How to Fade and Distress My Jeans

Distress jeans in areas that would naturally show wear.
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If your crisp, dark jeans match the ones your grandpa wears, it’s time to give those trousers the rough treatment. Faded, ripped jeans not only look better, they feel as comfortable as pajamas because the fibers are broken down more. Before you pull out the whip and chains, consider a few milder approaches. Wearing down your jeans may take some work, but the result is a relaxed, lived-in look that you won’t ever want to take off.

Lay the jeans on a clean, flat surface so you can easily reach all areas. You may find that working on the floor is more comfortable.

Hold a piece of fine-grit sandpaper up to the top edge of the front pocket. Gently rub it over the fabric until it turns white and starts to fray. Continue rubbing until you achieve the amount of distressing you like. Distress the other front pocket and the two rear pockets using the sandpaper.

Turn the jeans back over so the front is facing up. Distress the front belt loops using the sandpaper to rub down the sides of each loop until they turn white.

Decide where you would like actual holes in the jeans, such as the knees, thighs or back pockets. Cut small horizontal slits in these areas using sharp scissors. Don’t try to fray the edges, as the washing machine will do this later.

Put the jeans on and sit down in a chair. Look at your upper thighs and note the areas that form wrinkles as you sit. Rub all of these raised areas of the wrinkles using the sandpaper, just until they turn white. Don’t stretch the wrinkles as you do this, and don’t rub in between them.

Move to an outdoor location and open a plastic tarp. Lay the jeans on top of the tarp with the front facing up.

Put on disposable rubber gloves and pour 2 cups of bleach into a bowl. Insert a sponge into the bleach until it is saturated, and then wring out the excess.

Place the sponge at the top of one leg and wipe it all the way down to the bottom in a single, continuous stroke. Apply more bleach to the sponge and wring it out. Wipe the sponge down the front of the other leg. Turn the jeans over, and apply more bleach to the backs of the legs with the sponge.

Fill a washing machine with cold water and insert the jeans into it with a cap full of mild laundry detergent. Close the lid and run the machine.

Place the jeans into the dryer and set it to medium heat to dry them.

  • Wear gloves and old clothes when using bleach.
  • You can use a pumice stone instead of sandpaper to distress the jeans.
  • Apply more bleach in areas you want to fade more, such as around the knees.

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.