How to bleach and customise jeans

Written by valerie hogervorst
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How to bleach and customise jeans
Customising your jeans is a great way to spruce up old clothes. (Getty Images)

Today's fashion demands distinctiveness. Whether you prefer your jeans straight or skinny, boot-cut or cuffed, they are begging to stand out. With a few tweaks, some bleach, sandpaper, rocks and scissors you can create your favourite trends. Having a variety of costly designer jeans may sound like a dream, but you can do it yourself and at a fraction of the price. Wear your favourite jeans with a new shirt and smile knowing nobody else is wearing the exact same pair.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Old clothes
  • Protective gloves
  • Jeans
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Bleach
  • Small glass bowl
  • Paintbrush
  • Spray bottle
  • Small rocks
  • Fine-grit sandpaper

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  1. 1

    Change into old clothes that you can mess up. Put on protective gloves to avoid damage to your skin. Bleach is a harsh chemical that can burn the skin and will stain most things it touches.

  2. 2

    Gather jeans, newspaper, cardboard, bleach, a small glass bowl and a paintbrush in your workspace. Work outdoors if possible. Lay newspaper onto your work surface and lay the jeans flat, front-side-up, on the newspaper.

  3. 3

    Slide cardboard into the legs of your jeans where you will want to bleach. Fold or cut the cardboard to fit in the trouser legs, if necessary. Skip this step if you are not worried about the bleach soaking through to the back of the jeans.

  4. 4

    Pour bleach into the glass bowl, filling about halfway. Dip the paintbrush into bleach and flick or shake it onto the jeans. Make big splatters by using a larger paintbrush or soak the paintbrush and let it drip onto the jeans. If a sprayed effect if what you desire, use a spray bottle. Real Vintage Jeans suggests using the "mist spray" setting for an even application. Allow jeans to dry completely before washing.

  5. 5

    Customise the texture of your jeans in the washer by adding a couple of handfuls of 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inch) garden stones to the wash. Remove every stone when the wash is complete. These stones will not damage your washer but they will be stuck in your pockets so make sure to check before you dry. Wash brand new jeans with stones three times to help the denim soften up. This trick of the trade makes cheap jeans feel expensive.

  6. 6

    Chop your jeans horizontally from ankle to thigh on the front and wash them as usual for a cool summer look. Shopbop has a great selection of distressed and chopped jeans to motivate you. Rub a fine-grit sandpaper across small areas, concentrating the friction in one spot such as the knee or thigh to create a thinned-out area. With a couple of washes, this thin patch will become worn and start to form a hole for a grunge look.

    How to bleach and customise jeans
    Holes can add a grunge look to your jeans. (Jeans image by Francis Bourgouin from

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