How to Distress Denim

I have a feeling everyone already knows how to distress denim. (I didn’t). I had to look it up because I distress denim by, you know, wearing it a million times. But I recently got a pair of hand-me-down jeans that I really did not like. Straight leg jeans look horrible on me. Instead of donating them, I distressed them.

DistressDenim (2)


For this I used scissors, a sanding block, and bleach. Easy peasy and only slightly toxic.

These are the jeans. Nice. Practically new. Not my thing. I liked the fit but not the style of the legs, so I made these into cut-offs. I laid a pair of shorts I already had on top and used them as a guide to cut the legs off this pair.



Then I grabbed a sanding block. (Sandpaper works too, but blocks are easier to use). I scuffed up the jeans at the usual places you see wear – the belt loops, the back pockets, the seams. Keep sanding until the material turns nearly white.


I like holey denim, so I cut holes here and there with the scissors. Then I sanded the holes with the sanding block to get the threads to come out.



This last step is optional and only applies if your denim is darker than you would like. These shorts were very dark, and I wanted them to look old and worn. I added about 1 cup of regular bleach to about a gallon of water and threw in the shorts.

It took 2 1/2 hours to lighten the material. It’s hard to tell when it’s ready because everything is wet, and denim is so much darker when wet to begin with. Err on the side of caution.

I rinsed out the bleach with lots of cold water, hand-washed the shorts, then threw them in the washing machine with other laundry. And then again. And again. Then one more time. It took 5 washings to get the smell of bleach out of the shorts.


And this is the end result. I love ’em.



Knowing how to distress denim is probably a bad thing for me. No pair of jeans is safe anymore. (I’ve also distressed t-shirts. No article of clothing is safe anymore.)

See you later!

2 thoughts on “How to Distress Denim

  1. I distress my jeans by wearing and washing them a million times. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but they are distressed naturally. Glad you came up with a hurried-up version to suit your needs.

    1. That’s my usual method too – wear the crap out of them. Works wonders!

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