I am telling my wife about ‘washing’ jeans in the freezer. She gives me a look that wouldn’t shame an icicle.
“You want to put your jeans in the freezer?” she repeats. I unpin myself from her gaze and say, yes, I heard it on the radio.
For some reason my mind does a skip and I recall something my grandfather once said. “Those mini-skirts they wear give girls fat legs,” he said. “Their legs get cold, so they put weight on.”
The young teenager that I was then mocked this seemingly ridiculous notion. My grandmother came to her husband’s defence – “He read it in the newspaper.”
There is a gap of perhaps 50 years between my grandfather believing what he’d read in the newspaper, and me believing what I’d heard on BBC Radio Four.
The programme was a short affair about the ecological cost of fashion. It started without me. I wandered in towards the end in time to hear that washing new jeans was an extravagant waste of water and energy. Anyway, the jeans soon look washed out. “You can put them in the freezer instead,” the presenter said.
And that’s what I do, listening to the woman on the radio rather than to my wife. I fold the jeans neatly and freeze them overnight. The next day I take the jeans out to show my wife and she gives me that look again.
“Do you think they look clean?” I say. She doesn’t reply. I hang the jeans over the back of a dining chair and leave them to warm up. Looking at them later, I decide they don’t look fully clean, but I keep that observation to myself.
Then I type “putting jeans in the freezer” into google and assorted entries pop up. People have been talking about this for years. It’s a thing, for sure. There are instructions and all: put your jeans in a carrier bag (damn, didn’t do that) and leave them in the freezer for a week. A whole week! What’s an ageing male supposed to wear if the main part of his uniform is stuck next to the frozen peas for a week? And if I put them on too soon out of the freezer, will my own peas be frozen?
In one internet posting, a fabric-care scientist says: “Never washing your jeans is like never showering from the waist down.”
Ah, that doesn’t sound so good. She then observes that our bodies produce soils, and I stop reading.
Another post sees the boss of Levi’s recommending the freezer ‘wash’ as both ecological and good for the longevity of jeans. This advice is belittled by a scientist in the Smithsonian who says the lower temperatures in your freezer won’t kill off the bacteria dwelling in your denim.
Those jeans haven’t been washed yet, but I think they may be heading for hot water rather than cold air – or cold water and hot air. One or the other.
In the name of research, I google what my grandfather said all those years ago. Or what I think he said, for who’s to know for sure what anyone said so long ago, even if some remarks snag so firmly in the mesh of our minds?
I come up with a blank. Perhaps being wrong about these things runs in the family.