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 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 lukewarm 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. You might need to use weights to weigh the jacket down and stop it from floating to the top.
  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. 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. If you use hot water, you’ll shrink your jacket so make sure the water is lukewarm or, if you’re concerned about shrinkage, room temperature.

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 hasn’t 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
How to fade denim jeans or a denim jacket | Bleaching, Washing & Ageing | Alarna Hope Fashion Stylist


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

HOW TO: Bleach Denim (Thrifted Levi's)
Disclaimer: Any actions taken in fading your denim is the risk and responsibility of the owner. You should always check your garment care label before attempting to wash your clothing. If you are unsure of what to do, take your garment to a specialist or practice on an old garment first.


  1. Avatar for Hannah

    Does this work for a denim shirt?

    1. Avatar for ALARNA HOPE

      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

  2. Avatar for Loft

    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!

  3. Avatar for Yacon

    Amazing Site. Very much enjoyed reading.

    1. Avatar for Samantha

      Hi. What’s the difference in using the bucket with bleach and throwing them in the jeans in the washer with the bleach ?

      1. Avatar for Alarna Hope

        The bucket allows you to soak the jeans for longer, rather than put them on a spin cycle, and it’s far easier to monitor the dying process while it’s in the bucket. I hope that helps!

  4. Avatar for Harry James

    Would this work for black denim jackets too?

    1. Avatar for ALARNA HOPE

      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. 🙂

  5. Avatar for Lacey

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

    1. Avatar for ALARNA HOPE

      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!

  6. Avatar for Tracy

    I absolutely loved how my jean jacket turned out!

    1. Avatar for ALARNA HOPE

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

  7. Avatar for Donna Tarnowski

    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?

    1. Avatar for Alarna Hope

      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

  8. Avatar for Julian

    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?

    1. Avatar for Alarna Hope

      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). 🙂

  9. Avatar for Betsy

    Hi! Can you please share what you meant by high content elstane/spandex? Mine is 2% and I don’t want to lose it. Stretch is super important to me so I intentionally didn’t buy 100% cotton. Would bleaching my jacket ruin the stretch at all? And is there a chance of it coming out blotchy at all? Thank you.

    1. Avatar for Alarna Hope

      Hello Betsy! If you use the bleach method and don’t fully submerge your denim jacket, it will come out blotchy. The bleach needs to fully cover the jacket the entire time it’s submerged. Make sure you don’t submerge the jacket with the sleeves rolled up and make sure to lift the collar up so you don’t get a darker patch of denim under the collar. The bleach will stiffen the denim slightly, so you will lose a little bit of that elasticity. If you’re ever unsure, it’s best to test it on an old pair of denim jeans with the same amount of stretch, 2% elastane mixed with 98% cotton is extremely common, you could even pick up a denim piece from a second-hand store to test first. I hope that helps!

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