How To Wash Cargo Pants? A Complete Guide

Cargo pants are a wardrobe essential for many, but keeping them clean and in top shape can be tricky. The good news? Washing your cargo pants is easier than you think! Just use cold water, opt for the gentle cycle, and avoid high heat drying. For best results, follow our complete step-by-step guide to make your favorite cargo pants last longer.

Evaluating Your Cargo Pants Prior to Washing

Before just tossing your cargo pants into the washing machine, it pays to thoroughly inspect them to identify any special care needs or risks for damage.

Checking Clothing Labels

The first place to look for washing guidance is on the internal clothing labels. Carefully inspect any tags for details on:

  • Approved washing methods
  • Water temperature suggestions
  • Drying instructions (tumble dry, hang dry, lay flat, etc.)
  • Warnings on fabric bleaching
  • Special washing instructions

Adhering to label guidance is key to keeping cargo pants looking their best.

Assessing Stain Risks

Inspect the surface of the cargo pants for any stains or especially dirty areas that may need pretreatment prior to washing. Mud, grease, ink, and food are common cargo pant stains. Catching them before washing helps prevent stains from setting into the fabric.

Find Any Flaws Needing Repair

Check cargo pants for any current damage or risks that could worsen during washing. Look for:

  • Missing or loose buttons
  • Fraying hems
  • Split seams
  • Broken zippers
  • Torn pockets

Make repairs before washing to avoid further damage.

Consider Odors

Give cargo pants a sniff test! If they have a musty or sweaty odor, washing ASAP helps freshen them up and avoid odors setting into the fabric.

Hand Washing Cargo Pants

Many standard cotton cargo pants can be popped right in the washing machine. However, some fabrics, dyes, and embellishments require gentler hand washing to avoid damage, shrinkage, and running colors.

When to Hand Wash

Consider hand washing cargo pants made with:

  • Delicate fabrics like silk, linen, or lightweight cotton
  • Those with embellishments like embroidery, patches, rhinestones, etc.
  • Vivid prints and dyes at risk of bleeding and running

Gather Supplies

You’ll need:

  • Large sink, basin, or bathtub for soaking
  • Mild laundry detergent or soap flakes
  • Soft towels
  • Fabric-safe stain remover
  • Drying rack

Avoid harsh detergents that could damage delicate fabrics.

Fill With Cool Water

Fill your sink/tub with lukewarm water. Very hot water can cause fading, so cooler is safer. The level of water needs to be enough to fully submerge the pants.

Swish and Soak

Add your mild detergent to the water, swishing to create light suds. Submerge pants fully and let soak 15-30 minutes to loosen dirt. Swirl them around occasionally.

Drain and Rinse

Drain the dirty wash water and then rinse the pants thoroughly under cool running water. Repeat rinsing until all soap residue is removed. Avoid wringing, which can stretch the fabric.

Roll and Press

Roll pants in a clean towel and gently press to soak up excess moisture. You can also use a salad spinner to remove water if you have one available.

Lay Flat to Dry

Drape pants smoothly over a drying rack or lay flat on top of towels. Avoid hanging dripping wet pants which can stretch them out.

Steam or Iron

Once fully dry, you can use an iron on low heat or a garment steamer to smooth out any wrinkles. This helps pants keep their shape.

Safely Washing Cargo Pants in the Machine

Thanks to the durable fabric, most standard cargo pants and shorts can be washed in the washing machine safely. However, take steps to wash them gently and prevent damage.

Wash in Cold Water

Use the coolest temperature recommended for the fabric. Warm or hot water risks shrinking and fading many fabrics like cotton, linen, rayon, wool, etc.

Select the Gentle Cycle

The gentle cycle provides an agitation motion that won’t damage thicker cargo pant fabric. The normal cycle can be too rough, causing tears.

Watch Loading Levels

Overstuffing can prevent pants from moving freely and lead to wrinkling and bunching. For best results, only wash 2-3 pairs at a time.

Reduce Spin Speed

High-speed spin cycles strengthen wrinkles and put added stress on seams. Opt for a lower or no spin speed to be gentle.

Use Less Detergent

Only add about 1-2 tablespoons of mild high efficiency (HE) detergent. Measure carefully, as excess suds can cling to fabric.

Remove Promptly

Remove washed pants from the washer immediately so wrinkles from sitting bunched up don’t set.

Drying Cargo Pants with Care

Drying is when clothes like cargo pants are most susceptible to shrinking, so handle with care.

Lay Flat to Air Dry

If you have the time and space, air drying cargo pants fully before wearing or storing them is ideal to prevent shrinkage issues.

Machine Dry Using Low Heat

If machine drying, use the lowest heat setting. Medium or high heat can damage fabric fibers and make pants shrink up.

Dry Completely

Let pants dry 100% of the way, no damp spots. Putting away damp pants can cause mildew growth over time.

Steam to Remove Wrinkles

Once fully dry, use a garment steamer to smooth out wrinkles and creases caused during washing. Avoid ironing over embellishments.

Fold Properly

Always store washed and dried cargo pants folded neatly – don’t leave them wadded up, which can wrinkle fabric.

Special Considerations for Different Cargo Pant Fabrics

Cargo Pants

Caring for cargo pants gets more complex when dealing with specialty fabrics and materials. Follow these extra tips:

Corduroy Cargo Pants

  • Wash corduroy inside out and avoid fabric softener to limit pilling
  • Hang dry only to prevent shrinking the ribs
  • Steam dry to re-define the ribbing

Denim Cargo Pants

  • Wash denim inside out in cold water separately to avoid indigo bleeding
  • Only wash when truly dirty to maintain vibrancy
  • Air dry fully to avoid shrinking

Stretch Cargo Pants

  • Use a mesh garment bag to prevent friction damage
  • Avoid over-drying which can reduce stretch
  • Immediately treat any pulled threads and stitches

Oiled or Waxed Cargo Pants

  • Spot clean only and avoid soaking or machine washing
  • Do not wash with other clothes due to staining risks
  • Lay flat on towels to air dry

Linen Cargo Pants

  • Hand wash or use the most delicate cycle to avoid rips
  • Never use fabric softener or bleach on linen
  • Smooth linen fabric while still damp to limit wrinkling

Storing Cargo Pants to Prevent Damage

Proper storage is key to keeping your freshly washed cargo pants in great condition. After washing and drying, let them air out for a day or two before folding and putting them away.

This prevents mildew and musty odors. Fold them neatly and store in a cool, dry place like your bedroom closet. Cedar blocks or sachets can help repel moths, especially for wool blends.

Got cargo pants with suspenders or lots of pockets? Hang those up to maintain their shape.

Caring for Cargo Pants: Final Takeaways

Cargo pants are beloved for their laidback comfort, durability, and utility. With the right care, they can be kept looking and fitting their best for years of frequent wear. To recap, these are the golden rules for washing cargo pants:

  • Always check clothing labels for care instructions
  • Wash in cold water on a gentle cycle
  • Limit machine drying and use only low heat
  • Fold and store properly to avoid damage
  • Hand wash embellished, delicate fabrics separately
  • Repair any flaws like split seams ASAP
  • Avoid overwashing thick fabrics like denim
  • Replace pants once they become misshapen, worn out, or damaged

Treat your favorite cargo pants with a little extra care, and you’ll be able to enjoy their comfort and functionality for seasons to come! Have your own cargo pant care tips to share? Leave a comment below.

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