How to Clean Oil, Grass, and Bleach Stains from Jeans

There may be something to that old wives' tale about cleaning your jeans as little as possible. The truth of the matter is, jeans were invented to get dirty. Born at the height of the California Gold Rush, blue jeans originated as work wear for miners and ranch hands, so there's no harm in letting them get a little dirty (within reason, of course).

Although most contemporary jeans are designed to be tossed in the wash, these tips for how to clean jeans will help ensure that you get extra wear and tear from every last square inch of denim. The best way to wash jeans depends on the stain and the specific type of denim. Langston's handy jean cleaning guide will help you with cleaning raw denim and removing oil stains, grass stains and more from your trusty pair of blue jeans.

How to Wash Raw Denim:

Also known as dry or unwashed denim, raw denim should be cleaned with extra love and care. Because raw denim has not been pre-washed to rid the fibers of excess dye, you want to soak off the indigo before wear. If your raw denim jeans have not been pre-shrunk, you can soak them in a bathtub with 2 or 3 inches of hot water and then line dry to avoid shrinkage.

To thoroughly clean raw denim, draw a bathtub of lukewarm water about 2 inches deep and treat the water with a light washing powder designed for dark fabric. Soak for 45 minutes and then rinse with cool water. Never use bleach or regular laundry detergent on raw denim and always line dry (ideally someplace warm and sunny).


Eradicating grease and oil stains from blue jeans is fairly simple. First, blot the fabric at the stain with a paper towel to soak up any surface liquid. Next, coat the stain with baby powder, cornstarch, salt or any other absorbent powder. Scrape off the powder with a spoon and then apply a small amount of dish soap to the stain. The combination of residual powder and soap will begin to subtly foam. At that point, use a toothbrush and scrub away the stain on both sides of the fabric.


Diehard denim-wearers know that the eventual grass stain is inevitable. To get rid of grass stains on your jeans, lay them flat and pour a small amount of laundry detergent directly onto the stain and massage the soap into the fabric. Wait about 15 minutes and then clean your jeans as usual. A mixture of dish soap and hydrogen peroxide is also an effective alternative to laundry detergent.


Bleach stains are some of the most stubborn fabric stains, but there are tried-and-true ways to get them out of blue jeans. First, apply a bit of alcohol to a cotton ball and then rub the stain. Allow the alcohol to collect particles of indigo dye and then spread it to the lightened portion of the fabric. You can also re-dye denim with clothing dye if the jeans have been significantly stripped of their coloring.

Denim Cleaning Tips:

  • If machine washing, always wash your blue jeans alone for the first cycle. High-quality denim often has saturated dyes that may bleed onto other clothing items in the wash.
  • Modern Levi's jeans are branded with a tag that reads "Wash Cold - Line Dry - Donate to Goodwill" to ensure eco-friendly denim care.
  • Spot clean jeans until they become stinky.
  • Don't tumble-dry. Heat and movement may affect the quality of your jeans for the long-term. Instead hang your jeans out to dry on a clothing line.