Refurbishing Raw Denim to Reduce Bacterial Populations

  • Author / Creator
    Wakefield, Mariko
  • Raw denim jeans are an emerging trend where a unique pattern of fading is created as the jeans mold to the wearer’s body. Raw denim differs from traditional denim as it has not been treated or washed before being sold to consumers. Brand new raw denim has been suggested to be worn continuously without washing (at least six months) to preserve the customized fades and marks. Minimal washing thereafter is suggested to reduce the effects of degradation from laundering. As a result, practices to care and maintain raw denim jeans are recommended on raw denim websites, one of which includes freezing the jeans in order to reduce bacteria and unpleasant odour that may develop as a result of minimal washing. However, the efficacy of freezing at reducing bacteria is unsubstantiated. Other alternative refurbishing methods that may reduce bacteria are ironing and exposure to UV radiation (sunlight). The purpose of this research was to examine three selected alternative refurbishing methods in comparison to washing raw denim fabrics. An in vivo method was used to collect bacteria on fabrics where human participants (n=6) wore raw denim fabrics on the posterior forearm for 24 hours. Worn fabrics were subjected to refurbishing treatments. Aerobic bacteria were extracted and plated on a non-selective microbiological media where viable bacteria were counted and compared with the baseline counts (i.e., viable bacteria obtained from fabrics immediately after wear). Findings show that the alternative refurbishing treatments were not as effective at reducing bacteria as washing. Immediately after the treatment (0 hours), washing had the highest bacterial reduction with all counts being below the limit of detection, and bacteria did not grow during the 24-hour period post-treatment. Freezing was initially more effective than ironing and UV radiation. However, over the additional 24-hour period post-treatment bacteria grew more rapidly on denim fabrics that had been frozen, than those that had been ironed or exposed to UV radiation. Despite the interest from raw denim enthusiasts to refresh their clothing without the use of the washing machine, washing was the most effective treatment for both initial and sustained bacterial removal.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
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