News / Edmonton

Wash your jeans less, says Edmonton researcher

"Do a sniff test and if its fine and they don’t look visibly dirty, then why put them in the washing machine?”

Want your jeans to last? Don't wash them so often, an Edmonton researcher says.

Flikr/Chris Chen

Want your jeans to last? Don't wash them so often, an Edmonton researcher says.

An Edmonton researcher might have the answer to an age-old question: How often do you have to wash your jeans?

It's not nearly as often as you’d think.

Rachel McQueen, an associate professor in textile science at the University of Alberta, recruited 52 people and gave them each two pairs of jeans that they had to wear regularly for about six months.

One pair they washed every two days; the other, every 20 days.

Conclusions? Washing your jeans once a month wasn’t that bad.  

“People have that perception that it’s bad if I’m not putting on a pair of jeans that haven’t been recently washed, that somehow I’m disgusting,” McQueen said. “But that’s a myth.”

Participants were asked to rate their jeans' cleanliness every two days of wear, and while there was a "slight" increase in how dirty the infrequently washed ones were, McQueen said it wasn't huge.

There are obvious exceptions. “If you spill a whole lot of coffee on yourself, then yes, put them in the washing machine,” McQueen said. But otherwise, waiting a month or so is fine, she said.  

“For a more day to day basis, do a sniff test and if it's fine and they don’t look visibly dirty, then why put them in the washing machine?

"There’s a lot of water usage and energy usage in creating clothing in the first place, and the consumer-use phase is a huge chunk of that.”

McQueen said the jeans put through a wash and dry every two days had visibly more wear and tear.

Brandan Gaspic, assistant manager of the Bootlegger in South Common, said he regularly sees pants coming back ruined.  

“A lot of people like to use… powerful detergents and then over wash [their jeans] and it makes them just fall apart,” he said.

On the other end of the spectrum are those with unusual strategies—like freezing their jeans periodically—to try and kill any bacteria without resorting to washing, he explains.

Gaspic has his own a system for jeans, using  shelves: Jeans start on the top shelf when he's worn them once, then work their way down the closet. He washes his jeans after five to seven days, but said the study might convince him to hold out a bit longer.

He runs and said his jeans can get sweaty — meaning he goes no longer than 13 days without washing. “Clearly we’re all different.”


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