how to fade jeans

How to Fade Jeans: 5 Things you can do

A good pair of jeans lives to tell your story. If you are a hiker, climber or an 8 to 5 routine guy or girl, then the jeans shares your experiences and moments as well. Depending on how often you wear it, starch it or what you do when wearing it, it fades and develops marks that hold the memories together.

A real denim enthusiast can tell you that these fade marks matter and there is a name for each depending on which part of your pants they form.  

Whiskers

whispers jeans fade lines

Whiskers are fade lines that form on your jeans around the fly and hip area. They start from the fly to the outside of the hip area horizontally. Once in a while, you might hear a denim enthusiast refer to them as mustaches or hige.

Mustaches form as your denim pants crease and stretch while you are wearing them. They can take several months or more than a year to form on raw denim. The period depends on how often you wear your jeans.

You can also buy a pair of jeans with a fade pattern that resembles whiskers on the hip area. Another shortcut for getting them is sanding your jeans in a similar pattern around the area. Even so, wearing raw denim until you get whiskers naturally brings out the best feeling for some people.

Honeycombs

honeycombs jeans fade lines

Honeycombs or combs are honeycomb-like fade lines that form on your jeans at the back of the knee area. Just like whiskers they result from repeated fabric creasing and stretching as you walk, run, cycle and so on.

Honeycombs tend to more visible as compared to whiskers. For all you know, this could be as a result of more folding of the leg around that area during movement or when sitting.

Stacks

stacks jeans fade lines

Stacks are lines that form at lower part of your part of your denim pants. They form only if the length of your pants is oversized enough for them to fold severally (stacking) when you wear your shoes.

This mean you have to avoid rolling them in a certain way. Stacking does not happen if the length of your jeans is a perfect fit.

Train Tracks

Train tracks are two parallel fade lines that form on the out seams of your denim. Train tracks are among the least visible fades because that area of your pants experiences minimal stress.

Besides these lines, your jeans can fade on other areas. Some of them include on the front thigh area, on the front knee sections, between the thighs, on the sitting area, around the back and front pockets, and around the cuff area depending on whether you roll it or not.

What are Raw Denim Jeans?

denim pants

The question of “what is raw denim jeans” stems from understanding what is denim in the first place. Denim is woven fabric made of cotton that undergoes spinning, dyeing, weaving and finishing.

The weaving process brings together the weft and warp yarns to form a strong and firm fabric. But still, yarn fibers have to undergo spinning and dyeing beforehand.

The dyeing stage is where manufacturers add indigo color to the warp yarn. This is the color that you see on blue jeans.

Raw denim is denim that has not undergone washing. During the finishing stage, denim fabric undergoes various processes that improves its feel and appearance.

Raw denim comes from the loom directly.  It is distinctively rigid because of the starch that is added to the yarn. This is singlehandedly the characteristic that makes it a choice for denim enthusiasts.

Stiff raw denim is rich in color and plain. The richness of color creates prominent contrast as the denim develops fade lines because of wear and tear.

The fade lines or creases also appear sharper as compared to marks that form on washed jeans because of the stiffness. You have to bear in mind that pre-washed denim is softer. During the washing process, it losses some stiffness and color, uniformly.

Choosing raw denim is good if you want to distress the jeans yourself. Having said that, there some factors to consider when buying a pair.

Sanforization: This is the process of pre-shrinking fabric. As such, it affects the shrinkage properties of a garment. Sanforized denim has very little room for shrinkage. If you buy a size that is way above your regular fit, it is unlikely that it will shrink to perfect fit.

Washing: Bear in mind how often you intend to wash your denim. If the plan is to wash it regularly, then you will be trading off the distressed look that you will as well be looking forward to.

The History of Denim Jeans

Reading through history makes denim and jeans appear like two different fabrics. But there is only a slight difference that boils down to how the fabrics are made.

Bottom-line, both denim and jeans seem to have had multiple origins, although that part of history is not very clear.

This source and Vogue.fr note that in the 18th century, a German businessman by the name Levi Strauss brought jeans to the United States following the gold rush.  This was one in a lifetime opportunity considering the hardiness of the fabric and the prevailing market demands of the time.

Californian miners lacked durable pants that would live up to the conditions and nature of their job. They needed pants made of fabric that would not wear or tear easily. Jeans came in handy and Strauss quickly joined hands with tailor Jacob Davis to fill in the gap.

rivets on jeans pockets

 A key feature of their design was to reinforce the pockets with copper rivets.  This allowed the miners to use the pockets with the confidence that they would not rip apart.

Jeans quickly became a firm favorite among the miners and other tough environment workers. Later, cowboys embraced the trend and popularized it further.

 Soldiers also embraced the toughness of the pants by wearing them while they were off duty during World War II. In the years that followed, many people including celebrities embraced them for casual wear.

Levistrauss.com notes that the origin of the name denim traces back to France. It is linked to “serge de Nimes” fabric which was in existence as early as before the 17th century.

Although the fabric had a French name, it also existed in England at some point in the 17th century. Unlike Denim which is made of cotton, serge de Nimes was made of silk and wool. This creates a confusion of how the former ended up deriving a name from the latter.

How to Fade Jeans

You can fade jeans naturally or through other means. Fading raw denim naturally requires a lot of patience while wearing the pants consistently without washing them unnecessarily.

 The alternative means for fading are more like cheating. They include using bleach, salt, vinegar, sandpaper, hydrogen peroxide, soap and water or relying on the sun.

 All these methods have different degrees of effectiveness, but there is a striking difference between their results and the distressed look you get from allowing your jeans to fade naturally.

Fading Jeans Naturally

Your raw denim is timeless and sturdy, which also means you can wear it day in day out for a year with most people barely noticing that it’s the same pair of pants.

At first, the pair is rich in color and stiff. You will notice some of the color come off gradually as the pants age. Just to be sure that your jeans will fade, do a little experiment of rubbing them with your hands and notice some indigo dye stick on your palms.

This is the same way your jeans leave a little bit of color on most of the surfaces you come into contact with. For the most part especially when the pants are new, the fading is negligible. You mostly do not notice it.

The amount of color they leave on surfaces is also not visible to the naked eye. That said, you notice your denim’s change in color, after some time.

If you have a busy and active lifestyle, you begin to notice some fading on your jeans in between your things. A lot of abrasion happens there, especially if your thighs rub against each other as you walk.

You might also notice a bit of fading around the pocket area depending on how actively you use the pockets. You can trying having your phone or wallet inside the pocket most of the time if you need a quick fade.

 There will be some kind of wear each time you put or remove it.

If you are always walking, you will probably notice some honeycombs begin to form after several months. Do not shy from wearing your jeans to a hiking expedition. In the end, you will have yourself to thank for it.

If you wear your denim just once or twice a month, it might take a very long time to notice real creases. Remember that denim fabric is heavy. It takes a long time of constant use to wear or tear.

Washing your jeans regularly delays fade lines and creases. For starters, the first wash gets rid of a lot of starch. This softens the denim which makes it harder for sharp creases to form.

Secondly, washing draws dye from your jeans uniformly. This makes them less darker resulting to less contrast between the fade lines and the rest of the denim.  

Subsequent washes draw color gradually from your jeans. Eventually, you end up with a vintage look instead of real creases.

How often should you Wash your Jeans?

This is a question of the results you desire vs how dirty your denim gets. Ideally, if the desire is to get sharp fade lines then you have to wear year jeans continuously for six months or more without washing.

If you happen to skip some days within this period, then you might need to wait longer. Unfortunately, the pants might begin to stink because of dirt and sweating.

 In this case, you can turn to air-drying and spot cleaning. Air-drying eliminates the odor whereas spot cleaning removes visible dirt.

The idea of wearing jeans for six months straight without washing does not sit well with some people. If you belong in this category, you can wash the pants every few weeks but you will be giving up some of the sharp creases. On the other hand, your denim is likely to last longer.

Fading jeans with Bleach

Bleach removes color from different types of colored fabrics and this applies to denim jeans as well. Even so, you have to be careful when using this method because bleach is harsh and the smell can also be irritating. Bleach is more ideal for whitening blue jeans. If you are looking for a light fade, then you are likely to get better results with alternative methods.

how to fade jeans


When choosing a bleach solution, chlorine bleach should be your first choice. Comprising of sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient, it is the most effective at removing color. Follow the steps below for best results.
Step 1: Prepare your Jeans: Ensure that your pair of jeans is clean and completely dry. Insert your hands in the pockets and make sure that there is nothing inside. Preferably work with one jeans at a time because jeans differ when it comes to fading.
Step 2: Prepare a Bleach Solution
Add three parts of water into a basin, sink or bath tub and combine with one part of bleach. The amount of water that you use should be enough to submerge your jeans. Wear gloves and use your hands to mix the solution properly.

Step 3: Place your jeans into the solution: Transfer your denim into the water and bleach solution. Use your hands to submerge every part completely. Any section left floating will not bleach uniformly with the rest of the jeans.

Step 4: Monitor the progress: Check your jeans after every 15 to 20 minutes to see how the bleaching process is progressing. Since the indigo dye comes off gradually, you can bleach the denim to your desired results.

Step 5: Neutralize bleach: Once your jeans bleaches to the desired level, drain the bleach solution. Soak your pants in a solution of warm water and dish soap for a minute or two. This solution should help to neutralize the bleach. You can also combine water and hydrogen peroxide to achieve the same.

Step 6: Rinse: Use cold water to rinse your jeans by hands or in a washing machine.

Step 7: Dry: Hang your jeans on a clothesline to dry. 

Fading Jeans with lemon Water

Fading jeans with lemon water requires more effort and time as compared to using bleach. You have to press many lemons to get enough juice, and let your jeans soak in the solution for several hours or or up to a day depending on the results you desire.

Step 1: Prepare lemon juice: Select large lemons, cut them into half and squeeze the juice in a bowl. You can roll each lemon with your hand on a countertop or hard surface such as a wooden table for easier squeezing.

Step 2: Wet the jeans: Add warm or cold water in a bowl and submerge your jeans. Let it wet completely then use your hands to wring out excess water. 

Step 3: Transfer your jeans into the lemon solution: Place the wringed jeans into the lemon solution and ensure that you submerge it completely.

Step 4: Monitor the progress: Check the jeans after every two to three hours to monitor the progress. Be careful not to over-bleach it. Generally, jeans appear lighter after drying.

Step 5: Rinse off the lemon residue: After achieving the desired fade, rinse the jeans in warm water and hang to air-dry. You can also hang on a clothesline for sun drying.

Sanding

The sandpaper method is a common approach for fading and distressing jeans. That said, you should only go for it if you intend to fade specific sections of your pants. A great idea is to work with different grits of sandpaper for different sections of your pants.

Step 1: Prepare everything you will need: Get your sandpaper, pants and a big rag or towel. 60 to 220 grit sandpapers can produce great results depending on the weight of the denim fabric.

Step 2: Work with one section at a time: Place the towel or rag in between the fabric so that the section you intend to work on sits on the towel. Sand carefully to avoid making holes on the pants. You might notice some piling because sandpaper is quite rough.

Step 3: Make fade lines: Make small folds on areas such as behind the knee section and sand to form sharp creases. Use different grit sandpapers interchangeably to achieve good results.

How to Fade Jeans with Salt

A solution of water and salt can help lighten the color of your jeans. But that’s not all. Salty water also sets in the dye that is left on the fabric. This means that the jeans does not release much dye during subsequent washes.

Step 1: Prepare a salty water solution: Begin by mixing salt and water to prepare a solution for fading your jeans. For one pair of pants, add about a half cup salt to a gallon of water in a small bucket. Multiply the ingredients accordingly if you intend to fade more pairs of jeans. Stir the mixture so that the salt can dissolve in water.

Step 2: Place the jeans into the solution: Gently place your pants into the salty water and submerge every part completely. Press the pants with your hands to push them to the bottom of the bucket. Use a heavy object to keep them submerged if necessary.

Step 3: Let the pants sit in the solution: Leave the pants submerged in the solution for a few hours. However, you can check them after every hour to see the progress. Remove them and wring out excess salty water once the results are satisfying.

Step 5: Rinse: Place the jeans in cold water and wash for a minute or two then wring out the excess water.

Step 6: Turn the jeans inside out and hang on a clothesline to dry.

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