There are a few conversation topics that remain off limits today. Polite company (if they want to remain polite) might not touch politics. Coworkers often avoid talking about their salaries. And unless you’re very close friends, you probably don’t ever feel brave enough to reveal how truly filthy you actually are at home.
Thankfully you don’t have to. In honor of official Laundry Day on April 15 — GE Appliances recently revealed the results of a recent poll of 1,509 adults who willingly admitted that they wear their jeans a lot before they ever get around to washing them.
From GE Appliances’ press release:
Ever heard the phrase, those jeans could walk on their own? More than a third of people (37%) wait until they’ve worn their jeans at least five times, with 16% waiting until seven or more times, to wash their jeans.
I’m going to pretend you’re all my close friends and reveal that I think seven wears before washing is actually kind of low for me. I live a pretty low-impact lifestyle though; I spend most of my time typing and scrolling from my dining room chairs not slinging around in mud like a farm hand. (Is that what farm hands do? I don’t know. I’m a work-from-home city hipster.) When I decide to wash my jeans, it’s never because I think they’re dirty, but more likely because the fit is off and I want the dryer to magically zap my baggy denim back into shape.
But obviously jeans get dirty. Even if you’re just resting yours down on subway seats and sliding across booths in seedy dive bars. So they need to be washed, of course, but how often?
Some denim heads insist that infrequent denim washing is the way of the future. Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh is famous for saying, in so many words, that he never washes his jeans. He admits the headlines were a little misleading, but the point he was trying to make is that washing something durable like denim after one or two wears is pretty wasteful. Levi’s research discovered the average pair of jeans consumes roughly 3,500 liters of water in the period from manufacture to only two years of use, washing the jeans once a week, and only around 4 percent of that comes from production — 46 percent of water consumed happens after the consumer gets the jeans home and starts washing them. (The rest of the pie chart, I’m speculating, is resolved in shipping, warehousing, etc.)
Bergh’s best advice for green-minded blue jean wearers is to spot-clean your denim when you see stains that need attention, and hand-wash them if they begin to smell. If you must machine wash, the best method is cold water and line-drying. And if you really need to get that machine-dry shrink back in your inseam, do it. But you should feel good — not gross — about letting yourself go a long, long while between washes.