15 ways to make your own distressed jeans

how to distress jeans

How to distress your jeans

If you have bought a raw denim jeans or a jeans with denim fabric with even colouring you are not at all wrong in wanting  a worn look which is so fashionable and trendy – like right now and forever. It is totally justifiable that you need some custom personal touches to the jeans you  have bought and feels that it looks brand new – no do.Who wants to wait for 100 years or pay thousands to get that distressed look you covet.

It is possible to add a little craziness and creativity to the denim. Let us look at how the professionals do it and maybe some of them we can replicate at home

Do you know that a long time ago you would have had to wash your new jeans necessarily before you can wear it straight from the retailer. It was almost impossible to wear them. They were very stiff. It is impossible to imagine today. 

The jeans you get nowadays comes through so many treatment and processes and washes that you can wear them straight off the shelf.No uncomfortable scratching or stiff as stick feeling. The denim you get molds itself on your body like a second skin. Most of the jeans come prewashed and pretreated – Unless you prefer raw denim.

The denim industry has invented many many ways to make denim the way people want it. Designers and denim manufacturers use many techniques like Laser engraving ( in which a  laser light is used to remove the color of the denim) to get a faded & worn out look. Acid washes, sand blasting, enzyme washes sun washing, water jet fading , over dye tinting, ozone fading are some of the many complicated methods used by the jeans manufactures today for that desired distressed look

You need some basic tools in your kitty to start distressing your jeans – nothing complicated.

distressed jeans

1 Stone washing

This is the most commonly used method, in which Pumice stone is used to give an abrasion to the denim. Freshly made denim jeans is tumbled in the washer with the stones . Pumice stone is a light weight stone with a rough surface. When it is  put in the washer  with the fabric the resultant abrasion gives the fabric a nice weathered & worn look. Turkish stone which is porous and clean is used generally.

The advantage of stone washing is that when the fabric is treated with stone, the fibers on the surface break and the white yarn on the inside of the denim is visible from the outside .

How to do it at home – I would not advice you to do it in your washing machine. A washer is more costlier than a denim jeans. You can keep your denim in  a tub of water and some stones to replicate the process. But you need to do it a lot to make much change.

Scrapping and rubbing the surface of denim with pumice stone can achieve an almost similar effect and is better than tumbling with stones. One – washer is destroyed , another – the rivets and other metal hardware are all abraded. There is no selective abrasion in stone washing in the washer.

2. Rinse wash

This involves washing the jeans in high-temperature water.

How to do it at home – Wash the jeans in water which is heated to about 50 degree celsious. This will fade the colour of the jeans . If you want to brighten up the colour of an old faded one, you can add it to this wash alongside your new one to get some of the dye on it.

 3 Acid wash

15 ways to make your own distressed  jeans

It is a chemical wash used on denim which strips the colour from the fabric. The colour in the surface is removed from the top layer of fibers whereas the lower fibers retain the colour. The result is a very faded and patchy look which is very much sought after

Acid used is Sodium hypochrorite ( 5 to 10%) or potassium permanganate ( 3-6%)

How to do it at home – You can splatter diluted  bleach rubbed on the jeans or keep jeans tied in a bleach solution. Just checkout the video for a demonstration

4 Whiskering

15 ways to make your own distressed  jeans

This is known so after the cat’s whiskers , and appears as fine lines from crotch and hip area quite naturally with time  and use. Selective Fading jeans on creases can make these whiskers unnaturally.

In an industrial set up this process is done by stretching the fabric on balloons shaped like the creases in the fabric. Whiskering is done with the help of machine sanding, sand blasting or by laser technology in industrial set up. This is also called atari in japanese.

How to do it a home – Mark the lines you need to make, which looks like the creases that are made naturally. Do Hand sanding with sand paper.Sand paper is used on specifically marked pattern lines.

Where to make the whiskers – Usually along the Hips, front thigh area, back of knees and side of knees. 

5 Grinding

15 ways to make your own distressed  jeans

This will produce worn fibers on selective areas of the denim, especially the edges.A special tool is used to to scrap areas of the fabric

You can do it with the help of pumice stone rubbing, sand paper rubbing and  a grinder tool. You can do this along the hem, on belt loops and along pocket edges.

6 Sand blasting

15 ways to make your own distressed  jeans

In this process Denim is shot with high speed guns of sand ( granular or powdered) mixed with air to make a weathered look on the fabric. The selective areas which is sand blasted reveal the white yarn under the top layer of denim .
Sand blasting uses granular sand which is shot through the nozzle of a gun.Machine sanding is highly skilled and uses specialised machinary ( rolls)

How to do it at home – You can hand sand/ hand scrub your denim with sand paper to get a similar look. You can create a number of beautiful looks with this method. Do not forget to wear a protective mask
Crotch area and back of knees are given aged look by fading or highlighting
Stretching the fabric ( In a professional set up the denim is stretched on inflated balloons) selective area is scrubbed . The areas you do this are Front thigh, back seat, back panel near bottom or front panel near knee

7 Bleaching /bleach wash

15 ways to make your own distressed  jeans

Bleaching will completely reduce the dark indigo colour of denim to a very light shade. Hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite are the chemicals used in bleaching.  It is done along with the stone washing or alone.

How to do it at home- You can fade denim by giving a wash of diluted bleach. The effect you get will depend on the amount of bleach you use and the duration. Remember to properly wash off the bleach properly after beaching so that your fabric is not damaaged. Yellowing will result from over zealous bleaching

Some precautions :

Never take bleach in a stainless steel pot
Use mask when using bleach
Use good quality bleach

Do not keep for too long – yellow is not an attractive colour on denim

Here is a post on using bleach on clothes.

Checkout an excellent video explaining how to bleach denim

8 Wrinkling

By this process a crease is made on the fabric . Usually in all other clothes we look for wrinkle resistant material but denim is one where no one thinks about wrinkles as an undesirable quality

In industrial set up wrinkles or folds are made on the fabric with the help of a resin and treated under heat to get the look of permanent folds / creases. The denim fabric is tied tightly and then treated with the resin

How to get the look of wrinkles – After a wash tie it tightly and then wring it and dry. Do not iron

9 Tacking

Denim fabric is folded ( 2-5 folds) where you want tacking. The area is tacked (fixed in place with tacks or stitches) through the folds . Denim is then washed or treated which will create patterns on the fabric
This is usually done on selected areas like the waistband / hems and pockets

10 Spraying

Potassium permanganate solution is sprayed on the fabric. This is usually done on areas where you have done the sand blasting . A spray gun is used to spray this solution on the area in desired patterns. A deep brown colour is obtained on the area where you have sparyed. Sponging is also done for a similar effect. 

How to do it at home – Spraying the denim with a diluted bleach solution or dye will produce creative patterns

11 Patterns – Chevron / star shapes

how to distress

Mark the pattern on the garment ( Use a stencil for similar and interesting shapes). Use emery paper rolled on a wooden stick or plastic stick to make (scrub) these patterns

12 Ripping pilling and cutting

15 ways to make your own distressed  jeans

This involves making holes in jeans; clippers, knives and blades are used to make these effects
Warp yarn is cut by the blade and white weft yarn is left in place . Cuts should always be kept weft wise ie horizontal in the garment. Weft will be kept in place and warp thread will be removed when you wash the garment. Checkout the easy way to rip your jeans without removing the white thread in this tutorial.


Cutting the edges at the hem, pocket edges,  fly and knee area before the (stone) washing also creates a very distressed look.

13 Overdyeing 

This involves additional dyeing with a dark colour after the jeans is made. Checkout how you can get that effect and more with this video tutorial

14 Tinting

15 ways to make your own distressed  jeans

Tinting means dyeing to give a change of tone / hue of the denim. Tinting on selected areas is usually done to give a very vintage look to the denim.

15 Snow washing 

This denim washing ( a type of acid wash)involves tumbling of jeans with pumice stone soaked in chlorine bleach. A snow like pattern which looks like frosting is formed by this process. Where the stone touches the fabric the colour is stripped off from there

Checkout the 8 ways you can patch jeans

patch jeans.

Related posts

how to hem jeans  sewing with denim


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