‘You’ve been doing your laundry all wrong!” my mom gushed.
“I know!” I readily agreed, thinking about the stacks of laundry still on the couch from yesterday. I’d taken the opportunity of a broken skid plate on my swather to sneak home and wash some laundry. It had made it to the folded stage before I got the green light to return to my swather. Which basically meant my couch was still covered in stacks of laundry.
“Yes, I am doing it all wrong. I need to add a housekeeper to the payroll.”
She laughed, “Don’t we all? But I just finished reading an article entitled ‘Don’t make these laundry mistakes,’ and I had to call so you can stop making them too!”
“OK?” I bit, “What am I doing wrong?”
“Well, for starters, you need to stop putting your jeans in the freezer.”
“Um... say what?” I said, sure the tractor cab must be causing interference.
“Yep, this article says that freezing jeans doesn’t actually kill the bacteria and that you should go back to washing. I just wanted to save you some space in your freezer!”
We both laughed. I couldn’t imagine putting my jeans in the freezer. I know refrigerators and freezers store some unusual things at times. A friend and I were recently joking about looking twice before you grab a snack from our respective fridges. Shelves of plant hormones, laboratory grade auxins and cytokinins, shrimp food, frozen crickets, as well as antibiotics and bottles of frozen colostrum. I used to always store my extra film in the freezer also — but freezing your dirty jeans?
When I got home that night (in between loads of laundry), I turned to that bastion of knowledge we refer to as the internet to see if people really do freeze jeans. Sure enough, there are articles out there instructing people to the proper way to freeze their jeans to clean them and keep them from smelling. One article reported that our denim starts to smell because there is bacteria that sloughs off of our skin as we wear the jeans — that bacteria is then what is causing the odor.
I looked at my basket of jeans I was carrying to the washing machine. A very odorous basket of jeans, I might add. I pulled the top pair off and gave it a once over before tossing it into the empty drum. Dark spots marred the denim on both thighs. We had sheared sheep, and the smell of lanolin was still potent. Even darker spots crusted down the outside leg. I laughed aloud as I repeated the article’s cause of the odor from our jeans, “bacteria that sloughs off our skin ... causing our jeans to smell.” I am pretty sure those odors were from bacteria — but not from my skin. I couldn’t imagine putting that smell into my freezer next to the Häagen-Dazs.
The article encouraged putting our jeans in a canvas bag as “a way to protect your jeans from whatever else is in your freezer while still allowing oxygen so your jeans can breathe, as opposed to a Ziploc plastic bag.”
I grabbed out a small toddler pair of jeans and started the necessary yet often gross task of pocket checking. A washer, pieces of snake grass, the remnants of what appeared to have been a flower, lots of hay leaves and a handful of cat food. The outside was covered in — well I’m not really sure, and I don’t know if I even want to know. I throw the pair in and wiped my hands down the front of my own jeans. I can’t imagine putting those jeans in the freezer and being worried about protecting them from the freezer — pretty sure the contamination would work in reverse.
The article concluded with “I am a huge proponent of the no wash, stick in the freezer method. But one other trick is that you can give jeans this really beautiful sheen if you put baby oil on your legs first before putting them on. The oil will be absorbed by the denim, and create a beautiful sheen.”
I picked up a pair of my husband’s jeans from the basket. I emptied the pockets, and looked at a big stain down one whole leg from when a hydraulic line had blown, and both knees were discolored from kneeling in dirt and hay. The author was definitely correct there, the oil does absorb into the denim — which will probably create a beautiful sheen when it mixes with the lanolin and cat food crumbs from the rest of the jeans as they agitate together in the wash.
I will never be as “cool” as people who toss their jeans in the freezer.
My jeans may fade and shrink over the years because of my insistence on washing them — sometimes even in hot water to help remove the day’s often-stinky traces — but in the cold winter months, while the “cool” people are wearing non-faded, non-shrunk, freezer-burned denim, I will relish slipping into my favorite, faded, hot, fresh-from-the-dryer jeans.