Why Do Black Jeans Smell Like Pennies?

Jeans are inarguably one of the most common items that can be found in everyone’s wardrobes. Most people say that this is because of its versatility and how it fits with many other items of clothing. Jeans are generally great but dark jeans are even more versatile given that black fits in everywhere!

With dark jeans, you will have added a touch of formality to your appearance while still maintaining a comfortable look. However, when it comes to dark jeans, there’s one question that has been a major cause of concern for many people.

It is the question of why black jeans smell particularly like pennies. All denim clothes with darker coloring, including jeans that are black, tend to leave the clothes factory with some sort of odor around them.

We will discuss the various factors that contribute to this but if you just bought black jeans and they smell particularly metallic or like pennies, it is likely due to Formaldehyde.

This is a chemical that is added to jeans while in storage, in order to preserve it. It prevents things like mold from breaking down the denim. 

You may become alarmed when you find out that the chemical which is used in the embalming process is this same formaldehyde. As you may suspect, it is toxic to inhale and can cause the skin to react. Hence the reason you need to wash jeans that is new before wearing it.

Apart from formaldehyde, there are several other components that cause the strange smell in dark jeans that have never been worn. You may not even be able to point out exactly or describe the smell because it’s a combination of various chemicals. Below are some of these components.

Causes Of Smell In Black Jeans  


  1. Dye: For denim to turn out black or dark-colored, a variety of dyes have to be used in large amounts. The material is dyed many times to ensure that the color goes deeper than just the surface. These dyes give off distinct odors that cling to jeans especially when they haven’t been washed. The largest contributor to that smell in dark jeans are dyes.
  2. Preservation Chemicals: After the whole dyeing process, other chemicals are needed to lock the dyes in. Otherwise, the jeans would ‘bleed’ badly when washed. This bleeding would further lead the color to fade quickly, rendering the work done in dyeing the jeans a waste of time, resources, and effort. Thus, to prevent this waste and ensure a long-lasting coloration, jeans makers use more chemicals in preserving the dyes. 
  3. Fire-retardant Chemicals: This is another contributor to the wealth of chemical stench. As the name implies, they are there to retard fire. That is, They work against the spread of fire.
  4. Packaging Chemicals: Finally, the people who package jeans, make use of chemicals to keep them in good form till they arrive at the consumer’s door. That would be your door.
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Obviously dark jeans are doomed to give off odors from the concoction of chemicals involved in getting them in their final state.

Fortunately, you can avoid carrying that stench around when you’re on the move with your favorite black jeans. I have done my best to outline after this, ways by which you can make your denim free of chemical stench.

How To Get Dark Jeans Free Of Chemical Stench  

By Use of White Vinegar

Vinegar is acidic in nature, hence it is effective in stripping materials of unwanted odors. White vinegar will not only give you your desired results, but it will also do the extra work of preserving the color of the jeans.

Just mix white vinegar in some water. Make sure that the water is cold. Soak the jeans in this liquid for about forty-five minutes. After forty-five minutes, rinse. Dry the denim inside-out. 

By Use of Baking Soda 

Baking Soda is widely known for absorbing smells. Remember not to use it together with vinegar because while vinegar is acidic, baking soda is alkaline in nature.

This means that they can neutralize each other. For baking soda to serve your purpose, simply let it dissolve in cold water, in which you then soak the jeans for up to two hours. Afterwards, wash the jeans the way you usually would. 

By Use of Borax 

Borax is a cleaning agent that also removes smells caused by chemicals. The downside to using it is that it can cause your jeans to fade.

Thankfully, this can be largely prevented by testing a hidden area first and ensuring that you have the jeans inside-out while using this method. Soak the jeans in a mixture of water and Borax for a minimum of one hour. Wash it as usual.

By Use of Oxygen Bleach 

This is one type of bleach that is actually suitable for jeans with color. Soak the jeans for up to four hours, following the guidelines given by the manufacturer of the oxygen bleach of your choice. After soaking, proceed to wash them as usual. 

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By Use of Castile Soap

Castile soap, just like baking soda and even Borax, is alkaline. They work in similar ways to free your jeans from that chemical smell plaguing them. Simply use this soap to wash the material. It may be preferable for the soap to be liquid.

By Airing Under Sunlight 

Ultraviolet rays from sunlight are effective odor removers as well as a bleaching agent for black jeans. It is essential that before you unleash sunlight on jeans, they have to be inside out.

This will help you not to end up stripping them of color as you strip them of odor. Follow this method if you are not ready to do the necessary washing just yet. Turn them out, then spread them out in the sunlight to air until the odor disappears or is highly reduced.


  1. Never wash or soak any jeans in water that is hot. It may shrink!
  2. Never put denim in the oven to try and remove the stench of chemicals. This is dangerous and can lead to heavy chemical fumes or even fire.
  3. Never try to remove the odor from a bunch of jeans together. Take them one at a time.
  4. Never wash new jeans along with other clothes while you’re trying to get rid of the jeans odor. The clothes can absorb the odor. 

Maintaining Black Jeans

As much as you need to get rid of the unpleasant and toxic stench your jeans must have come with, you definitely want the material to still retain its vibrant, dark color long after the smell is gone. Read on for ways by which you can maintain dark jeans and avoid fading or quick wearing out.

  • All soaking, washing, and drying must be done when the clothes are inside-out. Even the care label says so!
  • Remember how white vinegar helps to preserve the dyes in dark denim? You can always soak your jeans in a solution that contains it, to lock the color in before you even start washing. Make the solution with water, one tablespoon of common salt, and one cup of vinegar. 
  • Wash jeans as rarely as possible. Experts suggest that jeans should be washed only once in six weeks. It goes without explanation that washing jeans all the time would mean washing away the color.
  • If your denim is not exactly dirty and you’re just concerned about the germs or sweat, then take the following steps. Spray it with equal parts cold water and vodka, dry it away from direct sunlight, and let it spend several hours in the freezer.
  • If it’s a small grease stain that’s tempting you to go for a complete wash when it’s not due, spot-clean with Pine-Sol to get it out. Pine-Sol is a highly effective household cleaner.
  • Do not attempt to use a dryer for denim. Hang them inside out and away from direct sunlight.
  • If despite your efforts, your beloved dark jeans still get faded or they eventually fade after a long life of wear, you can still revive the color without dye!
  • Make some rich black coffee and just soak them in the coffee. Dry them and you’re good to go again.
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How To Wash Dark Jeans

  • It is best you hand-wash. However, if you must use a washing machine, use a gentle cycle. 
  • If you’re using the washing machine, load other dark clothes with dark denim. The only exception is for new jeans that need to shed their signature scent. 
  • Ensure that the detergent used is not harsh on cloth materials. 

Why Do Black Jeans Smell Like Pennies – Conclusion 

Black jeans are among the most versatile wears available but their smell when new, poses a challenge. The smell is caused by the many chemicals involved in the processing, packaging and storage of dark jeans.

Formaldehyde in particular, gives black jeans that peculiar metallic smell that makes you think of pennies. Other chemicals that lend new dark jeans their odour, have been thoroughly discussed in this article, along with why they are usually added while making black jeans.

Of course the article would be incomplete if I do not give solutions to the issue of chemical odours. Also find out how best to wash black jeans and how to prevent fading. 

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