How to Soften Dark-Wash Denim

photo-1434973539530-5538b4681aacThere’s nothing like a fresh pair of dark rinse jeans. The he crispness of brand-new indigo makes me want to head out on the town. But, new dark denim can be stiff and uncomfortable to wear when they’re brand new—especially in the summer. While there is certainly an appeal to breaking in jeans naturally, there is a way to do it without chafing your skin.

Purists often avoid washing their jeans for months on end, suffering cardboard-like fabric with the goal of a personalized fade. But you can still achieve your own unique wear-in if you soften your jeans first.

Before following these steps, check your care instructions. Jeans with wax treatments or with certain embellishments might be damaged by water and/or fabric softener.

Step 1: Turn your jeans inside out.

Always.

Step 2: Start your washing machine.

Use the cold setting and let the water run for a bit.

Step 3: Add 1 cup of fabric softener, DO NOT add detergent.

I recommend using Method Fabric Softener, or you can try plain vinegar with an Downy Automatic Dispenser (don’t worry, it won’t make your jeans smell like vinegar!). Let your fabric softener mix with the water first—if it comes in direct contact with the fabric it can set into the fabric.

Step 4: Add your inside-out jeans to the wash.

Run them through the rest of the cycle.

Step 5: Tumble dry low with tennis balls or dryer balls.

Dryer Balls may seem pricey, but you can reuse them for up to two years. Drying with tennis balls also works: both will break down denim fibers and soften the inside of your jeans. Be sure to put the heat on l0w to minimize shrinkage—most jeans, though, will go back to their original size after wearing them for a few minutes.

Step 6: Wear your jeans!

The best way to break in and soften jeans is to wear them. And if you soften them first, wearing them will be a whole lot more pleasant!

[Photo by Imani Clovis via Unsplash]
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