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How to Clean and Care for Coated Jeans

We turned to the denim pros for advice on how to clean our beloved coated jeans. Here are all the potential options.

Last spring I was given a pair of evergreen-colored J Brand coated jeans, and while I was grateful to receive them, I thought I wouldn't wear them much because they're kind of an odd shade. Well, fast forward to now: I wear those babies once or twice a week, because not only are they incredibly comfortable and fit great, but the color has been surprisingly versatile. The problem is that now that they've gotten such love and attention -- and have touched many questionable surfaces (subway, ew) -- it's time to think about cleaning them. And I'm terrified of the prospect.

My reluctance to submit my now-beloved, weirdly colored coated jeans to my local dry cleaner can be traced back to last winter. I took a coated metallic sweater from the Narciso Rodriguez for Kohl's collection there to be cleaned. When it came back, it was sans coating. The cleaner reimbursed me, but as anyone who shops designer collabs knows, the merchandise doesn't last long. I couldn't replace the sweater.

To escape a similar fate with my coated jeans, I turned to Wayne Edelman, the president of Meurice Garment Care in NYC and Karen Phelps, the vice president of denim design at J Brand, for their advice. Here are all the potential options:

Dry Cleaning: The tag in my jeans states, "Dry Clean Only." Phelps recommends asking for "environmentally friendly" dry cleaning because this process does not use high heat. Heat is the enemy when it comes to coated jeans. Before you drop your precious $200 denim off, make sure you have a very clear discussion with the cleaner about your expectations. You should also make sure that the cleaner you're using has experience with specialty items like coated denim.

Hand Washing: If you don't want to submit your jeans to the great unknown, you can definitely hand wash them. Both Edelman and Phelps suggest turning your jeans inside out first. "Turning them out protects the coating against abrasion," Edelman told me. But beware: You may still get some breakdown and aging even if you hand wash, according to Phelps. "Some people love the idea of a jean aging no matter what the finish is," Phelps said.

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Febreze: You may be tempted to give the inside of your coated jeans a spray with Febreze, but it's best to avoid this method. "We have tried a Febreze-like spray and then hung them inside-out to dry, but we still recommend the dry clean option as the safest," Phelps said.

Spot Cleaning: I also recently dripped coffee on my jeans (this is my trademark), and I was afraid to try to spot clean them. Turns out my instincts were correct. "If you spot clean, you could possibly push the soil down further into the fibers as well as disrupt the coating," Edelman said. "If you try to rub something out with water and a cloth, you can end up with a clearly visible area." If this happens, Edelman recommends taking a steam iron and steaming the area carefully. That will soften up the coating and you can sometimes move it around with your finger to cover any bare spots. Dry cleaners have commercial equipment that can also do it for you.

Putting Them in the Freezer: Sometimes denim enthusiasts recommend storing jeans in the freezer to kill bacteria. Phelps is OK with this. "We are not recommending that you try the freezer route as a rule, but it does work," she said. "The freezer keeps the bacteria at bay without any shrinkage issues or fading the denim."

Doing Absolutely Nothing: "A true jean enthusiast would say don’t clean jeans, don’t do anything to them, and I find that to be pretty gross," Edelman told me. I happen to agree with him, which is why I was inspired to write this in the first place. I mean, your jeans spend a lot of time near your crotch, right? I want to clean them occasionally. But you don't have to.

If you have any tips or insights to add, I'd love to hear them.