I suspect my editor’s motivation when assigning me this story was similar to my mother’s when buying me a hair straightening treatment. It’s wonderfully convenient for me to gloss over things like my frizzy hair and slightly unkempt clothes as an intentional thing I do to channel casual-undone-vaguely-French-coolness. But in truth, I’m just lazy.
Obviously, I’d love my hair to evoke a VO5 hot oil commercial and I’d like my white jeans to not have a small cappuccino stain underneath the right belt loop that is definitely, non-arguably noticeable. As for the latter, I somehow convince myself I’m being low maintenance and cool rather than gross by not properly fixing it (and I’m sure it drives my boss insane because I wear those white jeans really quite a lot).
But now I’m somewhat of an expert about white jeans care, so I can stop pretending their hint of dinginess makes them look Inès de La Fressange-nonchalant and just finally clean them up.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
First, if you haven’t worn a pair of white jeans yet, Scotchgard them to protect from future stains. (Scotchgard, by the way, is a fabric protector that you spray on before you wear something. It’s real cheap—like $5.) Then make a mental note: you need to wash white denim more often than regular blue jeans. Only wear them once or twice—max—between washes.
When you’re going to wash them, put down all the detergents and bleaches and weird home remedies and read the label first. Only bleach denim made of 100 percent cotton; otherwise they’ll just yellow.
Wash white jeans only with other whites, not "lights." Since the alkaline in detergent causes yellowing, do two rinse cycles to make sure you got it all out. And don’t use fabric softener. It causes (surprise, surprise) yellowing.
Either air-dry the jeans or put them in the dryer on low heat. High heat interacts with that alkaline stuff in detergent and just causes more yellowing.
If they’re still looking a little dingy, you can also add a non-bleach laundry brightener to the first rinse cycle. We like White Brite or, as a home remedy, a half cup of distilled white vinegar. (Which people also use to clean coffee makers. Who knew?)
After all this, your jeans should look good, and good in the clean, crisp sort of way, not the vintage-y hand-me-down way. Although that’s cool too—when it’s intentional.
For more tips—clothing care, closet organization and outfit ideas—check out our June/July issue.
- How to Look Cool In a Baseball Cap
- Six Non-Country-Club Ways to Wear White Jeans
- How to Look Taller in Flats
- 100 Ways to Wear Cutoffs
- How to Survive a Summer Thunderstorm In Style
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