How to Fade Your Clothing

by Jamie Wilson
How to Fade Your Clothing

Reviewed & updated: October 19, 2022 by Jamie Wilson BA

Tired of the items in your wardrobe but don’t want to spend money on loads of new clothing? Why not try your hand at a little bit of DIY and give your old clothes a new look. Here’s how to revamp your wardrobe without breaking the  bank.

How To Fade Clothes

How to Fade Your Clothing
@M. Brauer via Unsplash

Wondering how to fade your clothing? There are a few different ways to fade materials and how to make clothes look older. One of the most popular methods is bleach and other chemicals however, there are some natural ways to do it too. Read on to find three of the simplest ways to fade your clothes and how to fade jeans with bleach.

How To Bleach Fabric

How to Lighten Fabric By Hand

  1. Find a large container big enough to hold your clothing and fill it with water, adding a cup of bleach for every 4.5 litres of water.
  2. Using rubber gloves, carefully submerge your clothing into the mixture so that all the fabric is under the water. If not, the fade will not come out evenly.
  3. Soak for five to ten minutes before checking the fade. If you require more fading, submerge and leave for a further five to ten minutes until you achieve the desired results.
  4. Rinse under warm water thoroughly (whilst still wearing your gloves) and then launder as usual in the washing machine.
How to Fade Your Clothing
@amir soltani via Unsplash

How to Fade Fabric In The Washing Machine

If the above method is too messy for you, try bleaching your fabric in the washing machine instead.

  1. Fill the washing machine with hot water and add a cup of bleach.
  2. Let the water agitate for a minute to mix the two together.
  3. Add in your clothing on a gentle spin for five minutes before letting them soak in the water for an hour.
  4. Then continue the normal washing cycle before washing for a second time to make sure the clothes are completely free of bleach.
  5. Dry in the dryer or hang outside in the sun to encourage further fading.

How To Fade Fabric Without Bleach

If you don’t fancy attempting the bleach fading methods because you think it may be too messy for you there are other options. These next methods may not change the colour as dramatically as bleach will but if you just want a slight change then these will give you the small result you’re looking for.

How To Fade Fabric Without Bleach
@Andre Tan via Unsplash

How to Fade Fabric In The Washing Machine

  1. Set your machine to the hottest cycle before washing as this will be how the clothes are faded.
  2. Check the fade once your clothes are dry. Wet clothes may appear brighter, making it hard to tell what the finished result looks like.
  3. If possible, dry your clothes out in the daylight to help the fading process along.
  4. If you want further fading, repeat the process as often as necessary.

How To Age Clothing

Vintage style is most popular amongst indie crowds but it can look great on anyone. If you want to own clothing with more of a bespoke style, this is a great and inexpensive way to achieve it. By wearing out your clothes by hand you can control the finished outcome, giving you a personalised piece designed just for you.

How to Fade Your Clothing
@Yogendra Singh via Unsplash


  • If you’re planning on fading a new item of clothing or wondering how to age jeans, ensure you have thoroughly washed it beforehand so that any colour bleeding and shrinkage happens before you begin the fading processes.
  • Choose a suitable work surface such as an old piece of wood, garage floor or somewhere outside. You’re going to be cutting and wearing down the fabric so you need a surface that you don’t mind damaging in the process.
  • To avoid making your clothes look like they need throwing away rather than being charmingly vintage, plan ahead. Draw up a quick sketch of where exactly you’d like to apply the fading, cutting or ripping to give yourself an idea of the end result.
  • For more accuracy, try the clothing on and lightly mark out where you’d like to cut into the fabric. This would be useful for creating ripped jeans at the knee, for example.

How To Cut & Rip Fabric

Raw Edges

A quick way to make fabric look worn is to give it a raw edge. This simply involves cutting the seams at the neck, arms or hem away.

  • To age lightweight items such as t-shirts, make a small cut with your scissors beforehand ripping the rest of the fabric off. No only will this give you a vintage effect but it will ensure that you get a straight line, as fabric tends to rip that way.
  • If you’re ageing a thicker fabric such as denim, make small cuts along the cuffs before washing to encourage fraying. For more obvious results, you could also carefully run the blade of your scissors or a razor against the cuts to further fray the fibres.
How to Fade Your Clothing
@sour moha via Unsplash

Ripped Jeans

One of the most popular vintage looks is ripped jeans. This look is particularly stylish this summer. If you’re wondering how to wear out jeans to perfection, follow these simple distressed fabric techniques:

  • To achieve the results at home, simply take an old pair of jeans and mark a line where you’d like the rip to appear whilst sat down.
  • Take the jeans off and create a cut in the middle of your mark, big enough to allow you to put two fingers through to rip it further.
  • Then pull at the fabric until you reach the desired width.
  • Tug at the loose threads to pull them out further, making the cut look less clean and more natural.
  • To add to the distressed clothing look, dampen an old sponge with a little bit of bleach and rub it around the torn area. Use gloves and be careful where you apply the bleach as it works fast and will fade any area it lands on.

How To Age Fabric

  • Ageing fabric involves speeding up the wearing down of the material. Before you start, make sure you place something like a block of wood between the front and back of the clothing to avoid ripping through to the other side.
  • To achieve the worn look without having to wait, use sandpaper to rub areas where you’d like fading to appear. The sandpaper will fray the fibres, lightening the colour and softening the fabric.
  • You could also use a sanding machine which would work well for thicker fabrics such as denim.

Finishing Touches

How to Fade Your Clothing
@Ben Tofan via Unsplash

Now that you’ve applied the fading processes you want to give it a good finish so that it doesn’t literally look like you’ve hacked away at the clothing. The methods above start the wearing of the fabric off nicely but don’t tend to give you obvious results. To finish off the look, make sure you launder the items to promote further fading and fraying for a more authentic feel.

  • Wash your items in the machine using half laundry detergent and half Borax (multi-purpose cleaner). The detergent will soften the fabric, making it easier for it to fray.
  • Once your clothing is completely dry, check the finished results. There should be signs of fraying in any areas you’ve torn or cut. If the distressing isn’t obvious enough, cut the area a bit more and repeat the laundering process.
  • When you’re happy with the results, you can go over any areas that have started to fray with a nail file to further distress the fabric or leave it as it is to fade more during wear.
  • If you want to prevent any further fading of denim items, wash your clothing with cold water and a cup of white vinegar which will help the dye reset into place.

How To Distress Fabric T-Shirts

When distressing a T-shirt, you should be more careful than when you’re cutting into more durable materials such as denim. T-shirts are more lightweight and require less wearing down. Here are the best methods to use for ageing a T-shirt:

  • T-shirt material quickly wears down once you’ve cut it so avoid making very large holes and rips as these will naturally get bigger over time.
  • Instead, make small nicks in the fabric using a razor. Ensure you place a protective layer between the front and back of the T-shirt to avoid accidentally cutting through to the other side.
  • To create many small holes, you could use a cheese grater. Again, be careful not to grate through to the other side.
  • For printed T-shirts you can create a fade by using sandpaper to wear away areas of the print.
  • Use scissors to trim around the neck, arms and hem to give them a raw, curled edge. This little detail really finishes off the aged and distressed look so it’s worth doing. Be careful around the neckline however, as you don’t want to give yourself too much of a low cut.
  • To finish off, give the fabric a fade treatment by either using a mixture of water and a little bleach on a sponge over the fabric or washing the t-shirt with hot water before leaving out to dry in direct sunlight.

How To Make Jeans Look Faded

Faded denim jeans are probably the most common items that are sought after when it comes to obtaining the distressed look. They’re versatile, stylish and easy to distress at home. There are a few simple tricks you should know to get your jeans to fade faster:

How to Fade Your Clothing
@Nima Mot via Unsplash

How to Fade Jeans Without Bleach

  • Wear your jeans as much as possible. To get your jeans fading fast, you need to start wearing them all the time to speed up the process. The advantage to this method is that you’ll ensure that you get the most authentic looking fade by letting them wear out naturally. Wear them around the house, wear them when you go out and you could even wear them to bed if you’re that committed.
  • Wear your jeans inside out. Denim fades from friction so if you’re at home, put your jeans on inside out to get the fabric to wear out against the movement of your legs.
  • Use coffee beans. The beans are slightly acidic, so rubbing them onto the fabric of your jeans will help promote fade. Take a handful of coffee beans and rub them onto the targeted areas. Wash off with near boiling water, as this will also fade the fabric.
  • Microwave your jeans. No, really. Wondering how to fade dark jeans fast? Microwaves break down the indigo dye found in jeans, which will result in a quicker fade. Word of warning: never microwave for longer than 30 seconds at a time. You don’t want to expose the metal rivets and zip to the heat for too long.

How to Fade Your Clothing

  • Use bleach and water to soak your clothing in. Add bleach to your washing machine.
  • Wash clothes with hot water and leave them out to dry in natural sunlight.
  • Create raw edges by cutting away necklines, cuffs and hems.
  • Use coarse sandpaper to rub areas of the fabric to fade, soften and wear down.

On That Note

Faded clothing is surprisingly easy to achieve by using ingredients you probably already have lying around your home. In a few simple steps, you can rework an old piece into something new and unique. From bleaching and ageing, to distressing and ripping, you can rely on our guide for every step of the way. As you’ve discovered, there are plenty of different ways you can fade and distress your clothing to give it that vintage and worn style. So there’s no need to spend money on new items when it’s this easy to recreate the look at home using items you’re probably bored of wearing. A great way to get creative, recycle your old clothing and create a whole new look.

Feature image from Unsplash

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