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Don't machine wash your denim, says Levi's CEO

By Melonyce McAfee, CNN
updated 1:09 PM EDT, Thu May 22, 2014
Denim jeans -- or trousers, waist overalls or dungarees -- started out as work-wear for hard labor in mines, factories and fields, as seen on <a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-965233'>two fruit pickers</a> in British Columbia in 1942. Denim jeans -- or trousers, waist overalls or dungarees -- started out as work-wear for hard labor in mines, factories and fields, as seen on two fruit pickers in British Columbia in 1942.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh says we shouldn't machine wash jeans
  • Bergh shared the advice at a recent conference
  • He said spot cleaning works, and he hasn't washed his jeans in a year

(CNN) -- Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh has some unusual style advice for 501 fans: Step away from the washing machine.

The denim honcho shared the words of wisdom this week at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, California.

Jeans keep legs 'moisturized'

"These jeans are maybe a year old and these have yet to see a washing machine," he said of the pair he wore during a chat onstage. "I know that sounds totally disgusting."

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."

He added that less washing equals greater environmental sustainability.

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READ: Do you care where your clothes come from?

It's not new advice. Designer Tommy Hilfiger has made similar comments. And CNN's Anderson Cooper told style expert Stacy London two years ago that he washes his jeans very rarely.

Jeans aficionados may be accustomed to hearing some unusual tips on keeping their denim products fresh. Advice ranges from spot cleaning jeans and never washing them to freezing them to kill any germs.

Jolie Kerr, who writes a column called "Ask a Clean Person," says it depends on your lifestyle and hygiene preferences.

"Consider how you're wearing your jeans and make laundering decisions accordingly," said Kerr, who recently released the book "My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag ... and Other Things You Can't Ask Martha."

"The way you'd care for a pair of jeans that you wear for yardwork versus ones you'd wear out dancing should be different -- the function should dictate how you treat a pair of jeans."

Opinion: The great jean debate - freeze 'em or wash 'em?

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