By Robin | May 02, 2017

Unsanforized denim – The initial soak


As a continuation of, and an addition to the article ‘Sanforized vs. Unsanforized’  that we’ve posted a few week, today a very practical article. Knowing that you should soak you pair of unsanforized denim is one thing, but ‘how to’ is a different one, and that is what we will dive into today.

There are several ways to soak your pair of unsanforized jeans. Back in the days, Levi’s promoted to put on your pair jeans, jump into the bathtub and lay there while your pair of jeans was absorbing as much water as it could. When finishing the bath, you had to keep them on while they dry. Although some of us would prefer the experience from his method, it isn’t practical at all. Walking through your house with an indigo bleeding pair of jeans on your legs, is asking for troubles.

The following five steps are, in our opinion, the easiest and most efficient ways to soak your pair of unsanforized jeans.


Turn your jeans inside out

Start by closing all the buttons and turning your pair of jeans inside out, to prevent your jeans from losing too much indigo.


Fill the bathtub 

Fill the bathtub (or other kind of large container) with hot water, about 40 degrees, and make sure that the jeans have enough space to be completely submerged under water. The temperature of the water is very important, so as to determine the shrinkage percentage. Bear in mind that the hotter the water, the more your pair of jeans will shrink. Also, the hotter the water, the more indigo loss.

For first timers or the ones that are uncertain as to how much shrinkage they wish to see on their unsanforized pair of jeans, you should start with cold(er) water. Once you’ve completed the soak and feel like you’d want some extra shrinkage, repeat the soak with warmer water.


Unsanforized denim - The initial soak

Photo courtesy of 3sixteen.



Let your jeans soak for about 45 – 60 minutes. The amount of time you let your pair of jeans soak in the hot water affects the percentage of shrinkage you’ll get. So, if the jeans is already tight, you should decrease the soaking time. Also, do not forget to have your jeans fully submerged. If you notice that some parts keep floating back up, put some weight over those parts so as to ensure that the jeans remains submerged in its entirety.

During the soak, please don’t move or shake your jeans unnecessarily, otherwise you will risk losing more indigo. The water might look kind of dirty during the soak, because of the indigo and starch loss.



Take your jeans out of the bathtub and squeeze the excess water out. Squeeze carefully, to maintain as much indigo as possible.



Hang your jeans flat to air-dry. Don’t put your jeans in the dryer or place it on a heat radiator, for it will damage the fabric and the overall quality. The drying will take several hours, even on a hot day, so we suggest you take your time. When the jeans is finally dry, put them on and check the fit. The jeans should be tighter and should fit better to your legs.

Almost as important as the 5 mentioned steps, are the things NOT to do when soaking your pair of unsanforized jeans. Here is a recap : during the soak, please don’t move or shake the jeans unnecessarily, for it will lose lots of indigo. When drying the jeans, please don’t put it on a heat radiator and, more importantly, don’t put it in the dryer for it will ruin the fabric of your beloved pair of jeans.

Head over to 3sixteen’s Soak Guide for more photos and information.