Caring for raw denim properly is analogous to tending to anything of value. For instance, if you had a brand new car and hated dealing with any sort of gravel scratches or dings on the front of the hood, you would go through some preventative measures. You might apply a protective coating or even install a guard. For raw denim, it is precisely the same, with the first step being soaking.
Earlier this week, we went into depth on how to wash and clean your raw denim but the crucial preliminary step we did not touch upon is soaking – literally meaning to submerge your raw denim in a water-filled bathtub post-purchase and pre-wear. What’s the purpose? With raw denim that is unsanforized (i.e. has not been pre-shrunk by the manufacturer), it will shrink up to 5%-10% upon its first wash.
Imagine dropping a few hundred bucks and investing half a year breaking your raws in, only to find out that after the first wash, they no longer fit. Plus you risk f’ing up those fades you worked so hard for…
Thus, it is imperative to (1) size up a 1-2 times (varies on the model and is best to check with the retailer/manufacturer); and (2) soak prior to your first wear (given they are unsanforized).
Now if you go through with a soak, here are the 5 easy steps:
- Find out if your raw denim is sanforized or unsanforized. It is best to ask whomever you purchased from or check with the manufacturer. If sanforized, no need to soak.
- Fill your bathtub with 2-3 inches of hot water (but not scolding hot). Bear in mind that the hotter the water, the more indigo (i.e. dark color) lost. Optional: to optimize the post-soak fit, sit in the bathtub wearing your denim.
- Flip your raw denim inside out and lay flat in the tub for 1-2 hours, with bottles resting on top to submerge them. Do not try to shake or move your denim too much, otherwise you will risk losing more indigo.
- Carefully remove from the water and hang dry.
- Optional: starch denim (see earlier post – “To Starch or Not To Starch, and How“)