No, You Don’t Have to Wash Those Jeans – Really!

Levi Strauss & Co.
January 25, 2018

To wash or not to wash…

When it comes to your jeans, it still remains a real question as the debate resurfaced on social media as recently as last week with people on both sides of the issue weighing in with their respective “ewws” and “never wash!”

Of course, if you’re asking us, we encourage you to wash less, if ever. In our last Product Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) study, designed to evaluate the environmental impact of some of our products, we found that consumer care habits were responsible for 23 percent of the water used in the lifecycle of a pair of Levi’s® 501 jeans. That’s nearly 870 liters of precious H2O spent on not very dirty denim!

But we don’t just talk the talk here. Our own CEO, Chip Bergh, received global attention for his now-famous proclamation that he does not wash his jeans unless absolutely necessary. Spot clean? Yes. Tossing them into a washing machine? Never. “And, when my jeans really need a wash, I do it the old fashioned way: I hand-wash them and hang-dry them,” Chip once wrote. “Ask my wife – I really do!”

As a company, we have taken other innovative sustainable steps that include a series of innovative finishing techniques we call Water<Less®, which can save up to 96 percent of the water in the denim finishing process. We’ve since open-sourced our Water<Less® processes — making them publicly available to others and encouraging other denim companies to use them. Since kicking off this process, we have been able to save 2 billion liters of water.

In addition, we are a founding member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which trains farmers on practices that increase cotton output while using less water and pesticides. In 2016, Better Cotton farmers reduced their water use by up to 14 percent while increasing their profit by more than 30 percent. Today we source more than 20 percent of our cotton as Better Cotton.

So, take it from the denim experts, the best way to care for your jeans? Don’t wash them! The planet will thank you for it.

Sign up for our Unzipped newsletter to get the best of the Unzipped blog — company news and views, employee profiles, innovation and sustainability stories, behind-the-scenes, and Archives highlights — sent straight to your inbox weekly.