Wearing the Same Jeans for a Year Without Washing? Surprisingly Not That Gross

by , 01/25/11   filed under: Eco-Fashion News, Featured, Organic Denim

eco-friendly jeans, sustainable jeans, eco-friendly denim, sustainable denim, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, University of Alberta

Photo by jeso

Never underestimate the lengths a college freshman will go to avoid a pile of dirty laundry. University of Alberta student Josh Le wore his tight-fitting raw-denim jeans every day for 15 months and one week with nary a spin cycle. On a lark, Le’s professor, Rachel McQueen, took bacterial counts from the pants before he threw them into the wash, then sampled the same jeans a couple of weeks later. The verdict: The bacterial growth on both versions was virtually the same—high, to be sure, but nothing that will kill you.

Would you wear your clothes for a year without washing?

  • 454 Votes Hell no! That's just unsanitary. Pepe Le Pew, anyone?
  • 704 Votes Hell yes! It's good for the environment, for my wallet, and takes zero effort.

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“I expected to find some bacteria associated with the lower intestine such as E. coli, but was surprised to find there weren’t any, just lots of normal skin bacteria,” says McQueen, a professor of textile science in the Department of Human Ecology.

In this case, at least, the bacterial growth is no higher if the jeans aren’t washed regularly.

If you want to get down to the nitty gritty—and we do mean nitty gritty—the counts showed between 8,000 and 10,000 colony-forming units per square centimeter in the crotch area, 1,500 to 2,500 on the back, and 1,000 to 2,000 on the front. Translation? “This shows that, in this case at least, the bacteria growth is no higher if the jeans aren’t washed regularly,” she says.

Because most bacterial organisms are transferred to clothes from the person wearing them, McQueen adds, they shouldn’t pose a threat for healthy and unbroken skin. And unless you work in a hospital or kitchen, where sanitation is paramount, the environmental benefits of going longer between washes outweighs any potential risk.

Le isn’t about to go another year without dropping quarters at the laundromat. “Maybe more frequently than 15-month intervals between washes—but maybe less frequently than after every wear,” he says. “If anything, I learned that I’m much cleaner than I thought!”

+ Press Release

+ University of Alberta

[Via Physorg]

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7 Responses to “Wearing the Same Jeans for a Year Without Washing? Surprisingly Not That Gross”

  1. spitzergni says:

    The same load of bacteria probably has something to do with the amount of time the organism can survive on the surface. So if the life span is several hours, days or so on, it won’t make a difference how long you go without washing–only the bacteria that can survive for a certain period of time will be viable (and measurable) for any given moment that you measure it.

  2. Jasmin Malik Chua says:

    Hi @spitzergni, I’m sure Prof. McQueen took that into account, seeing that she’s a textile scientist who works in the Department of Human Ecology.

  3. Tullia (@@TulliaJack) says:

    I think washing less is a great piece of the sustainable fashion jigsaw – Kate Fletcher mentions that up to 80% of environmental impacts are accrued at the use phase through washing, drying and ironing. If everyone in the world washed less we’d save huge amounts of water, energy and phosphates.

  4. eco88 says:

    You can “air refresh” all of your clothes and garments, very significantly reducing washing, but requiring some organisation.

  5. smorris says:

    15 months without washing?? AMATEUR!! I have jeans that have already surpassed their 3 year mark, and they STILL will never be washed! I HATE clean jeans!

  6. salmanaassif says:

    the bacteria wont survive on jeans cause its made of heavy metal particles not just cotton.. its not life-friendly for anything because wearing it means ur absorbing the heavy metals every day a little.. little by little.. heavy metals are already showing on organic produce and organic products according to mike adams of natural news lab report, because of china’s polluted wind trasferring all the industrial waste.. so why add to that by wearing a jeans? i dont like jeans and stopped wearing them long ago.. i now wear real 100 percent cotton, not jeans that claim to be so on the label.. all is a lie nowadays.

  7. skelley1 says:

    Obviously they didn’t take everything into account. I’ve had to wear the same pants in the military for several weeks at a time before we could get to do laundry sometimes. After a couple of weeks, the pants stop breathing and feel pretty icky. After another couple of weeks, there is a definite smell. This isn’t just in combat environments either. This includes jeans and khakis that I’ve worn, not just uniforms.

    This might be true if you only wear them to work, sit down in front of a computer, and wear them back home but even that’s going to add up eventually.

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