Introduction: Freeze Wash Your Jeans

Picture of Freeze Wash Your Jeans

I recently read an article on abc news about Levi's CEO Chip Bergh not washing his 501 Levi jeans for a year. He wants to preserve the color and shape of the jeans. He mentioned that 501 jeans "do not need to be washed as often as people might think, if ever." He spots clean and air dries his 501's. The don't wash jeans is gaining popularity and some say they use the freezer method to freshen their jeans while others use the sun dried method. Some will spray the jeans with alcohol or vinegar. This method certainly conserves water and reduces the negative impact on our environment. I read several articles that a washer uses 25-40 gallons of water for a full load. Front loaders use much less but it is still a lot of water.The older washers use 40.

I did a little research to see if this was a safe method. According to Stephen Craig Cary, a university of Delaware expert of frozen microbes, freezing will not always kill the bacteria, but rather put them in a dormant state until they come in contact with something warm. Link here:

I also found an article about vinegar killing 99.9% bacteria. Good Housekeeping's microbiologist Gina Morino, mentioned vinegar effectively kills 99.9 percent of bacteria. Here is the link: .

A student did an experiment on the freezer method comparing the bacteria from the no wash jeans; to jeans that had been only worn three days after washing. Both jeans had the same amount of bacteria. Link:

With the information that I found about freeze washing your jeans to preserve the color and shape; I tweaked these methods to give those people who are leaning towards the no wash jeans method but hesitate because they wonder how sanitary it might be. Lets get started.

Step 1: This Is What You Will Need

Picture of This Is What You Will Need


Distilled white vinegar

Spray bottle

Dirty jeans

Plastic bag

Damp wash cloth

Step 2: Pre-treat Method

Picture of Pre-treat Method

Pre-treating the jeans:

First shake out the jeans.

Turn them inside-out and shake again.

Spot clean any stains using the damp cloth.

Step 3: Spray and Hang

Picture of Spray and Hang


Spray the vinegar over the full surface of the jeans.

Turn in-side out and repeat this process.

Hang the jeans in-side out; outdoors in the sun for 20 minutes. This will kill 99.9% of the bacteria.

If it is winter dry them in front of a sunny window or heat vent.

Turn the jeans right side out and if they are not completely dry leave them hanging until they are.

Shake jeans again.

Bring them indoors.

Step 4: Freeze

Picture of Freeze


Fold the jeans inside-out. You can see from the picture I forgot to do this.

Place the jeans in a plastic bag removing all the air.

Seal as tight as you can.

Place the bag in the freezer for 24 hours.

Step 5: Remove From the Freezer and Wear

Picture of Remove From the Freezer and Wear

Remove the jeans from the freezer:

Remove the jeans from the plastic bag.

Give them a vigorous shake.

The freezer method freshens the fabric.

If it is summertime put them on and chill out and stay cool!

If it is wintertime place them near a heater vent to warm up.

Get dressed and go skiiing!

Step 6: Sunshiines Final Thoughts

Picture of Sunshiines Final Thoughts

I can see this method working for expensive jeans that will only be worn for a few hours here and there over a period of time. The reason I hung the jeans out in the sun for 20 minutes was to be sure to kill the bacteria before you froze them. That only leaves 1% bacteria left on the jeans. I froze them after they hung outside with vinegar because I thought the freezer might kill the remaining 1% of bacteria that might have been weekend by the vinegar. I shook the jeans several times to remove any skin cells that might be on the fabric. One could vacuum them.The vinegar smell will go away after air drying. Imagine how much water is saved over a years time. Whew that is a lot of water.

Maybe those who are leaning towards the no wash jeans method will feel a little more at ease using this method.

If not you might want to take a peek at my other green method here:

I always take a moment to thank instructables and contributors for making this community a great sharing experience.

Thank you for stopping by and have a cool summer!



Eldon JakeE (author)2016-07-08

Wouldn't it make your jeans smelling stinky after spraying vinegar?....

pddonovan2011 (author)2016-07-05

Listerine, the old fashioned, terrible tasting stuff that comes wrapped with paper in a glass bottle. 50/50 distilled water and Listerine in a spray bottle. Hold over the jeans and aim the spray so the spray FALLS onto the Jeans. Spray two sides of leg aligned jeans. Roll up the Jeans place into a BLACK trash bag and place the bag on the dash of your parked car for a hour. Cheapest, cleanest, way to clean Jeans! They will, almost, never lose color or shape! Listerine is powerful stuff, has been for almost a century!

rorotofu (author)2015-12-06

Vodka works the best and won't leave a smell. As far as freezing that can cause all sorts of problems, from drying, to structural integrity.

craftychristinadraper (author)2015-09-27

This method will destroy your jeans much quicker than washing/drying conventionally. Denim is made using cotton (for the most part, but spandex is also becoming a major fiber). Cotton, being a natural fiber, does not deal well with extreme cold. Think about how well plants deal with cold. You shouldn't expect your jeans to fare any better than a cotton plant in the middle of winter. While vinegar may be an acceptable antibacterial, it tends to be fairly pungent. Now I'm a theatre costumer, and everything I learned about fabric care and cleaning in school leads me to make the recommendation that you use a mixture we in 'the business' refer to as wardrobe spray. It is a mixture of vodka, water, and Febreeze. Feel free to use a natural alternative to the Febreeze if you're concerned about chemicals, or simply skip it altogether and scent your clothes with sachets. The vodka kills the bacteria and evaporates quickly, and the water is just added to stretch out the solution.

Thank you for sharing this information. I appreciate your comment. Have a great week~


madams47 (author)2015-09-07

is it bad to soak jeans in any temp water, is the better way to clean them

sunshiine (author)madams472015-09-08

Thanks for your comment. I prefer washing my jeans but those who spend a lot of money on jeans probably prefer limiting the times they wash them.Have an awesome day~


xstevex1 (author)2014-06-13

Perhaps I missed something somewhere, but if the vinegar kills 99.9% of bacteria, and hanging them in fresh air/sunlight removes the vinegar odor and freshens them, what is the purpose of freezing them?

sunshiine (author)xstevex12014-06-13

Spraying the garment with vinegar will weaken 99.9% bacteria but 1 % will remain hopefully in a weakened state so my thought is that the freezing might be the thing that finishes them off.Thanks for commenting and do have a great day.


andrew.kreuer (author)sunshiine2014-12-26

.1% remains, not 1%. nothing will kill 100% of the bacteria.

Nesciosquid (author)2014-12-09

I commend your attempts at an eco-friendly way to freshen up your jeans, but I think they are based on some misconceptions about the chemistry/biology involved.

Vinegar is acetic acid -- you can think of it as a solution of sodium acetate dissolved in water. When you spray the jeans with vinegar and put them out to dry, the water evaporates, leaving behind sodium acetate. This means that over time, without actually washing the jeans to dissolve and remove the leftover sodium acetate, you're essentially coating your jeans with more and more of the stuff, which means you're going to start smelling like sauerkraut whenever you sweat in them. Probably not ideal!

You should also note that vinegar might have some antimicrobial effects (like any acid) when applied to a non-porous, non-absorbent surface, like a kitchen counter, but you won't get the same results when applying it to fabric, which is full of nooks and crannies. Unless you're dunking your jeans in the stuff, you're probably not getting much disinfectant value out of it.

I'm also not convinced that your primary concern in keeping jeans 'fresh' is to kill the bacteria (and other microbes) living in them. Let's assume for a moment that the vinegar treatment does kill 99% of the total bacteria living on your jeans. Not only will these 1% leftover microbes (millions of cells, if not more) multiply once more when they're put into a moist, warm environment, their population will be re-seeded by the microbes living on your skin, which is how they got there in the first place.

I think your primary concern should be removing oil and sweat left over on the fabric after use. Think about it this way -- if a popsicle melted on your kitchen counter and left behind a big pool of sugar water, you probably wouldn't just spray it down with vinegar and assume it's clean, leaving the sticky residue behind.

My tactic is to spot-clean the stains to keep the jeans looking nice, and then to hand-wash them in the sink or bathtub with a little laundry detergent once in a while to get rid of the oil and sweat, but your mileage may vary. :)

Nesciosquid (author)Nesciosquid2014-12-09

Also of note -- when microbiologists clean down their counters in the lab, a very common disinfectant used is 70% ethanol, in which both the water and alcohol components will evaporate over time and leave behind no residue. It's also a lot better at killing microbes on contact than vinegar.

sunshiine (author)Nesciosquid2014-12-14

Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate all the information you have shared with all the readers. I hope your day shines!


victoriaween (author)2014-12-11

Wow I love it

sunshiine (author)victoriaween2014-12-14

Thanks! Have a super day.

Jollyriffic (author)2014-11-25

in before this to start an "ice jeans" challange.

rwd you (author)2014-06-19

it is time saver and fantastic idea. But, Can we use the same on formal dresses?

sunshiine (author)rwd you2014-06-20

I know you can spot clean a gown using club soda but most people recommend taking a formal to the cleaners. I would not know about the freezing method but one could try. I don't think it would damage the fabric but then I have not tried it. I am thinking that folding the fabric to fit in a freezer might cause a lot of wrinkles depending on the amount of fabric. Thanks for asking and if you do try it please do let us know your opinion. I don't have any formal fabric to try. Have a great day.


gluvit (author)2014-06-15

This is great

sunshiine (author)gluvit2014-06-15

Thanks so much for taking a look and have a great evening.

pecospearl (author)2014-06-14

I love these lazy ways of doing washing. What next! Keep these ideas coming, I'm all for lazy ways to work!

sunshiine (author)pecospearl2014-06-14

Oh yeah! Great to see your face. Hope your day shines.


hjjusa (author)2014-06-12

My dog hates taking a bath, any chance this will work on him. LOL

parsifaldruddle (author)hjjusa2014-06-13

DO NOT freeze your dog. Do not spray him with vinegar.

sunshiine (author)hjjusa2014-06-12

Too bad it won't! Thanks for commenting.

Iron Boots (author)2014-06-11

Oops, my comment should have read "We should can the cotton altogether and Levi's should go back to their original material of choice - hemp."

sunshiine (author)Iron Boots2014-06-13


sparkypine (author)2014-06-11

The article you link to regarding freezing the jeans clearly indicates that it is pointless to do so, that it is a myth, yet you still freeze yours. Is there something I'm missing here?

sunshiine (author)sparkypine2014-06-11

The freezing is supposed to make the jeans smell fresher. Freezing can't be relied upon to kill all bacteria but it will kill some. My thought it is that by spraying the garmet with vinegar will weaken all the bacteria but 1 % will remain in a weakened state so my thought is that the freezing might be the thing that finishes them off.Thanks for commenting and do have a great day.


Saiboogu (author)sunshiine2014-06-13

Your thinking runs counter to established science on the matter - freezing won't kill any bacteria - they just go dormant until warmed again. So your jeans are fresh and "germ free" when you remove them from the freezer, but briefly after putting them on they'll be identical to the jeans you took off to put in the freezer a few days earlier -- same germs, same odors, same dirt (minus whatever you could "dry clean" from them prior to freezing).

I'm sure there are valid methods for sanitizing and cleaning jeans without a full wash cycle. Freezing isn't one, though.

tacticalcraft (author)Saiboogu2014-06-13

She just answered that to the first comment, I think she is totally right, First kills the bacteria, then freshens up the Jeans, and u are good to go, of course if you ran a "tough mudder" with them you'll need another method

sunshiine (author)tacticalcraft2014-06-13

Thanks for commenting and both of you have a great weekend!


conilin (author)2014-06-13

Have you youngsters ever tried Febreze fabric refresher? It kills odor causing bacteria and. leaves a clean smell. Nice for trips when you want to get another days wear out of whatever.

sunshiine (author)conilin2014-06-13

Thanks for sharing and do have a great weekend.


snoopindaweb (author)2014-06-12

I remember My Mother freeze drying clothes on the line in winter. She would wait till they were frozen just right then give them a beating with the broom, etc. Not good to bend them when they are frozen too stiff, the arms and legs snap off at - 30 degrees or colder.

sunshiine (author)snoopindaweb2014-06-12

Nice in the summer though!

snoopindaweb (author)sunshiine2014-06-12

~( : - } )=> --- ]

paqrat (author)2014-06-12

I don't understand why, if you are just going to freeze them anyway, you'd want to leave them until they are dry?

sunshiine (author)paqrat2014-06-12

If you freeze the jeans wet they will still be wet when you remove them from the freezer. If you freeze them dry they will just be very cold but you can wear them. In order for the vinegar to destroy any bacteria it has to stay on the jeans for 20 minutes. If you freeze the jeans right away there is no point in using the vinegar. Thanks so much for commenting and do have a great day.


DSLaBuda (author)2014-06-12

Levi's CEO must have noticed that their quality has gone down in the last decade and is attempting to cover. Thinner material (marginally but still), lighter stitching, etc.

sunshiine (author)DSLaBuda2014-06-12

Thanks for sharing.

jbarber8 (author)2014-06-11

thanks for the ible denim Dan!

sunshiine (author)jbarber82014-06-12

Thanks for stopping by.

ChrisLewis300 (author)2014-06-12

One way to reduce the damage to jeans and anything you wash with them is to close the zip before washing. A lot of people don't and the open metal zip acts like a rasp, scraping bits of the clothes. Its like popping a small grater in the wash.

Always wash jeans inside out.

Line drying produces just as much lint as tumble drying, it just blows away and you don't see it.

sunshiine (author)ChrisLewis3002014-06-12

Thanks for sharing!

stephenfitton (author)2014-06-12

Quick run over of your above problems,Leave jeans in shady spot with wind,to keep colour, Those nasty drop spots you mentioned were used by south Americans to fix the dies in their clothes,For that nasty assorted grease and oil try Baby-Nappysan,Product name or similar works great.And for your great steak massage for 5 minutes,leave for an hour and taste the difference

sunshiine (author)stephenfitton2014-06-12

Thanks for sharing.

Cheese Queen (author)2014-06-12

Want to preserve your jeans (or any other article of clothing)? Wash them when necessary but DO NOT TUMBLE DRY. Line dry instead. Its the dryer- not the washer- that destroys your fabric. (Hint: that's what dryer lint is; little tiny bits of your jeans.)

And I hope someone will link to ANY research that proves ANYONE EVER was affected in any way by "bacteria" on their pants. That whole concept is just weird.

DoItOrDie (author)Cheese Queen2014-06-12

Fabric softner also helps destroy fabrics over time, jeans included.

sleep_deprived (author)DoItOrDie2014-06-12

yes, especially if you use vinegar as your fabric softener, works better than the chemical version you get at the store for about a tenth the price.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I love the sunshine thus the reason ... More »
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