Washing New Jeans? Here's How to Avoid Fabric Bleeding

a pair of jeans falling out of a tote bag and laying on top of orange fabric


There's nothing quite like finding the perfect pair of dark denim jeans that fit just right, feel comfortable, and look good for every occasion. That is, until you see the dye bleeding onto everything from your sneakers to your sweater—and sometimes even your skin. Unfortunately, the indigo dye that's used to create that inky, dark look is notorious for bleeding. This can also happen after several washes and with high-end designer denim, too. But before you lose all hope, we're here to tell you that you can wash new jeans while preventing them from losing their dye and keeping them looking brand new. Better yet, washing new jeans entails little more than a simple cold cycle in the washing machine or a more involved vinegar soak in a bucket or the bathtub.

Keep scrolling to learn how to avoid fabric bleeding on your dark denim jeans.

Wash New Jeans

We know you can't wait to give your new denim its shining moment in your closet, but the first step in ensuring your jeans remain transfer-free is to wash them right away. Most jeans have a disclaimer tag indicating that the indigo dye process used to manufacture the jeans will cause the color to bleed and to wash them pronto. Wash your dark denim jeans inside out with cold water, as it's more gentle on fabric dyes and hot water will cause your jeans to shrink. To be on the safe side, wash the jeans by themselves without any other clothes in the machine on the first go-round of washing them. This will ensure that any dye released in the wash cycle won't stain your other clothing.

Add Vinegar to Your Cold Water Rinse

We know vinegar to be a household staple, but it has some serious benefits for your wardrobe, too. White vinegar contains acetic acid, a mild acid that helps to lock in dye and prevent fabric bleeding on dark indigo jeans, especially if you treat them when they're brand new. Plus, vinegar is also a natural bacteria killer that neutralizes nasty germs that may be living on your jeans (yes, this goes for new ones as well). 

Vinegar will help seal the dye within the fabric of dark denim jeans, reducing the chance that your jeans will continue to bleed (and potentially stain other fabrics) when you wear or wash them in the future.

If you prefer to hand launder your jeans instead of throwing them in the wash, try soaking new dark denim jeans in a vinegar bath (which is just a mixture of cold water and vinegar). To do this, fill your bathtub or a bucket with cold water, then add one cup of white vinegar. Leave the jeans to soak for about an hour, then wring out the excess liquid (no need to rinse) and hang jeans by the waistband to dry. If you're concerned about your jeans retaining their shape and color (or you've invested in an expensive pair), hand washing is your best bet.

If you're still struggling with your jeans bleeding, try a longer overnight vinegar bath, followed by a trip through a cold water cycle in the laundry. To do this, fill up your bathtub or a bucket with cold water and add one cup of white vinegar. Lay your jeans in the tub to soak while you sleep, then, in the morning, run your jeans through a plain cold water rinse and hang them to dry when done.

Repeat Washing

Repeat the cold water rinse (without any detergent) or vinegar bath a few times before you wear your new denim for the first time, each time remembering to turn them inside out and wash them alone to prevent the dye from transferring to your other laundry. When it comes time to dry them, avoid putting them in the dryer so your jeans will maintain their shape and size. Instead, let them air dry by hanging them by their belt loops. To avoid your jeans getting stiff after drying, try soaking them in a mixture of water and fabric softener overnight, then rinse the following day.

Lead image product provided by Free People.

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