The Best Washable Pants for Work

washable pants for work

2017 Update: We’ve updated links — enjoy this post on washable pants for work! 

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We haven’t talked about washable pants in far too long, so I thought I’d do a round-up today. (If having machine-washable garments is important to you, check out our Washable Wednesday feature over on CorporetteMoms, or our roundup of the best brands of washable workwear.) As we’ve discussed before, these are my best tips for how to wash your washable pants:

  • Look for stretch if you’re shopping online. If you want to narrow your search to pants that are machine washable, look for ones with stretch in them — they almost always are washable. (But most online descriptions will tell you what the recommended care is.)
  • Get them tailored only after you’ve washed them first. After the first wash there may be a little bit of shrinkage — wait to get them hemmed until then. (But, note that there are a ton of brands that offer shorter inseams for “regular” pants, so you may not need them hemmed.)
  • Wash them in cold water at home — and don’t put them in the dryer. At least, not for very long. I usually like to put my pants in the dryer for about 15 minutes — it gets the wrinkles out, and just a bit of time with the dryer sheet makes them softer. I always wash my pants on cold, and I usually do use Woolite and the delicate cycle for my pants.
  • Hang them upside down to dry. The weight of the waistband will pull the pants taut, effectively smoothing them out. (I almost never iron ‘em!) When you put them on the hanger, do your best to keep the crease the pants came with — if there was no crease, just put the inseams together neatly.
  • “Dry clean” on the label usually means you can wash them (but proceed at your own risk).  The big thing to know here is that “dry clean only” means, well, DRY CLEAN ONLY. If it just says “dry clean,” though, you usually can either dry clean them or wash them. Your mileage may vary here, but: unless I really loved the pair of pants, I would give “dry clean” pants a whirl in the washer, as well — particularly if the pants are made up entirely of natural fibers (one of the benefits to unlined pants).  You may want to do a spot test first.

Readers, which are your favorite styles and brands for washable pants for work?  What are your best tips for caring for them? 

* My understanding is that a “petite” pair of pants has every measurement adjusted for a shorter woman, whereas a regular pair of pants with a “shorter length” has just the inseam adjusted — at 5’4″ I usually prefer the “shorter” length to a petite fit, at least if I plan to wear them with flats. Ladies, what do you think?

washable-work-pants-2Let’s start the roundup with Loft, which is having a 40% off sale today, no code needed.  I have a pair of pants in this “double dobby” fabric and have no complaints — they wash up very easily; hold the stretch, etc.  The pants come in black, navy and beige, and they’re normally $69.50. With the code they come to $42.  (Note that the fabric also comes in their Julie cut, as well as in maternity sizes.)  2017 Update: this exact pant is now sold out, but Loft is a great place to start your hunt for machine washable pants — almost their entire collection of pants is.
washable-pants-for-workNext up: the 7th Avenue pants from New York & Company.  They come in a zillion colors and styles (lots of ankle pants and wide flares if you want; I’ve pictured a bootcut). They come in sizes 0-18, in lengths “average,” petite and tall, and are super highly reviewed.  They’re normally $59.95, but these are marked 20% off to $47.96; if you buy 3-4 pairs you can get 30% off, and 50% off if you buy 5 or more pairs. Note that if you’re really fussy about your waistline (or, perhaps, in the early stages of a pregnancy), they even have pull-on pants.  7th Avenue Superstretch Bootcut Pant
washable-trousers-3Both the Columnist pant and the Editor pant from Express are in our Hall of Fame roundup — they’ve been around for ages, keep coming out with new styles and colors, and wash up nicely.  The pictured pants come in regular sizes, petite sizes, and shorter lengths and longer lengths. Studio Stretch Barely Boot Columnist Pant
washable-work-pants-4Halogen pants are often washable — I can’t find the link but I remember Auntie M raving about them during one of her guest guest posts. These suiting pants come in regular and petite sizes 0-16, both the full length and the ankle length pants are machine washable.  Halogen® ‘Taylor’ Suiting Pants
washable-pants-for-work-5These Vince Camuto pants have 81 mostly positive reviews at Nordstrom (and are nearly sold out in the gray). Unlike a lot of pants that suggest you line dry them (or only say “machine wash,”) these actually encourage tumble drying.  They come in regular and petite sizes, for $79. 2017 Update: these exact pants are still available, but the brand also offers a ton of other styles of machine washable pants; they come in regular, petite, and plus sizes. (Also check out their highly reviewed ponte pants.) Vince Camuto Straight Leg Pants 
washable-pants-for-work-6Talbots has a ton of washable pants, and almost all of them come in petite sizes, long lengths, women’s sizes, and woman’s petite sizes (super rare!).  The pictured bootcut pants have 4.7 stars out of 5, and come in five colors.  They’re available exclusively online for $99. 2017 update: these exact pants are sold out but Talbots still has a TON of machine washable pants.

Which are YOUR favorite pairs of washable pants for work, ladies?

Like this feature? Check out other recent installments!

The Best Washable Pants for Work | Corporette




  1. Gail the Goldfish :

    LOFT custom stretch trouser leg pants. I just bought 3 new pairs in the Julie fit. I’m fairly certain they’re the same fabric as the LOFT pants I bought last fall, which wash well (wash cold, hang dry). Also the GAP perfect trouser pants.

  2. D. Meagle :

    My big question about washing work pants — how do you maintain a crease? Do you have to iron the crease in? I usually dry clean all pants so they are pressed with a crease.

    • la vie en bleu :

      some pants hold the crease for a few washes. I usually only iron them every few times I wash them, so maybe every few months I get out the ironing board and iron a few things.

      • Same, and, TBH, I probably just let the crease go on a pretty regular basis. Creases are nice, but not necessarily worth the trouble. :)

    • Mine hold the crease for a few washes, and I try to hang them correctly to maintain it as long as possible. I used to think I’d do a dry cleaning run after every few washing rounds, then I realized I like not going to/paying for the dry cleaner better than having creases in my pants. I don’t bother ironing.

  3. For Talbots pants, you can get them (all sizes) at a deep discount at their clearance outlet stores — not their regular outlets. Unfortunately, the one by me closed recently, but my best buy was a pair of workhorse gray dress pants for $4. The selection can be erratic, based on season and stock, but it can be worth the hunt, especially during a sale.

  4. Anonymous :

    I’ve never been able to find washable pants that don’t fade rather quickly. It seems the washable materials have a tendency to look kind of shabby and faded after a few wears and washes.

    • I have to have the one pair of dress pant’s I own dry cleaned b/c otherwise it would get ruined. As it is, I can NOT get reimbursement for cleaning any clotheing that I could not get allowance on in the first place. So I onley wear my one pair of work pant’s in the worst day’s of winter. I do have 2 pair’s of fleece jegging’s but I can NOT wear these to work unless I know 1) the manageing partner is not there; 2) I do not have to run to court and 3) I let Frank ooogle my boobie’s and tuchus so that he won’t tell the manageing partner when he get’s back. FOOEY!

    • Must be Tuesday :

      I’ve never had any fading from my Express columnist and editor pants, and I’ve had some for 6+ years. I always wash them in cold water (never warm or hot) and I always hang them on drying racks (I never put them in the dryer).

      • Same. I’ve also taken to washing my black jeans and darker jeans just by soaking them in vinegar and water and it’s kept them from fading wonderfully. The vinegar smell goes away.

        • So you just soak them in the sink, and then hang dry? How much vinegar to water?

          • i kind of just eyeball it which isn’t very helpful. Guess the internet says add 1 cup vinegar. I soak them in a tub that I use for soaking laundry but same idea. Hang dry. I wore my jeans the day after they dried and I thought they smelled like vinegar but my friends said they didn’t smell and not joking the smell went away right away it’s awesome I’m never washing my dark jeans again. I’m going to start doing this with my work pants. Vinegar is definitely a proven cleaner and our pants probably don’t need the agitation of the washer to get stains or anything like that out most likely..

  5. la vie en bleu :

    The Halogen Taylors have been pretty good for me as an extreme pear, with my widest point at my upper thigh. They fit pretty well, and still need to be tailored to eliminate waist gap, but not completely resewn like some other pants. That said, the old design (they redesigned these the same season they redid The Skirt, harumph) was even better, had a wide waistband, and no belt loops, which made the tailoring even easier. But the new design still works okay. And they do wash and wear well, I haven’t taken any of them to the dry cleaners and they still look nice.

    • I have a bunch of the Halogen Taylors that I wash every week, with no special care, and they look fine.

      The new design does seem a little slimmer cut. My usual size is a tiny bit tight but the next size up is enormous. Motivation!

  6. For washing things that might be delicate like this, I see Kat recommending Woolite, but I’ve heard a lot of people complain about Woolite causing fading, etc. I used to use it consistently, but for some reason, have been having a hard time finding it (or a similar delicate wash product) at my local grocery store, and have been just using my regular detergent, with the “handwash” cycle. I haven’t noticed a difference so far, but I’ve only been doing it for a couple of months. I do clean probably 90% of my clothes this way (everything except the very nice and the very not so nice).

    What do you use for delicate/handwash machine washing (for pants and other things)? I really don’t want to fuss with having to order laundry detergent.

    • Same as you, I use my regular detergent for handwashing. I always buy scent-and-dye-free detergent. I used Woolite years ago, and I don’t see any difference using regular detergent.

    • Must be Tuesday :

      I use my regular detergent (used to use Tide, switched to something else I can’t remember the name of about a year ago) and fabric softener (Downy). I always wash cold and hang dry.

      If I’m actually washing something by hand, rather than running it through the washing machine on the delicate or handwash cycle, I typically use hand soap or bath soap. The only things I really wash by hand are tights/hose and clothes with lots of sequins.

    • Rogue Banker :

      I use a powder soap called Lasting Care, recommended by my lingerie store (when the only bras that come in your size are $65+ each, you want them to LAST. :P) There’s a little bit of a old-lady-concept-of-fresh scent to it, I really can’t describe it, but it’s pretty light. I have a couple big mesh bags that I use for handwash/delicates. Bras go in one (hooks closed!) shirts and other things go in the other two. Handwash cycle, cold water, drip or flat dry depending on the item. It works pretty well and it’s a lot less hassle than washing them in the sink/tub.

  7. I have a washable black pair from Talbots that must be five years old. Trying to replace it with a similar workhorse, so this is good timing.

  8. Meg Murry :

    Paging Emma from this morning’s thread –
    If you don’t need to wear full suits at your new job and you like wearing pants as much or more than skirts, you should check out the pants here, try on a bunch to see which fit you the best and then sale stalk them from now until you get your new job. Most of the pants here can go from “one step below a suit” with a blazer all the way down to “one step above jeans” with a dressy tee, plus hit a nice middle spot with a nice blouse and cardigan.

    If you don’t need to wear a full suit, you could probably get away with 3-5 pairs of these pants on rotation for your first few months to a year until you can slowly build up your business wardrobe – very few people will notice if you wear black, gray, navy or camel pants every day (or only 2 of those).

    • Wildkitten :

      Superfluous personal story. We had uniforms in middle school and could only wear four colors of polo shirts. I only liked one of the colors, so I wore that color every single day for two years and nobody noticed. It’s amazing how much people don’t care about what other people wear.

    • THANKS!!! That is great advice, which I will definitely be following. I don’t need a full suit every day. I’m not sure yet about whether cardigans or blazers will be better — I need to get a better feel from the office, as others suggested.

      One issue is that I’ll mostly be working with men. If they’re wearing slacks with shirts and ties, but no jacket, does that seem like cardigans would be okay for me? I’m not sure how the dress code translates across genders, when you are a step below full suit.

      • Wildkitten :

        Yes – cardigans will be fine if the guys aren’t wearing jackets. But sometimes I like to wear a blazer anyway as a power outfit.

      • TO Lawyer :

        You could wear cardigans but I think especially when working with men, I would opt for a blazer because it has more of a professional aura.

  9. What is the difference between the Columnist pant and the Editor pant at Limited? It looks like the Columnist is a slimmer leg, so as someone who usually wears wide-leg pants (when I can find them), I’m leery. Is it likely the Editor would fit my athletic thighs better?

    • From my experience yes. I like the Editor with a slim bootcut. For me its the best of both worlds but it is far from the wide leg look if you like that.

    • Yes, go with the Editor. The Columnists are more straight cut, with little room for hips. I love my Editors but would have to size up in the Columnist and then have the waist taken in.

      Editors come in full-length flare or barely boot, ankle-length, or crop.

    • Thank you both!

  10. Thank you for doing a washable article!

    I personally love Petite BR Jackson trousers because I am a short (5″2, 5″4 with heels) pear. I’m kind of saddened by the fact everything is moving to skinnies even business pants because they make me look even more unbalanced.

    I wished more decent clothes were machine washable but had good texture and drape. One day…One day..

  11. Little Pants :

    I have several pairs of Dressbarn’s Secret Agent Pants, and they are excellent. They have a heavier weight, which helps with wrinkles,and the fabric is yarn dyed. I had two pairs that I wore practically every week for two years, and they did not fade. I had to give them away when I lost weight, and I bought a pair of Ann Taylor pants. I’ve had those for a few months, and they are starting to fade, so I went back to Dressbarn. I also have a pair of NY & Co. pants as well, and they too are excellent.

  12. Can you PLEASE do a reboot of this article? I LOVED the exact stretch from the limited, but don’t know what to do now that they’ve gone bankrupt. Also, many of your links don’t work.

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