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UPDATE: Freezer freshens jeans

by Kristen Philipkoski

A few weeks ago, I asked the question,  “Can the freezer really clean your jeans?” After hearing stories from denim enthusiasts who would do anything to maintain the wash of their jeans, by going months without washing them, dry cleaning them, and freeze cleaning. I was intrigued, but skeptical. The theory was that you could kill the bacteria (and smell) by freezing the bacteria, but the typical household freezer does not get cold enough to kill bacteria, certainly not enough to kill the bacteria in food. So if you drop your favorite cookie on the floor, you won’t kill any bacteria by freezing it, so you might as well eat the darn cookie off the floor.

The freeze-clean method of jeans has been around for a few years. I first heard of it two years ago, and people still do it. So there must be something to it, because people keep doing it. I tested it out for myself finally after getting a pair of jeans I don’t feel comfortable washing as it has painted on elements, the Tory Burch Painted Skinny Jeans.

Here is what I did:

Placed the jeans in a large zip freezer bag, then put the jeans in the freezer.

Day One:

Took them out to see if they smelled clean. They were cold, and smelled like the freezer. No hint of anything else but the freezer.

Week One:

Some people suggest one day, others suggest one week, so I returned the jeans to the freezer for the rest of the week. After taking them out, they still smelled like the freezer, so I left them out to go back to room temperature. They certainly smelled fresher than they did when I put them in a week earlier. They no longer smelled like a freezer.

Week Two:

Now here comes the major test. Some people doubt the freeze cleaning method because they argue that the bacteria just resumes growing once it goes back to room temperature, so we had to leave the jeans at room temperature to see if this is true, if they would go back to their original state.

I found that after leaving my jeans out a week, after being in the freezer for a week that they were as fresh as the day I took them out of the freezer. From what I could tell with a naked eye, the bacteria did not make itself known to me.


The freezer method really does work to freshen your jeans. I would do this with black jeans, or any pair I want the fabric to be preserved. Initially, I thought I would keep up my waxed jeans the same way, but they got dirt and salt on them from walking in the snow, therefore needing a real wash.

Freeze cleaning is better than using a fabric freshener like Febreze, better than those dry clean in your dryer sheets, but not as good as actual dry cleaning or of course traditional washing. A better term for the “freeze cleaning” would be “freeze freshening” because jeans feel do fresher after they’ve spent some time in the freezer.


  • Fashion Limbo

    interesting- I had heard of this technique and great that you tested the theory. While I don’t fret about my blue jeans, my black ones, especially a pair I have that i adore, are very dear to me and I do worry that each time I wash them I am condemning them to a paler appearance and that even from the 1st wash the shade is not as vibrant. I’m guessing you have quite an efficient freezer? I doubt I could do this with my tiny ice-box :)

  • Ashe Mischief

    Hmmm good to know! This could be the way to freshen up my new skinny jeans without the fear of washing them and them shrinking!

  • rachel

    so interesting–i’ve never had blue jeans i cared enough about to worry about washing them, but i agree with the first comment: i have a fav pair of black jeans that are no longer made and i worry all the time that i’ll ruin them forever!

  • Sacha Cruse

    Would steam mess up the wash/finish? It seems so much faster than leaving jeans in the freezer for a week.

  • Fasshonaburu

    This is so cool and much easier than attempting to get that black laundry detergent – which you totally need to test next!

  • Ria

    Great experiment.

  • Jennine

    @fashionlimbo… tell me about it! i push it to the limit with my black jeans, because i HATE the color of faded black. i’ve even tried re-dying my blacks, but the dye in the store never seems to hold up as well as dry cleaning. ah, keeping the blacks black, it’s a never ending cycle!
    @ashe, certainly! it’s good to push off the washing as much as possible!
    @rachel, oh yeah, well you could try re-dying them, to maintain the black…but that might affect any distressing.
    @fasshonaburu, oh yes, i live in a building with no laundry, so i have it “done” (only in NY right)… i bet they would charge so much more to use special detergent!

  • Dayna

    I would really like to know more about steaming them! I don’t think it would fade them or mess up the details…I wash my jeans to get them to tighten up again, as they can get a little baggy. Steam would maybe help this?

  • Naquyle

    can you use something other than a ziplock bag

  • copper fittings

    Other things that could be causing the chest freezer not to cool are a faulty compressor or a low level of refrigerant. In both instances. you’ll need specialized equipment to check and repair.

  • Anthony

    Could also be that there’s not oxygen in the bag as well? Maybe the bacteria suffocate and freeze? Just a thought

  • Jen

    You can throw a handful of rock salt in a cold wash with no soap when you first get your jeans. This will set the dye and keep them from fading anywhere near as fast — and keep them from bleeding on other clothes you may wash with them.

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