How To Lighten Jeans Or Your Denim Jacket

How To Lighten Jeans Or Your Denim Jacket

How to fade denim jeans or a denim jacket | Bleaching, Washing & Ageing | Alarna Hope Fashion Stylist

How To Lighten Jeans Or Fade A Denim Jacket – Instructions

Denim jackets are one of the best light-weight jacket options for men’s and women’s summer wardrobes. Sometimes they can take a little breaking in to get that effortless look and if regular washing just isn’t doing the trick – I’ve got some simple ways you can fade your denim jacket – just in time for summer!


There are two ways you can make your denim jacket look lighter and distressed. One method will significantly lighten your jacket with the use of bleach. The second method will lightly fade your jacket using general washing techniques.


How To Lighten Jeans Or Fade A Denim Jacket With Bleach:

This is the most effective way to fade your denim considerably and can even be used to give your denim a dip-dyed, tie-dyed or ultra faded effect. Remember you’re dealing with bleach, so wear clothing that you won’t be upset if you splash bleach onto as bleach removes colour and can cause irreparable stains if splashed on clothing.


What You’ll Need:


  • Bleach
  • Water
  • A Plastic Bucket
  • Disposable Gloves
Warning: Do not use bleach on denim with high elastic content. The bleach will ruin the elastic.


1. Fill a small bucket with one part bleach to five parts warm water.

2. Put on your gloves and place your jacket in the bucket. Make sure the water and bleach mixture completely covers the jacket. If it’s not covering the jacket it will have patches of light and dark fabric.

3. Leave the jacket immersed for thirty minutes for a subtle fade, but rotate it in the water every ten minutes to prevent colour patches from forming. If you would like it to be lighter, leave the jacket in the mixture longer until it’s the colour you’re wanting. For a light look denim, it often takes around three hours.

4. Remove the jacket and empty the bucket, refilling it with water and submerging the jacket. Use your hands to move the jacket around in the bucket to remove any bleach residue.

5. Put your jacket in your washing machine on a cold wash, add some laundry detergent and hang out to dry when complete. If you do not wish for your jacket to fade further do not dry it in the sun.

Tip: Fabric always looks darker when wet, so when it’s almost the colour you want it to be, remove the jacket from the bleach and wash it in the machine.

How To Lighten Jeans Or A Denim Jacket By Washing It:

This method is a great way to make subtle changes to the colour your denim, this method will shrink your garment slightly if your garment has been pre-shrunk during the manufacturing process. If you aren’t sure or your jeans haven’t been pre-shrunk, they’ll shrink even more. So use short cycles and stretch your garment back out after each use.


What You’ll Need:

  • Washing detergent
  • Hot water
  • Washing Machine


1. Put your jacket in your washing machine on a hot cycle as hot water will help garments fade faster.

How to fade denim jeans or a denim jacket | Bleaching, Washing & Ageing | Alarna Hope Fashion Stylist

2. Once washed, stretch your jacket out and hang your jacket in direct sunlight to dry.


Tip: Washing denim in hot water can shrink the garment, especially jeans that are 100% cotton, so only wash your denim for small periods of time and stretch the garment out after each wash. Repeat this step until you get your desired effect.

How To Age / Rip Your Jacket:


There are many ways to age and rip your jacket to make it look like a vintage jacket. You can use any of the following methods to help you:


Scalpel & Knife: Use a scalpel to make small cuts where you would like a rip to appear. Then use your knife to scrape lengthways against the grain of the fabric to fray and scuff the fabric.


Sandpaper: If you would like to lighten the fabric in certain areas like along the cuffs or collar, rubbing some sandpaper will help to soften the fabric and lighten it at the same time.


A Cheese/Nutmeg Grater: A cheese or nutmeg grater can scuff denim and wear down the fabric, making it look lighter and depending on the force used, can rip the fabric.


Tip: Make sure you place a cutting board between the fabric you are ageing, you don’t want to cut through the entire jacket when just focusing on one area.


If You’re Super-Duper Organised: You can get some inspiration from Pinterest so you can plan where you want to rip and scuff your jacket. I would recommend trying on the garment as you go, this is especially helpful if you plan to rip or fade in areas like the elbows – or if you plan to fade your denim jeans, in the knee area.

If you need a little visual help, this tutorial is fab:

Disclaimer: Any actions taken in fading your denim is the risk and responsibility of the owner.

Alarna Hope

Alarna Hope is a fashion stylist and writer based in Sydney, she's considered an expert in her field as a personal stylist and is also quite good at writing about herself in the third person. She cries during movie makeover scenes, has a jar of Nutella under her bed for safety and can tell you the synopsis of every Kath and Kim episode ever. She currently resides in Sydney with her Oscar-worthy cat, Meryl Streep.

  • Hannah

    November 27, 2016 at 7:12 am Reply

    Does this work for a denim shirt?


      November 30, 2016 at 2:37 am Reply

      If it’s actual denim and not just a denim-look top, certainly. Just be mindful of any elastic or other coloured details on the garment. If it’s a plain denim shirt, it should work well and should only be immersed for short periods of time and rinsed before putting in the washing machine.

      Goodluck, Gorgeous! x

  • Loft

    July 21, 2017 at 8:25 am Reply

    A lot of people are interested to buy jeans and I am sure your tips will help them a lot. I think its a must read. Great idea for sharing!

  • Yacon

    August 31, 2017 at 2:14 pm Reply

    Amazing Site. Very much enjoyed reading.

  • Harry James

    October 26, 2017 at 7:33 pm Reply

    Would this work for black denim jackets too?


      October 30, 2017 at 12:59 am Reply

      Hey Harry, yes it does. Black will fade a lot faster than blue so I’d recommend you go slow with your fading. Just check also that your black denim hasn’t got a high elastic component, as some of these methods won’t work well with elastic. You’re best to wash and dry in the sun to let it fade if you only want a little fading. 🙂

  • Lacey

    November 21, 2017 at 2:13 pm Reply

    I have a Sherpa lined denim jacket I am wanting to fade. How do you think this would affect the Sherpa?


      November 25, 2017 at 12:35 am Reply

      Hello Lacey, I wouldn’t recommend the bleach method as this will damage the sherpa. Try the general wash and fading in the sun instead, it will take a little longer but it won’t damage the sherpa the way bleach would. X Enjoy!

  • Tracy

    January 30, 2018 at 4:27 am Reply

    I absolutely loved how my jean jacket turned out!


      February 23, 2018 at 6:41 am Reply

      That’s so good to hear! I hope it’s getting plenty of use! x

  • Donna Tarnowski

    April 15, 2019 at 3:07 am Reply

    Hi. I followed your method & I for the most part I love how my jacket came out, but there are some spots where it didn’t fade as much. I did make sure it was totally immersed while bleaching. Is there any way to further fade the spots that didn’t take the bleach as well?

    • Alarna Hope

      April 18, 2019 at 12:39 pm Reply

      Hello Donna,
      It’s great to hear you gave this a try! Without seeing your jacket it’s hard to tell why certain parts didn’t dye if the whole jacket was immersed, perhaps it’s in places that are reinforced with stitching or a double layer of denim. You could try laying it flat and spot lightening it with bleach, less is always more so tread lightly with it. Denim can be difficult to get even especially with around stitching and collars, etc so use small amounts or even a water spray with a blend of water of bleach in it. Good luck, I hope you can get those last few parts faded how you want them! x

  • Julian

    May 20, 2019 at 12:43 pm Reply

    Heyya! I have a Sherpa lined denim jacket and saw your comment that said Try the general wash and fading in the sun instead.

    Would washing the jacket, stain the Sherpa part blue?

    • Alarna Hope

      May 23, 2019 at 9:30 am Reply

      Hey Julian,
      This is dependent on a few things. If it’s pre-washed denim and not dry clean only- you should be fine to wash it. Just check the care tag, if it says dry clean only or has the P symbol in a circle on it, then I would be very careful putting it in a machine as it might make the sherpa knotted or cause details on the jacket to fall off if it’s overly detailed (ie embroidered, beaded, etc). 🙂

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