How often do you wash your jeans, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly? Well, according to Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh it’s best to keep your jeans away from the washing machine.
“If you talk to real denim aficionados they’ll tell you ‘Don’t wash your blue jeans,” Bergh says.
During Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, California Chip Bergh talked about sustainability. “We are the ultimate in sustainable apparel. If you buy [our jeans] they will last a lot longer than most people’s waistlines will.” Levi’s are also, Bergh said, the No. 1 brand in secondhand apparel stores.
Bergh’s laundry revelation came as part of damage control for the company’s “Wellthread” initiative, when he tried to come up with an answer to the interviewer’s question about the high amount of water used in both the creation and maintenance of Levi’s products.
Only half of water usage happens in the jean production process, which means that the other half happens at home, when the customer washes their jeans repeatedly in order to end up with the right color and fit. Levi’s is producing a line of products called “Waterless,” which you can request in stores.
“The Wellthread team made small modifications to each style to make it easier to hang dry the products, cutting out a big chunk of the consumer-use carbon impact that comes from machine drying,” according to Levi’s website. “… the team found ways to cut down on water and energy use significantly. And that’s not just a boon for the environment; it also reduces the cost of the clothing for consumers.”
If you want to do your part in sustainability, Bergh says: Stop washing your jeans. “These jeans have yet to see a washing machine. I know that sounds totally disgusting, I know it does,” he said of the dark blue pair he wore onstage, which he’s owned for an entire year. “I have yet to get a skin disease. It works.”
He recommended spot cleaning jeans with a sponge or toothbrush and a bit of detergent, then air drying. He says you should very seldom machine wash. “If you treat them right, they’ll last a long, long time — probably longer than most people’s waistline.”
The Levi’s Mantra
Chip Bergh, President and CEO, Levi Strauss
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