Can the freezer really clean your jeans?

There are denim enthusiasts who do not believe in washing their denim with water. Most of them love raw denim, and do not wash their jeans to maintain the indigo dye and allow a natural looking wear that is similar to what many washes accomplish, but with more depth and of course, unique.

One technique that caught my attention was the ‘freeze clean’ method. The theory behind this is that you put your jeans in the freezer to kill the bacteria. Freeze cleaning doesn’t remove dirt or dust, and certainly does not remove stains…what it does is removes the smell. While I have not tried this in the past, because I’m not such a stickler about maintaining a wash with my denim. I do have a few pairs of jeans where I don’t think should be even hand washed, like the Tory Burch painted jeans and the J Brand waxed denim, because even hand washing will break down the novelty elements like the wax coating and the painted details.

Notice the painted details? I’m afraid even hand washing will affect it.

The freeze:

The general consensus about freeze cleaning is to put your jeans in a plastic, reclosable freezer bag and put them in the freezer. Some say 24 hours, others say a week. I’ll be checking in tomorrow to see if there is a difference, and at the end of the week for the final test.

I have my doubts if they really do any “cleaning.” All the searches I have done inquiring if freezing kills germs and bacteria state that freezing doesn’t kill germs in food. There hasn’t been any scientific studies on whether or not it kills the germs in your jeans…however, people have been recommending this method of denim care for quite a few years so it there may be something to it.

Have you ever tried to freeze your jeans? How did it work out?

Check back later this week for an update on how “clean” my jean get from the freeze.



  1. December 13, 2010 / 10:24 am

    While I haven’t done it myself with jeans, I’ve done it with used shoes I’ve purchased. It’s long been a tale that if you put pre-worn shoes in freezer they’d kill any germs or foot funguses that may have been in the shoes… I could see how it’d kill a fungus, since they like warm, humid areas…

  2. December 13, 2010 / 11:33 am

    I’ve never heard of this before, but my bf’s a chef and has been known to put his shoes in the freezer after work (imagine reaching for a cookie and getting a shoe? not so much). Anyway, I see Ashe Mischief already mentioned something similar.

    I’d be very curious to hear your findings – waxed denim is wonderful and I’ve always wondered how one would maintain the finish.

  3. December 13, 2010 / 12:44 pm

    A co-worker tried this with shoes and said it didn’t work so well for her, but perhaps with jeans it could be a different story?
    And I love the freezer shot, we’ve learned back-up coffee is vital!

  4. By a New Yorker
    December 14, 2010 / 11:28 am

    I have never heard of this method before. Sounds a bit like a clothes horse myth though. Let us know how your experiment fairs.

  5. December 15, 2010 / 6:53 am

    oh i’m so curious how the freeze clean method works out for you!! i have a pair of jeans that i’ve been afraid to wash too. this would be a great alternative!

  6. Jennine
    December 15, 2010 / 7:21 am

    @ashe…woah! i’ve never heard that! though i’m not sure how i’d feel about someone elese’s shoes in the freezer..but wow, it’s interesting!
    @carrie…i’m still amazed you keep cookies long enough to keep them in the freezer. 🙂
    @fashionhearald…so far so good…but thanks for the tip, wow, i wonder what happened with your firends shoes
    @kileen.. will do!

  7. Riff
    February 5, 2011 / 8:06 am

    You all have jeans
    You all have a freezer
    So instead of all wondering and waiting on someone else to supply results on the freeze clothes phenomenon – get your jeans – put them in the freezer – and FIND OUT

  8. Chrissy
    April 4, 2011 / 9:36 am

    A friend of mine who is a chemist said that for used shoes, spray them with disinfective spray, freeze them them for a few days, take them out, nuke for 20 secs (depending on wattage) and spray again. He said this will kill all bacteria, germs and common viruses.

  9. Dan
    June 30, 2011 / 12:21 pm

    Whoever came up with this missed out on junior high science class!!!! Freezing has NEVER killed bacteria. They find bacteria in arctic ice that has been dormant for thousands of years. Freezing just stops bacteria from multiplying. Thaw it out and it’s back off to the races. The only thing freezing can kill is parasites, which is why they flash freeze sushi.

    This is a case of a silly wives tale, comparable to fingernails growing after death or waiting an hour after eating before swimming. No scientific bases, just one dumb person to state it as truth, and a thousand ignorant people to believe it.

    As usually, simply checking your science will same you time and possible embarassment when your significant others laughs his/her butt off while you stuff your Levis in the Freezer.

  10. Dan
    June 30, 2011 / 12:22 pm


  11. Alyson
    September 29, 2011 / 9:33 pm

    I think I love my sweaters more in the dead of winter because of this. I lived in a VERY cold area (temps were -30 average that winter) and I was always wearing these same sweaters, they were really soft, thick, nice, wool sweaters. But I would always take it off in work and just end up throwing it in my car. Since the temp in my car was usually below freezing, they always felt soft and clean, and comfy. But when things warmed up I brought them in more often. But they never had the same feel to them.

  12. November 20, 2011 / 11:54 pm

    Actually it does have scientific basis. But for it to be truly effective it needs to be very cold. For example all Sushi grade fish is frozen to -76 degrees to kill bacteria and parasites. So I’m pretty sure it wold work on most common bacteria as well that are not native to arctic regions of the planet. But the problem is the average person’s freezer does not get even close to that cold.

  13. December 5, 2011 / 11:19 pm

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  14. Rodolfo
    May 27, 2012 / 6:15 am

    i just took a couple shirts out of the freezer in fact, I was air drying them before but it was cloudy and I wasn’t happy with the results, they dried but smelled like wet towel instead of the nice detergent and softener I used, so I put them in the freezer for several hours to try to get rid of the smell and now they smell like baby butt ! (clean baby butt). The odor is gone, I can’t perceive it, they have a pretty neutral smell now with a little baby-like detergent odor, so it’s good.
    I don’t know of it kills all the bacteria, I highly doubt it at such conventional temperatures but it definitely decreases the intensity of odors which leads me to think that since bad odors are produced by bacteria at least some of those bacterias get killed or diminished by the cold.
    I know for a fact that it works not only with fresh and just washed clothes but also with really dirty things. When I first read about this it was an “advice for dirty shoes”, so I tried it. I’m still in college so I live in this sort of condo away from home, I only have two pairs of tennis shoes and I tend to use one pair a lot more than the other so they get really dirty, as embarrassing as it might sound, stinky for the most part. I live in a really hot place so you can imagine… The point is I can’t always wash my shoes cus if I left them all day hanging from the balcony by the time I came back they would be gone. So I started putting them in the fridge for several hours every now and then and the difference is amazing, the smell goes from used gym equipment to nothing, just like that !
    Of course it’s not a permanent thing, after a while the bad odor exponentially comes back, but at a really slow rate, sometimes weeks.
    So I’d say it works pretty well, I wouldn’t say stop washing your clothes, but for those odors that don’t represent a hazard (say your clothes kept a a smell from not drying very well or very fast, or smelly shows within the humanly acceptable) I think it works.

  15. Roxanne
    August 14, 2012 / 1:09 pm

    Stuck my jeans in the freezer last Thursday and took them out last night…they smell terrific. Fuck the science on this one, not everything in life needs an explanation 😉

  16. Cindy
    August 22, 2012 / 5:42 pm

    I work at American eagle and I’ve been told by all of my managers that our jeans aren’t meant to be washed and you should only do so if you actually get them dirty. We recommend that you put them in the freezer because it will get rid of the smell, and on a daily basis how dirty do your jeans actually get?

  17. October 22, 2012 / 9:50 pm

    Badass. Going to try this tonight and see if it removes the sweat smell from my gym shirt.
    (My jeans don’t ever get a smell, so I figure this will be a better test.)

    If it works out perhaps I can develop a nice unique (and hygienic) sweat stain pattern :S

  18. Julieann Jaeger
    December 18, 2012 / 6:23 am

    I’m goiong to try this with my running bras. Haha! That would be a miracle.

  19. Bannef
    March 10, 2013 / 5:58 pm

    Ha, I have a friend who swears by this for jeans and nice sweaters. It seems to work well enough for him – he definitely never smells weird – but it’s mighty odd to go into his freezer for some ice and come out with a pair of jeans.

  20. January 13, 2015 / 7:13 am

    That sounds really interesting! I have no idea that freezing could kill a certain smell. I suppose that it kills the germs. Thanks a lot for sharing this method!

  21. April 2, 2015 / 5:25 am

    OMG! I hear for the first time that I can freeze my jeans in order to get rid of stains! Usually I use hot water and dish soap, especially for greasy stains. I will try this method for sure!

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