Skip to main content

The great jean debate: Freeze 'em or wash 'em?

By Mel Robbins
updated 2:35 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.
HIDE CAPTION
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
Blue jeans through the years
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mel Robbins: Levi's CEO says save water, don't wash your jeans, freeze them to freshen
  • Robbins: That's gross
  • She says science doesn't support this, even though there's lots of online info on how to do it
  • Robbins: People who buy new jeans frequently could do it; for the rest of us, it's unsanitary

Editor's note: Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator and legal analyst. Mel is the Founder of Inspire52.com, a positive news website and author of "Stop Saying You're Fine," about managing change. She speaks on leadership around the world and in 2014 was named Outstanding News Talk Radio Host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her on Twitter @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mel Robbins.

(CNN) -- The CEO of Levis Strauss, Chip Bergh, has some advice for you: Don't wash your jeans.

As in don't wash them ... ever. Speaking at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference, Chip said he was sporting a pair that had "yet to see a washing machine" in over a year.

Worried about germs, you germaphobes? No problem, he says. Just stick your jeans in the freezer once a month next to the frozen waffles to kill off the bacteria. Apparently getting them icy will neutralize the sweat, coffee spills and other bodily fluids that might collect in the zipper or "seating" area. He also suggests spot cleaning with a sponge or a toothbrush.

While that could work for the stuff on the outside of your jeans, what about all the stuff your body cooked up that's on the flip side? Once you get 'em back up to body temperature, won't you be warming up those germs again? Yuck.

Mel Robbins
Mel Robbins

Jean freezing has become quite the craze in the past few years. It even comes with its own video tutorials and folding techniques posted online by bloggers around the country. Interesting, but somehow I doubt an overnight stay in the freezer is going to silence the filth festival that accumulates on a pair of jeans over the course of wearing them for 30 days straight.

The only time I tried jean freezing was during a family fishing trip a few years ago in the Wind River Range. We "washed" a load in the river and hung a line up for our laundry to dry overnight. I woke up to unexpected frost and a pair of Carhartts that felt like plywood. If you think it's hard to pull on your jeggings, ladies, try cracking open a pair of jeans that are frozen solid.

Bergh claims that not washing your jeans keeps them in mint condition and helps conserve water. Both noble pursuits. But what about conserving the cleanliness of your lower extremities and not subjecting your colleagues to the stench of dirty denim? Have you ever cooked bacon or mucked a stall in a pair of jeans? It's a gift that keeps on giving.

'Daisy Dukes Dad' teaches a lesson
Jared Fogle and his 'fat jeans'
Leggings as pants? School says, no way

And with this thought, it has dawned on me. He's not talking to people like my Uncle Warren, who rise with the sun to work the Angus cattle farm that's been in my family for generations. He's talking to people who like to look fancy in their jeans.

The people that benefit most from not washing denim are the ones who'll throw down what is for many Americans a monthly salary to buy something they'll never wash, because, quite frankly, they'll probably be worn no more than four times before their next new pair of jeans.

And listen, science says this "freezing jean" phenomena doesn't stand up to analysis. In plain English: No, freezing your jeans will not kill all bacteria, but throwing them in the microwave just might. Stephen Craig Cary, a University of Delaware expert on frozen microbes suggests "you either raise the temperature to 121 degrees Celsius for at least 10 minutes or just wash them! The latter surely is the best alternative to save energy."

He adds: "One might think that if the temperature drops well below the human body temperature they (bacteria) will not survive, but actually many will. Many are pre-adapted to survive low temperatures."

Then again, since much of a CEO's job is to drum up as much marketing buzz as possible, it's no wonder that Bergh is making this unsanitary claim -- thereby bringing Levi's back to the forefront of a conversation. Even if it makes him smell like a farm animal.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
updated 7:28 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 1:30 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT