Even though they are made from a durable fabric that’s been an essential part of everyone’s wardrobe for well over a century, we still have a reverence for our denim that is unmatched by any fabric. We care for it meticulously, we shop for it obsessively, and we wear our favorite and most flattering pairs of jeans like a badge of honor, a prize won.
When it comes to black jeans specifically, the stakes are even higher because, they require a special kind of love and attention to maintain their inky, saturated color. Like Carrie Bradshaw on a rainy New York night, we couldn’t help but wonder: Is there a secret to keeping our black jeans black? Being the intrepid journalists—cough, denim fanatics, cough—that we are, we set out to find the best way to keep our jeans midnight black.
Throughout our research, one (perhaps rather obvious) tip kept coming up: If you can, avoid washing your jeans too frequently. The more times they go through the spin cycle, the more coloration you’ll lose. The good news is that unless you spill on your jeans or wear them on a particularly humid summer day, there’s no need to wash them after each and every wear. (Cleaning expert Jolie Kerr suggests washing every five to 10 wears.)
Below, our best tips for how to keep your black jeans black.
IN YOUR WASHING MACHINE
1. Turn your jeans inside-out before washing, which will help preserve the color and expose the dirtiest part of the jeans (yes, where your skin, body oils, and sweat touch).
2. Use cold water. This is essential for giving your jeans their best shot at staying dark because the cold water will reduce bleeding.
3. Set the washer to the gentle cycle. The more aggressively your machine spins and tosses your clothes about, the more wear and tear they will undergo, which fades the color.
4. Wash your denim with similar colors and don’t overload the washer.
5. Do not use the dryer. Always hang or air dry your black jeans.
THE VINEGAR METHOD
According to Kerr—who pens an ‘Ask a Clean Person’ column on Deadspin—a great way to seal in the dye on your black denim is to soak your jeans for 15 to 30 minutes in cold water and a cup of white vinegar, rinse, and hang dry. (The denim experts at Madewell recommend turning your jeans inside out for this process as well.) You can also try this method as a pre-treatment, soaking your jeans in the washing machine filled with water and the vinegar (on a 30-minute delay) before running them through the cycle listed above and then hang-drying.
Retayne Color Fixative Solution: This product is a “color fixative for commercially dyed cotton, linen, and rayon fabrics that bleed.” It can be used in the washing machine or when hand-washing with hot water.
Carbona Color Grabber: Toss one of these sheets into your wash to grab dyes and prevent them from bleeding or running into your other garments. (Use one in the wash with just your black jeans to reduce fading.)
Woolite Darks: This detergent (which you can use just like your regular product) is specially formulated to “keep your darks darker” for up to 30 washes.
1. In lieu of a wash, the Madewell blog suggests misting your jeans with a mixture that is half cold water and half—wait for it—vodka. After lightly saturating your denim using a spray bottle, put them in the freezer overnight.
2. Note, however, that freezing your jeans does not clean them or kill bacteria, but it will reduce odors temporarily.
3. A few different sources suggest adding one or two tablespoons of salt to your vinegar and cold-water soak. No real reason was given, except that it helps seal the dye along with the white vinegar.
4. Hang dry your denim by the belt loop, not a clipped hanger, which can make those weird creases in the waistband. Also, after washing or soaking your jeans inside-out, dry them right side out.