Many of us live in our jeans when we’re not at the office. Some of us are lucky enough to work where jeans are a part of the dress code. We love our jeans, but they can cause us distress. Nobody seems to agree on the best way to clean them.

Sure, the rugged denim material is up for hundreds of trips through the spin cycle. But everybody knows that the more you wash them the more faded jeans get. Some of us like that look. Others wish we could preserve the color. Here’s what you need to know about jeans and why your best bet might be trusting them to a professional dry cleaner.

Meant to Fade

Most jeans get their distinct color because of indigo dye. It’s a natural dye, but it’s got a few unique things going for it. Indigo doesn’t’ form a chemical bond with denim cotton fibers the way that other dyes do with cotton. It forms a physical bond instead.

An easy way to envision this difference is to think of indigo coating the surface of denim, rather than penetrating into the actual fibers. This means the blue color easily washes away, and can even be rubbed away or removed by frequent manipulation of the fiber. That explains why the knees of your jeans fade faster than other areas.

Knowing this, it might not come as a surprise to know that Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh tells the public that he washes his jeans only once a year. You probably don’t want to wait that long – so, what are your options?

Dry Clean for Best Results

Fabric experts recommend this because the dry-cleaning process actually helps to set the dye further into the fabric and prevent fading. That’s the first time around.

From this point on, taking your jeans to be professionally dry cleaned is preferable because the equipment used is dramatically gentler on garments than your home washer and dryer. The irony is that we think of denim as a strong material – and it is. It’s the indigo dye giving denim its distinctive look that appreciates gentle cleaning.

Skip the dry-cleaner if your goal is to get your jeans to fade as quick as possible. But, if you appreciate that deep blue indigo hue and want to keep it around, you’ll get the best results with professional cleaning.

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