Urban Myth Alert: Freezing Your Jeans Won’t Make Them Clean

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a post published on January 4, 2011.

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Back in 2010, we asked the question,  “Can the freezer really clean your jeans?” We had heard many stories from denim enthusiasts who would do anything to maintain the wash of their jeans, including going months without washing or dry cleaning them. Freezing was named as one method for getting denim clean without subjecting them to water or harsh chemicals.

The theory is that you can kill the bacteria (and smell) by freezing and killing the bacteria.

Well, folks, the theory is false.

Back before I started editing Eat Sleep Denim, I investigated this issue for Gizmodo. I found a few hands-on experiments and interviewed a few scientists. All of the findings came to pretty much the same conclusion: The freezer won’t kill all of the bacteria, and they will repopulate your pants once they thaw. All it takes is a single survivor.

But, raw denim aficionados, don’t fret too much if you can’t bear the thought of washing away your denim’s personalized imprint. One experiment found that jeans left unwashed for 15 weeks had nearly the same amount of bacteria as jeans worn for 13 days. The bacteria probably dies off rapidly enough that it doesn’t accumulate as much as you might think.

That’s notwithstanding spills (the drink and/or falling variety), barf, or other potentially grossifying substances. In those cases, might as well wash them on the gentle cycle with some ridiculously expensive organic laundry detergent. Any loss to your personal fade marks will be paid back in your improved social standing.

[Photo via Heddels]

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