage) will reduce in size by up to 10%, even when washed cold (the best way to keep shrinkage to a minimum). This is only an approximation however; shrinkage varies from brand to brand and even from style to style. If your waist measures between 27"-36", buy your unsanforized raw denim an inch larger in anticipation of shrinking. If your waist is between 38" – 48" go 2 inches bigger. Go for a longer leg too – 3" should do it, you can always cuff or tailor your jeans if they're still too long after the first wash. Raw denim can come with an inside leg as long as 36" in anticipation of shrinkage.

Sanforized Denim
If raw denim has been pre-treated (sanforized), shrinkage is greatly reduced – from the 10% of unsanforized raw denim to an approximate 3-5%.