Denim jackets are timeless wardrobe staples. Whether you’ve owned one for years or recently acquired a new favourite, the need to wash it eventually arises.
Washing a denim jacket, however, isn’t as straightforward as tossing it in the machine with your regular laundry.
Denim has unique characteristics that require special care to maintain its colour, shape, and longevity.
This article walks you through the step-by-step process of how to wash a denim jacket, including choosing the suitable detergent, washing settings, and drying techniques.
With this guide, you can keep your denim jacket looking fresh and fashionable with every wear.
How to Wash a Denim Jacket in the Washing Machine
Step 1: Check the care label
First, check the care label on your denim jacket. It will provide specific instructions on how to care for your jacket, including washing temperature and any special care considerations.
Follow the care label instructions if they differ from the general guidelines provided here.
Step 2: Prepare your jacket for washing
Make sure all pockets on your denim jacket are empty to prevent accidentally putting items through the wash.
If applicable, also remove any items like pins, buttons, or detachable accessories from your jacket that could damage the denim or the washing machine itself.
Next, you’ll want to close all buttons and zip on the jacket. This helps prevent them from snagging or damaging the denim fabric during the wash, or hitting against the side of the drum and causing loud noises.
We also recommend turning the denim jacket inside out to help protect the outer surface and preserve the colour. This is especially important if you want to maintain the distressed look of the jacket.
Optional step: If you have a large mesh laundry bag, consider placing the jacket inside it before putting it in the washing machine to provide an extra layer of protection.
Step 3: Load the washing machine
You can wash a denim jacket in the washing machine by itself: open the door and throw your denim jacket in the drum. In fact, it is good practice to wash denim separately, especially if it’s the first time you’re cleaning it or if you’re concerned about colour bleeding.
Denim can sometimes release dye during washing, potentially staining lighter-coloured items.
Washing your denim jacket alone can help prevent any colour transfer or damage to other clothes.
However, if you do want to wash it with other items, here are some guidelines:
- Wash dark colours together: If you choose to wash your denim jacket with other items, make sure they are dark or of similar colours. This reduces the risk of the dye bleeding and transferring onto other garments.
- Wash similar fabrics together: Select items with similar fabric types or care instructions. For example, you can wash denim jeans, shirts, or dungarees with your denim jacket. Heavy cotton garments are also durable and safe to wash with denim material.
- Avoid light & delicate items: Avoid washing your denim jacket with light-coloured or delicate items. When washing these items together, there’s a higher chance of colour transfer and damage caused by friction.
Whatever you do, ensure you don’t overload the washing machine. Overcrowding can cause uneven washing and stretching to your jacket, potentially causing damage to the appliance as well.
Step 4: Add your detergent to the washer
It’s now time to add your chosen laundry detergent. You can add a liquid laundry detergent to the dispenser or directly into the drum.
Alternatively, chuck a washing pod in with your denim jacket or pour a scoop of laundry powder into the machine drawer.
Whichever type of laundry detergent you choose, opt for one designed to preserve colours.
These detergents contain special ingredients designed to make fabrics hold onto the dye, helping to prevent colour bleeding and maintain the vibrancy of your coloured clothes.
If you don’t have one already, see our guide to the best detergents for coloured clothes.
Tip: If you’re unsure which type of detergent to use, our Power, Pods, Liquids, or Sheets page can help you choose the best option for your requirements.
Step 5: Choose your washing cycle
Start the washing machine on a setting that uses cold water. The cold water helps prevent denim from fading and shrinking while lowering energy consumption and decreasing laundry costs. For effective cleaning, ensure the detergent you use is compatible with cold water washes.
To minimise stress on the fabric, it is also best to skip the spin cycle or set it to the lowest possible speed when laundering denim garments.
You can adjust the spin speed manually or opt for a gentle or delicate cycle that uses around 400rpm—the lowest spin setting.
You can also use a hand-wash cycle, but it will usually spin clothes at higher speeds of 800rpm.
Step 6: Remove and hang dry
Once the washing cycle is complete, carefully remove the denim jacket from the machine. Gently reshape it to its original form if needed before hanging the jacket on a hanger to air dry.
Avoid using a dryer, as the high temperature can cause shrinkage and damage to the fabric.
If the jacket is wrinkled after drying, you can iron it on a low to medium heat setting. Turn it inside out to protect the outer surface.
How to Wash a Denim Jacket with Fur
Washing a denim jacket with fur requires special care to ensure that both the denim and the fur remain in good condition.
You can use the same standard method as described above. However, there are a few extra steps and considerations:
- Brush the fur: Before loading the denim jacket into the washing machine, use a soft brush to gently fluff and detangle the fur. Be very gentle to avoid pulling or damaging the fur fibres, brushing in the direction of the natural flow.
- Place in a mesh bag: Laundry bags are optional for standard denim jackets but a must-have when washing jackets with fur. The mesh bag protects the fur and prevents it from matting or tangling during the wash.
- Fluff the fur: The fur on your denim jacket might look flat after washing and drying. To solve this issue, gently fluff and comb the fur with a soft brush to restore its softness and natural appearance once the jacket is completely dry.
How to Dry a Denim Jacket Fast
The recommended way to dry a denim jacket is to leave it to air-dry naturally. But unfortunately, it can take a long time for denim to dry this way, especially in cold or humid weather.
If you need to speed up the drying process, here are some additional tips:
- Towel dry: After washing your denim jacket, gently press it between clean, dry towels to absorb excess moisture. Be careful not to wring or twist the jacket, as this can stretch the fabric or affect its shape.
- Use a hairdryer: You can use a hairdryer on its lowest heat setting to help speed up the drying process. Hold the hairdryer at a distance from the jacket to avoid direct heat, which can damage the denim. Move the dryer around to evenly distribute heat and prevent overheating.
- Increase ventilation: Hang your denim jacket in a well-ventilated area with good airflow. Alternatively, position a fan near the hanging denim jacket to enhance air circulation. If the weather permits, you can hang it outdoors to take advantage of natural air circulation.
While it’s tempting to use a clothes dryer for quick drying, it’s generally not recommended for denim, as the heat and tumbling can cause shrinkage and damage the fabric.
If you must use a dryer, set it to the lowest heat setting and remove the jacket while it’s still slightly damp.
How to Clean a Denim Jacket Without Washing
Cleaning a denim jacket without washing it can be done to remove minor stains, odours, or freshen it up between washes.
Here are some methods for cleaning your denim jacket without washing it, depending on the type of issue you’re facing:
1. Spot cleaning (best for stain removal)
You can spot clean specific stains or dirty areas on your denim jacket using a mild detergent and a soft cloth or sponge.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Mix a small amount of mild liquid laundry detergent with water.
- Dampen the cloth or sponge with the solution, then gently blot or rub the stained area.
- Be cautious not to scrub too vigorously, which can damage the fabric.
- Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away any soapy residue.
- Let the jacket air dry naturally by hanging it in a well-ventilated area.
2. Hanging outside (best for odour removal)
To remove odours from your denim jacket, hang it in a well-ventilated area or outside on a clothesline for a few hours.
The fresh air can help eliminate odours and leave your jacket smelling fresh, while the UV rays in sunlight have disinfecting and deodorising properties.
For extra odour-busting power, lightly spritz the jacket with a fabric freshener or a mixture of water and a few drops of essential oils.
Hannah is a freelance content writer with a passion for cleaning. She worked her way around Australia by cleaning hostels in exchange for free accommodation and used her cleaning skills to bag her a job as a chalet host for a luxury ski company in France.