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Should You Soak Raw Denim? Step-by-Step Guide

Should You Soak Raw Denim? Step-by-Step Guide

Before we answer the crucial question of whether you should soak raw denim, it’s essential to understand why this topic warrants attention.

Raw denim, also known as “dry denim,” is denim fabric that hasn’t undergone any pre-washing or distressing treatments. It’s essentially in its purest, untreated form.

Soaking raw denim is a critical aspect of the denim care process because it can significantly influence the fabric’s characteristics and how it molds to your body over time.

In this article, we will delve deep into this question, exploring the reasons, benefits, and considerations surrounding the practice of soaking raw denim.

Why Most People Say Yes to Soaking Raw Denim?

Now, let’s address the main question: Should you soak raw denim? The answer, according to the majority of raw denim enthusiasts, is a resounding “yes.” Here’s why:

1. Minimizing Color Transfer Risk:

Soaking raw denim helps to remove excess dye from the fabric. This is particularly important because raw denim can bleed dye onto other clothing and surfaces.

By soaking your jeans, you reduce the risk of color transfer, ensuring that your other garments and belongings remain unaffected.

2. Controlling Shrinkage:

Unsoaked raw denim has a tendency to shrink when exposed to water for the first time.

Soaking your jeans allows you to control this shrinkage, so you won’t encounter unexpected changes in the fit after future washes.

3. Enhancing Comfort:

Soaking raw denim can make it more comfortable to wear.

The initial stiffness of raw denim can be challenging, but soaking softens the fabric, making it more pleasant against your skin from day one.

4. Fading Control:

Soaking can help set the initial fades of your denim. If you’re aiming for specific fade patterns or want a head start on the unique, personalized character of your jeans, soaking is the way to go.

5. Fresh Start:

Soaking your raw denim jeans can also be viewed as a fresh start. It removes any impurities, odors, and accumulated dirt, leaving your jeans feeling and smelling clean and ready to wear.

Soking denim jacket

The decision to soak your raw denim ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the benefits you seek.

Most people prefer soaking raw denim for its advantages in minimizing color transfer risks, controlling shrinkage, enhancing comfort, and enabling better fading control.

Meanwhile, some individuals still choose not to soak as they value the unique characteristics of raw denim. They might appreciate the initial stiffness and rigidity, which provide a connection to the traditional roots of raw denim.

These people enjoy the gradual evolution of their jeans and the slow, natural fading process that comes with extended wear.

Pay attention to Unsanforized and Sanforized Denim

In the world of raw denim, one of the factors that significantly impacts the decision to soak or not to soak is the type of denim itself.

There are two primary categories: sanforized and unsanforized denim. Familiarizing yourself with these differences can assist you in making an educated decision:

Sanforized denim has undergone a pre-shrinking treatment during the manufacturing process. This treatment involves a mechanical process that reduces the potential for significant shrinkage when the denim is exposed to water.

Sanforized denim is essentially “pre-shrunk” to a considerable extent before it even reaches your hands.

Unsanforized denim, also known as “shrink-to-fit” denim, has not undergone pre-shrinking treatments. This means that when you soak unsanforized denim, it has the potential to shrink significantly, both in length and width.

The degree of shrinkage can vary based on the specific denim and soaking conditions.

1. Sanforized Denim:

Sanforized denim typically maintains its sizing and fit more consistently than unsanforized denim after soaking. This means that if you decide to soak sanforized denim, you can expect minimal changes in size.

Sanforized denim is known for minimal shrinkage during soaking. The fabric has already undergone a controlled shrinking process, making it more stable and less prone to significant changes.

Because of its reduced shrinkage potential, sanforized denim is often considered more user-friendly. It’s a great choice for those who want to enjoy the raw denim experience without the complications of extensive shrinkage.

Sanforized denim tends to feel softer and more comfortable right off the shelf. It doesn’t have the same stiffness as unsanforized denim.

Manufacturers of sanforized denim typically mention this in the label or product description. Look for terms like “pre-shrunk” or “sanforized.”

2. Unsanforized Denim:

Unsanforized denim offers the opportunity for a more custom fit. When you soak it, the fabric conforms more closely to your body, resulting in jeans that are uniquely tailored to your shape.

Unsanforized denim often yields more pronounced fades compared to sanforized denim. The fabric’s response to wear and wash is more dramatic, making it appealing to those seeking distinctive fade patterns.

Many raw denim enthusiasts appreciate the traditional nature of unsanforized denim. It connects them to the roots of raw denim, harking back to a time when shrink-to-fit was the norm.

Many denim manufacturers will specify whether their jeans are unsanforized. Look for terms like “shrink-to-fit” or “unsanforized” in the product description or label.

Unsanforized denim often has a rougher, more rigid texture compared to sanforized denim. You might feel the difference when you touch the fabric.

Deep blue denim jeans

How to Soak Raw Denim

Now that we’ve explored the reasons for and against soaking raw denim let’s discuss the practical steps involved in the soaking process:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies and Prepare Your Jeans

  • Raw denim jeans
  • A bathtub or a large container
  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild detergent (optional)
  • Timer or clock
  • Hangers or a drying rack
  • Towels

Remove any items from your jeans’ pockets and make sure they are empty. Button up and zip the jeans to prevent them from tangling during the soak.

Step 2: Fill the Bathtub or Container

Fill your bathtub or container with lukewarm water. The temperature should be around 70-85°F (21-30°C). Avoid using hot water, as it can cause excessive shrinkage and fading.

Step 3: Submerge the Jeans

Ensure complete immersion of your jeans in the water. Make sure they are fully submerged in the water. Gently stir the water to guarantee an even soaking process.

Step 4: Set a Timer

Set a timer for 30-60 minutes. The soaking time can vary based on your preferences and the specific characteristics of your denim.

Shorter soak times offer minimal shrinkage and fading, while longer soaks provide more significant changes in fit and appearance.

It’s crucial to consider your personal preferences, the type of denim you have, and your long-term goals for your jeans when determining the ideal soaking duration.

The type of raw denim you have plays a crucial role in determining the soaking time. There are two primary categories: sanforized and unsanforized denim.

  • Sanforized Denim:

Sanforized denim has undergone a pre-shrinking treatment during the manufacturing process, which reduces the extent of shrinkage when soaked.

For sanforized denim, you can lean towards a shorter soaking time, such as 30 minutes, to achieve minimal shrinkage.

  • Unsanforized Denim:

Unsanforized denim, also known as “shrink-to-fit” denim, has not undergone pre-shrinking. Therefore, it has the potential for more significant shrinkage when exposed to water.

If you have unsanforized denim, you might consider a longer soaking time, closer to 60 minutes, to ensure the fabric shrinks adequately and achieves the desired fit.

Determining the ideal soaking time for your raw denim may require some trial and error. It’s essential to keep track of the duration of your initial soak and assess the results.

If the jeans shrink more than you’d like or fade too quickly, you can adjust the soaking time for future washes to align better with your preferences.

Step 5: Optional: Add Detergent

If your jeans are particularly dirty or you want to remove excess starch and dye, you can add a small amount of mild detergent to the water.

However, for minimal fading and preserving the original color, skip this step.

Step 6: Agitate Periodically

During the soaking process, gently agitate the water and jeans every 10-15 minutes. This helps distribute the water and encourages even fading if that’s your desired outcome.

Step 7: Drain and Rinse

After the soaking time is complete, carefully drain the bathtub or container. Rinse your jeans thoroughly with cold water to remove any remaining detergent or impurities.

Step 8: Gently Squeeze Out Excess Water

Gently squeeze the excess water from your jeans. Do not wring or twist them, as this can cause unwanted creases and distortions.

Step 9: Hang or Lay Flat to Dry

Hang your jeans by the belt loops on a sturdy hanger or lay them flat on a drying rack. Avoid hanging them by the cuffs to prevent excessive stretching. Make sure they are evenly spread to maintain their shape.

Allow your jeans to air dry naturally. Avoid using a dryer, as the heat can cause additional shrinkage and damage the fabric.

It may take 24-48 hours for your jeans to dry completely, depending on the humidity and airflow in your drying area.

Once your raw denim jeans are completely dry, you can start wearing them.

As you wear them, they will continue to break in, develop unique fades, and conform to your body, contributing to the personalized and rugged Western style you desire.

Hang denim jeans outdoor to dry it

Last Thoughts

In the world of raw denim, the choice to soak or not to soak is personal. Most prefer soaking for benefits like minimizing color transfer risks and enhancing comfort.

However, some value unsoaked denim, appreciating its custom fit and distinctive fades.

The choice is yours, align it with your style, and let your raw denim become a unique part of your Western-inspired journey.

Whether you’re building your online business or exploring the world, let your denim be a steadfast companion, ready for every adventure.