How to Keep Your Dark Denim Jeans from Bleeding

Woman hanging jeans to dry outside with clothespins

Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Getty Images


Dark denim jeans are a wardrobe essential for most women. Dark wash jeans make great jeans for the office and they're a staple outfit choice for date night, too. But unfortunately, the indigo dye that's used to create those inky, dark denim jeans that you love, is notorious for bleeding (e.g. transferring off and getting on other stuff). It can be really frustrating to find that your very favorite new pair of jeans has stained your white furniture, light clothing and even your skin.

Although indigo dye can sometimes be washed off, the bleeding can be annoying to deal with. Unhappily, this can happen even after several washes and with high-end designer denim, too. Plus, if you've ever wished for jeans that don't fade, you know the pain of dark wash jeans that lose their dye after a few wears or washes.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can help prevent your jeans from losing their dye. Read on for our best tips on keeping your jeans looking new, and preventing annoying fabric dye transfer. 

1. The first thing you will want to do when you bring your new pair of dark denim jeans home from the store is to wash them. Do not wear them or hang them in your closet — you'll want to start the fabric care treatment right away, to avoid the worst problems with dye bleeding. If you take a look, you'll notice that many jeans will even have a disclaimer tag on them, indicating that the indigo dye process used to manufacture the jeans will cause the color to bleed. This tag will also advise you to wash them immediately.

2. Wash your dark denim jeans inside out, using the cold water setting on your machine. Never use hot water, as this can make your jeans shrink. Cold water is also much more gentle on fabric dyes. To be on the safe side, it's a good idea to wash the jeans by themselves, without any other clothes in the machine, on the first go-round of washing jeans. This will ensure that any dye released in the wash cycle won't stain your other clothing.

3. Add a cup of white vinegar to your cold water rinse. Plain old household vinegar contains a mild acid called acetic acid that helps to lock in dye and prevent fabric bleeding on dark indigo jeans (which can instantly make an expensive new pair of jeans look old), especially if you treat them when they are brand-new. As a bonus, vinegar is also a natural bacteria killer that neutralizes nasty germs that may be living on your jeans. Vinegar will help seal the dye within the fabric of dark denim jeans, reducing the chance that your jeans will continue to bleed (and potentially stain other fabrics) in future wearing and washing.

If you prefer to hand launder your jeans, instead of putting them in the washing machine, you can also try soaking new, dark denim jeans in a mixture of cold water and vinegar. (This is called giving your jeans a "vinegar bath"). To do this, simply fill your bathtub with cold water, then add one cup of white vinegar. Leave jeans to soak for about an hour, then wring out the excess liquid (no need to rinse) and hang jeans by the waistband to dry. Especially if you've invested in expensive designer jeans, hand washing is advisable, particularly for subsequent washing of your jeans over the months to come, if you are concerned about your jeans retaining their shape and color.

4. You may want to put your jeans through several cold wash cycles — or bathtub soaks in vinegar (see above) — before you wear them for the first time. Remember to turn your jeans inside out each time you put them in the washing machine, and to wash jeans alone so that the dye does not transfer to your other clothing. To help retain the shape and color of your pants, never put dark denim jeans in the dryer. Instead, hang your jeans to air dry, hanging them by their belt loops. (You can use a hanger specially designed for this purpose, or simply attach clothespins to a regular hanger for a budget-friendly, DIY approach).

5. If your jeans are still bleeding noticeably after trying these steps, you can try a longer, overnight vinegar bath, followed by a trip through a cold water cycle in your laundry machine. To do this, in the evening before you go to bed, fill up your bathtub with cold water and add a full cup of household white vinegar. Lay your jeans in the tub to soak while you sleep. In the morning, you can run your jeans through a plain cold water wash in the laundry machine. When finished, hang jeans to dry.

If you follow the above steps, you should be able to stop your dark denim jeans from bleeding, or at least lessen the amount of dye that spreads when you wear the jeans.


  • Remember to only use white, household vinegar.
  • Avoid putting your jeans in the dryer. Always let jeans air dry so that they can retain their size, color and shape.
  • Always wash dark denim jeans inside out, in cold water.
  • Wash your dark denim jeans alone so that they don't stain or bleed on other clothing
  • Wear dark-colored clothing with your dark denim jeans that bleed to prevent dye transfer onto your light-colored clothing.

Consult Our Other Go-To Denim Care Guides:

Updated by Cathy Jacobs in October 2018

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