Raw Denim Cleaning – Vinegar Soak, Oven Treatment

It’s been some time since our last raw denim care article, and we honestly thought it wouldn’t be until 2012 that we could sufficiently add to this category. However, that was until we heard word from Dan Grams, who had a dire situation on his hands with his newly acquired Unbranded raw denim.

Huge thanks to Dan for sharing this with us; you can read up on the entire story via his blog, & I Also Think… In essence, he had mail ordered a pair of black Unbranded tapered raw denim and upon arrival, he was hit with a sulphuric stench like no other. Unsure of whether the waft was just de rigueur, he set himself on a mission to get rid of the smell as soon as possible.

As he had had success in the past battling putrid smelling garments via a vinegar wash (acidic solutions can effectively rid of such bacteria), he turned to this step-by-step:

How-To Clean Your Raw Denim via Vinegar Wash

  1. Fill a bathtub with enough cold water to completely submerge the denim
  2. Added about 2 cups of white vinegar
  3. Lay the pants flat and inside out
  4. Agitate and flip several times over few hours of soaking
  5. Rinse with cold water and hang dry (ideally outdoors)

Unfortunately, the vinegar cleaning technique did not do the trick, nor did an attempt to go in the opposite pH direction and apply baking soda. After letting them settle through being hemmed and another soak, the smell did subside but quickly reappeared after a couple hours of wear.

Raw Denim Cleaning - Oven Treatment

Refunding was not an option since they had been hemmed, so Dan was left to turn to other cleaning alternatives, such as Fabreeze and the infamous freezer technique. Even when combining yet another vinegar wash and submerging into a deep freeze, the smell was still as potent as ever.

After further researching sulphuric dyes on Wikipedia, he noted sulphuric dye is water insoluble if not first exposed to a temperature around 80ºC (about 176ºF). Hence, the oven treatment cleaning technique (note: as this cleaning method is much more hazardous than other alternatives, proceed at your own risk…).

How-To Clean Your Raw Denim via Oven Treatment

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and turn back to 175°F – 200°F
  2. Flip denim inside out and fold to fit on center rack
  3. Leave for 1-2 minutes and shut oven door
  4. Remove from oven to cool down (fumes may exude from fabric)
  5. Refold and reposition denim on rack for 1-2 more minutes; be mindful for denim not to scorch
Raw Denim Cleaning - Oven Treatment
While this an extreme example that pertains to black sulphuric-dyed denim, the oven technique made scientific sense (i.e. sulphuric dye must be broken down into particles via heat exposure prior to being water soluble) and proved to be extremely effective.

Have you used the oven treatment or another unorthodox approach to rid of any unwanted smells? Let us know via the comment section below.

Stay Raw!

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