How to Wash Raw Denim


Raw denim is so difficult to clean or wash in the most thorough way possible without ruining its quality. It is thick, heavy and rich in color. Do not fret because we are giving you tips on how to wash raw denim.

How to Identify Raw Denim

First of all, some of us may not be certain if their newly bought denim jeans are raw or not. For starters, “raw” simply refers to unwashed denim. That’s why raw denim is also called dry denim.

Before assuming that all denim jeans in stores are unwashed – hence they are all raw, some people would think – some manufacturers actually wash denim products before delivering them to stores. Believe it or not, a lot of today’s denim jeans are pre-washed to meet some consumers’ expectations. Many people do not want their new denim jeans to bleed off the indigo dye, shrink, and stay outrageously firm or stiff during the first use.

In short, you can identify raw denim if the jeans are too stiff and have that special sheen, which contributes to the perception of “rich” color.

Why Wear Raw Denim

Mentioning the disadvantages and inconveniences of owning raw denim, why is it still popular for denim enthusiasts? Denim jeans will always be trendy for more generations to come because they have that worn-out look that does not need any pampering. Flaws and stains are too difficult to notice for typical indigo denim jeans. If you forget to wash your denim jeans, no one else would notice. Denim is good in concealing odor.

Now, going further with how “rawness” gives a big impact on regular denim jeans, raw denim is more affordable than pre-washed ones. People are paid to torture pre-washed denim just to let it achieve that worn-out look without the need for the consumer to wait for several months or years. The downside of that convenience is pre-washed jeans are not durable compared to heavy-duty raw denim since they already went through drastic processes.

Another great thing about raw denim is that it gradually yet perfectly hugs your body shape after continuous use. Pre-washed denim stays the same for years, making it look dull and awkward to wear in the long run if your body slightly changes shape.

This last reason is probably the best one: raw denim fades beautifully. Different styles and patterns slowly appear on raw denim through time. Raw denim can have that iconic fade around the knees and thighs, honeycomb-like patterns, and traditional whiskers above the thighs.

How to Wash Raw Denim

Finally, it is time for us to learn how to wash raw denim. But, first things first, do not wash raw denim often. You should learn the trick of finding the right timing. If raw denim is always washed, its natural fade speeds up. Denim jeans need to fade slowly to achieve amazing patterns and color gradients. We recommend washing your denim jeans if it already irritates your thighs and legs, and releases a distracting or strong odor.

Amazingly, some people can keep their raw denim jeans unwashed for more than a year. An experiment has been done by comparing the level of bacteria on old unwashed denim to a recently cleaned one. The result is not alarming. That’s how awesome denim is.

If your denim jeans have small unnoticeable stains, you can just wipe it out with elbow grease and a sponge. With mud, big spills and sweaty days, you definitely need to wash your jeans immediately. There are different methods on how to wash raw denim based on your preferences and current needs:

  • Cold Wash

    All these quality-control tips end up with an ordinary washing method. But, there is definitely a twist. You should turn your raw denim jeans inside out. Use cold water. Make sure that you are using the right detergent. Choose a detergent that can preserve dark colors. Lastly, hang the jeans to completely dry out.

    The inside-out washing technique ensures that raw denim jeans will preserve patterns and fades they already have produced gradually. Also, cold water cannot easily strip off dark colors. Honestly, this is our favorite method.

  • Cold Soak

    If you are apprehensive about using a washing machine for your raw denim jeans yet liking the idea of cold water, you can just soak the jeans. With cold water, soak the jeans in the bathtub. Remember to turn them inside out first. Do not use detergent. After an hour and a thorough squeeze to remove excess water, hang your jeans to dry. You can extend the soaking to two hours for cleaner jeans.

    This technique is perfect for preserving dye and shrinking jeans. But, it is only good for raw denim jeans that do not have big stains.

  • Freezer Method

    Let’s take it up a notch with freezing raw denim. Fold your denim jeans and keep them in the freezer for the whole night in order to eliminate some bacteria. Make sure to empty the pockets first. Put the jeans in a plastic bag to avoid affecting other things inside the freezer. For some people, this may help. But for really dirty denim jeans, resort to other means.

  • Beach Soak & Rub

    Another unnatural way to wash raw denim is by going to the beach and plunging into the water with your jeans on. To make things sound even more insane, rub sand all over your wet denim jeans. Let them dry.

    This method is not actually too crazy because many denim enthusiasts really do this. Although, it is not exactly aiming to clean denim. It is more on enhancing the worn-out look of the jeans.

  • Ordinary Wash

    Surprise! You can actually just wash raw denim like regular clothes. This method is obviously for people who are not particular about fades and patterns. Denim is durable and can withstand the test of time no matter how you wash it. Sure, it will not last longer than carefully washed denim but it can stay intact for years.

    Yes, you may use hot water and any detergent. You can also mix the jeans with other clothes. Piece of cake! But never risk mixing light-colored clothes with it. Like what we have been discussing since earlier, raw denim bleeds dye.


Quality indeed requires special care. Raw denim can stand heavy wear for decades but fragile everytime you need to wash it. Fragility is more on the color and fading. As a whole, raw denim jeans stay intact for many years.

If your raw denim jeans are too long for your legs or your favorite shoes, take a look at different ways on how to cuff pants. You may also check out our article on what to wear with cowboy boots.