Most of us decide whether to wash an article of clothing based on three simple criteria: it smells, it was used for a workout, or it has stains. However, these rules don’t necessarily apply to jeans.

Whether your favorite brand is Gap, Levi’s, or Calvin Klein, your jeans are made from denim, a thick and strong cotton fabric. As a result, they don’t have to (and shouldn’t) be washed after every wear.

According to experts reporting for Real Simple, keeping those wash days few and far between will preserve your jeans. It will also not make them significantly dirtier; a study performed by students at the University of Alabama in 2017 showed that jeans worn for 15 months straight had no more bacteria than jeans worn for 13 days, per The Science Explorer.

Better yet, fewer washes will reduce the amount of laundry you have to do, which is good for the environment. According to a Levi Strauss and Co. Report, washing your jeans after 10 uses instead of two “reduces energy use, climate change impact, and water intake by up to 80%.”

So, we can accept that it’s best to delay washing and spritz our jeans with fabric freshener or hang them outside to reduce any funky odors. But how do we decide when to actually throw them in the washer? Fortunately, we’ve uncovered some tips and tricks to help you pick your ideal cleaning cycle.

Wait as long as you can to wash your jeans

While fashion experts and jean junkies can’t agree on the optimal time to wash jeans, one thing is for certain: the longer you wait, the better. Some experts recommend washing your jeans every 10 to 12 wears, some say every six weeks, and some say not at all.

Others noted that your washing frequency should depend on your activity level. According to DUER, you should wash your jeans every three wears if you are using them for manual labor or any activity that works up a sweat. If you’re putting on jeans just to go to the store or sit at a desk, you should wait every 10 wears.

Some experts believe you should account for the materials in your jeans. Celebrity fashion stylist Venk Modur says that classic denim jeans, such as stonewashed or acid washed, should get cleaned in cold water after five wears. Blended denim jeans, (denim mixed with spandex, lycra, or poly-cotton fibers) should be washed “as soon as they expand and lose shape.”

If you’re still unsure about how long to go before throwing those wide, flared, or skinny jeans in the wash, check the tag. Most companies will include instructions on the tag that explain how to (and how not to) wash your jeans. Need some general guidelines? Pull them inside out, wash in cold water, and hang dry. At the very least, these three steps will help you preserve your jeans.

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