MythBuster: Freezing Jeans to Kill Bacteria

February 27, 2015

Are you all aware of that crazy idea of freezing your jeans to rid it of bachteria that causes odor instead of washing them? Well Levi’s as well as other notable denim maestros all swear by this little trick. And honestly, it sounds too good to be true.

For my experiment, I take out this slightly musty scarf. That’s a total lie. I’m getting dressed in a hurry for some hot date or other, and pull out a scarf to protect my neck in what we ‘weak-sauce’ LA peeps call ‘winter’.

I’m not sure if the mustiness is from being tucked away in my closet for way too long or if it’s from this garment refreshener spray from Murchison Hume. I usually love their products, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. However, once I sprayed the scarf down, hell was born onto my olfactory glands like hell has never before been smelled. This was an odor that elicited notes of an athlete’s foot suffering sole walking into dog pops, then accidentally wiping itself in cat vomit, only to end it’s journey being sprayed down my a recently single skunk. It’s the scent of loneliness that clings the worst.

Anyhow, the scarf stank. Remebering this amazing idea of how people freeze jeans to kill the odor causing bacteria on clothes that are worn for up to 6-months, I think to myself, ‘oh smell of 1000 giants mudwrestling in cow manure, I will freeze you away.’ So I take the entire scarf, dry heave a bit, and shove it straight into my VERY COLD freezer.

I take it out the next day, and although some smell dissipated, the scarf still stinks. I would NEVER want that smell close to me, let laying on my neck! So what did I discover? Forget the freezer. I should be washing my stuff.

Julie Segre of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who studies the skin’s microbiome, seconds the washing recommendation. “The bacteria that would live on your jeans on the sloughed skin and the dirt nutrients than the jeans themselves, so detaching the sloughed skin could reduce the microbial load of your jeans,” she says. In her opinion, removing the dirt and the sloughed skin is more important than removing any bacteria, though she warns that she may have “just transitioned from speaking as a scientist to speaking as a mother.”

How often you wash your jeans may depend on how comfortable you are with the growing amount of dirt and sloughed skin on the fabric; the bacterial load doesn’t seem to be much affected by how often you go between washings. A somewhat unscientific experiment by a Canadian student found little difference in the bacterial load between one pair of jeans worn for 15 months without washing and another pair worn for 13 days.

This is an impressive study, not for showing us the bacteria from her rudimentary experiment resulted in the same amount of bacterial load, but rather that she was able to either wear and NOT wash a pair of jeans for 15 months. Or she found someone who did so.

Would you ever forgo washing for freezing? Do your jeans or clothes look better because you froze them?

Love all your pretty parts!



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