How to distress denim

Written by beth porter
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How to distress denim
Denim is easily ripped, cut and faded. (Getty Creative)

Distressed denim is typically expensive to purchase due to high labour costs associated with creating it. The process of distressing denim cannot be fully automated and requires special attention to details. Avoid paying high prices by distressing your own denim at home. With the right tools, a piece of denim and some time, it is simple to distress and customise your own article of clothing.

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Things you need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Bleach
  • Pumice stone
  • Sandpaper
  • Knife or sharp tool
  • Cheese grater

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    Fading denim

  1. 1

    Lay the denim on a flat surface. Completely flatten it, and smooth any wrinkles or creases.

  2. 2

    Put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands from harmful bleach chemicals.

  3. 3

    Pour bleach into a bowl. Gently dip a sponge into the bleach, and then wring it out.

  4. 4

    Rub the sponge on the area of the denim you want to look faded.

  5. 5

    Place the denim in the washing machine by itself, and wash it in a cold-water cycle.

    Distressing denim

  1. 1

    Lay the denim on a flat surface. Fade the area you want to distress with a pumice stone, rubbing it against the area in a back-and-forth motion. Continue rubbing until you achieve the desired amount of fading.

  2. 2

    Fray areas of the denim with sandpaper. Roughly rub the sandpaper back and forth against the area you want to fray. Fray around the pockets, hemlines and edges of already-distressed areas.

  3. 3

    Hold a knife or sharp object carefully, and press it against the area of the denim you want to distress. Move the knife in a shaving motion. Work slowly in this step so you do not slip and distress more than you want.

  4. 4

    Rub a cheese grater against areas of the denim to distress, such as the knees of jeans, thighs of skirts, the pockets of jackets and the thighs of shorts. Rub the cheese grater against the denim until you achieve the desired distressed pattern.

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