How to Distress a T-Shirt

One day last week I sat down at the computer, thinking I was about to be super productive. I would do all of the work. Instead I wound up on YouTube. As you do. I watched a video from Nicole Guerriero all about distressing t-shirts, and you can guess what happened next. I was not productive at all, but I did sit down and figure out my own way to distress a t-shirt.

So this style is definitely not for everybody, but it makes a shirt look as though you’ve had it for 10 years and have beaten the crap out of it. Which I like. (There was a comment on that video about how you can’t wear stuff like this if you’re over 25. Well, shit. Some smug 15 year old just told me what I can and can’t wear.)



Before we get started, I will mention that I half-followed the advice in the video and half-followed what I found elsewhere. After googling ‘how to distress a t-shirt’ I found a lot of advice that was just way too complicated. Like washing your shirt in washing soda and salt FIVE (5!) times to soften it.

So this, like all of my other advice, is like the lazy girl’s guide to distressing a shirt.

First, get you a shirt. I used one I’ve had about 10 years, but never wear anymore.


Make any cuts you so desire. (I talked about cutting up a t-shirt here.) On this shirt, I only cut the sleeves.



If you want holes in your shirt, take some sandpaper or a sanding block. Rub back and forth on a small area until holes form. This gives more natural looking holes than just using scissors, but who cares. Use scissors. Use chopsticks. The world is your oyster.



Next I put some water in a spray bottle and added a few tablespoons of bleach. You can use straight bleach, but it works really fast. If your kid falls off a table or you get an urgent phone call, the bleach will remove all the color from the fabric before you know it. By diluting the bleach, it does the same thing, only slower.

Spray this mixture wherever you want to lighten the fabric. (I did this outside. Don’t spray bleach on your mama’s antique dining table.)



This was after about 5 minutes. The bleach had lightened the black to a rusty orange color, and that was as far as I wanted it to go.



I hand-washed the shirt with a little detergent, and I rinsed it until the water ran clear. The water was turning a rust color from the bleach, so I just kept on rinsing until I got all the bleach out.


And that was that. This shirt is all beat up looking. Learning how to distress a t-shirt is easy, but if you like the result, be forewarned – you’ll want to do more.


See you later!