2/25/11

How To Series: How to Keep Your Blue Jeans Blue


Whenever I'm on the sales floor working as a personal shopper I hear various women reiterating the same questions and concerns about clothing. How is this supposed to fit? Where was this made? How do I hide my tummy/legs/arms/bust? Truth be told, even we humble stylists ask ourselves those same questions when we shop. Before even considering something for the dressing room my next question is inevitably, "What are the care instructions?". Okay, first it might be "How much is this thing anyway?" but the other is a close second! One of the perks about having someone like me in your pocket is we are filled with useful information that is otherwise not so readily available online. Years in school and walking the floor has prepped us for anything. So here's a blog dedicated to answering the number one question I still get today: how do I wash my jeans? Actually, it's a blog to answer the small caveat often attached to that question: How do I keep the color from fading?

some faded blues and greys at jawn.mikevitoroulis.net

(To be clear, I do know how to properly wash jeans and you can click here for a full article I did with SF Indie Fashion. It not only goes into the care of denim but also how to shop for that perfect pair.)

So how DO you keep jeans from fading? The answer is actually quite simple and easily found online: vinegar. However, what I know, and what isn't so accessible on the internet, is WHY you need to use vinegar to help set the dye. As a resource on fabric properties or "home made" cleaning remedies I continually use Fabric Reference, Fourth Edition, by Mary Humphries. Quite possibly the fabric bible short of a swatch kit. It provided all the information about the dye used in jeans, how the jeans are dyed and what that means. How vinegar is involved will be understood in a sec.
 
No fancy vinegars needed. A plain, white one will do the trick.

First things first, the dye used to color jeans is called "indigo". Traditionally used to make blue jeans that familiar blue, indigo is a vat dye. A vat dye is a dye that is insoluble in water, meaning it won't bleed in water. However, in order to be applied to cellulose fibers (like the cotton in denim and most natural fibers which are porous) indigo must first be made soluble in an alkaline bath. Once in the bath, the dye is taken in by the fibers. When it is removed from the bath, the dye oxidizes and sets in the fiber as an insoluble color.

textilelibrary.blogspot.com

Why then would it fade with several washings if the dye is set? Because the dye is always weaker and susceptible to coming off (crocking) in any washing machine with base, or alkaline, conditions. Vinegar is an acid, the opposite of alkaline, and a good combatant at preventing color-loss with vat dyed products. Using a little bit in your machine prevents the water from becoming alkaline and further removing the color from your jeans. It's just an extra precaution you can take to ensure your true blues stay saturated.

a lot of jeans at zcolyer.blogspot.com

How much vinegar you should use varies on the blogs and internet from a 1/4 of a cup to a full cup. My best suggestion is take Vinegarbook.net's advice and do a 50/50 solution of a water and vinegar bath for 10-15 minutes before washing. Afterwards, proceed to wash your jeans as per my instructions in the SF Indie Fashion blog. You can also try adding a quarter cup to a full cup of vinegar to your machine before laundering with regular detergent. The main idea I gather is that the vinegar needs to be added before any other product is introduced. And though I have yet to try this solution out myself, the process should help keep our jeans dark and our rumps practically pickled to perfection in a nice, dark denim.


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Image(s) courtesy of Google Image Search

2 comments:

JJ85 branded said...

great idea!
Mens designer jeans

Jeans For Men said...

you gave such great tips to extend a jeans's life.now I can wear my favorite jeans for long time.thanks you.

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