How to Care for Raw Denim

What is Raw Denim?

Raw denim refers to a twill denim fabric sans treatment or coloring after the dyeing stage of production, as opposed to washed denim which features styled fading at the time of purchase.

Raw denim is typically a dark indigo blue as a new product. The areas that a pair of jeans will show the most wear and fading include the ankles, behind the knees, and upper thighs.

Often considered the most desirable aspect of Raw denim, the fade patterns and patina which develop over time will be unique to the body of the user and his/her daily activities. Raw denim will shrink approximately 1-2 inches around the waist after washing, while this will not affect the actual intensity of fade contrast.

Sanforized vs Unsanforized: What's the difference?

Sanforized denim is treated post-production and is mechanically pre-shrunk to ensure less shrinkage of the fabric after washing. This will eliminate the calculating and guessing process that often comes with buying Unsanforized denim.

On the other hand, unsanforized denim does not receive any treatment post-production and is sent directly for cutting and sewing into jeans, as loom state fabric. These jeans are prone to shrink 7- 10% with the first soak (variance can be greater even, and depends on fabric and soak process) and are preferred by hardcore enthusiasts due to the character and weave which tends to be much hairer and slubbier in nature. You can find additional information about the differences between types of denim in this helpful infografic.

Myth: Raw = Unsanforized 

We are always explaining to our clients who may be new to our little Selvedge denim world about the differences between these terms.

This seems to be the biggest misconception: Raw denim and Unsanforized denim are interchangeable words. It is no ones fault, and it is likely that is has never been laid out clearly enough to comprehend with ease. Feel free to read more about it here.


Step 1 : Pre-Soak Prep

Please be aware that with a lukewarm soak, your Unsanforized denim is bound to shrink about 2 inches (5cm) in the Waist and Inseam, about 1/2 inch (1.3cm) in the Rise, Thigh, Leg Opening. To ensure that your denim will shrink as desired, make sure that all the buttons are closed. Some enthusiasts even tie a thin rope around the waist through the belt loops to ensure a good fit.


The ideal setting for this soak is a bathtub, and if you are willing to go the extra mile, wear your jeans and sit in the bathtub during the soak. This will help you derive an ideal fit, as the jeans will shrink according to your physique.

Step 2: Lukewarm Water Soak

Depending on the amount of time you soak your denim, and the temperature of the water, your jeans will shrink and lose some of its indigo color accordingly. Thus we stress not cold or hot, but lukewarm water to minimize the fall of the indigo dye. Also, the hotter the water, the more your denim will shrink, so a lukewarm soak is ideal.

Although detergent is optional, moving the jeans around the tub periodically throughout the soak process is strongly advised to really help get the water into the fabric. Another optional step is to place heavy objects (i.e. large pet bottle filled with water) to keep the jeans from surfacing above water.

We suggest an average soak of 30 minutes, with more or less time depending on the amount of shrinkage desired. If you want your jeans to drop two sizes down for example, we suggest an hour long soak - but please be aware that the longer the soak is, the more indigo dye will fall.

Step 3: Pull from Soak

When you are ready to pull the denim out of the soak, please remember to do so without squeezing the water out of the fabric.
Pull the jeans out of the soak tub and carefully turn the jeans inside out above the tub. Now take the jeans, in their soaked form, outdoors for the next step.

Step 4: Post-Soak Dry

We strongly stress an outdoor dry for the post-soak dry session for your denim. Natural sunlight will help your jeans dry natural and will limit the amount of indigo fall as well as unwanted creases and fades that may come with machine drying.


We recommend running a thin rope through the belt loops along the back of the waistband. Once you have the rope ready, tie the jeans up on a dryer line on either side and make sure the bottom of your jeans are not touching the ground. Watch the indigo puddle beneath your jeans grow, as your jeans naturally dry. This will take several hours, even on a hot day, thus we suggest to start the soak process as early as possible.

Step 5: Care & Storage

Storing and caring for your jeans will help ensure a long and storied life for your raw denim. Now the conventional thought may be to fold your jeans and put them away in your closet until the next wear. By doing this, you run the risk of losing all the hard work you put into creating the fades and creases as well as creating an issue of odor through the build up of bacteria on your denim.

If your jeans do happen to take on a foul odor over months of not washing your raw denim (very likely), a quickfix would be spraying it with some fabric refreshener.

As far as storing your jeans, hanging them out to allow steady air flow is the ideal situation for your denim. Either on a hanger or through the belt loops.

Types of fades

Fades are lighter areas present in denim, which appear and turn brighter when the dye of the deep blue color of your jeans slowly wears off or is washed off.

There are differents types of fading, such as Honeycomb, Whiskers and Train Tracks or Stacks. Atari (当たり) is a Japanese term describing to the most common fading located along side seams, front and back of knees, upper thighs, along the hem, belt loops and pocket seams.

In order to perfect the natural whiskers and honeycombs, the best way is to wear the same pair of jeans everyday for at least three to six months before washing.

Unsanforized Jeans

One Wash Jeans

Denim Jackets & Shirts