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How to Fade Raw Denim Jeans

by S.R. Becker, studioD

Raw denim is high on the list of latest trends in jeans right now and the right fit can deliver a pair that flatters and changes in intriguing ways with time. When making raw denim, manufacturers don't wash out the indigo dye after the fabric leaves the dyebath. As a result, you're left with very stiff, very dark denim that will gradually fade away in the areas that get the most friction. While wearing raw denim for years is the best way to give it a lived-in look, you might not have that much time to wait for it to fade. If your raw denim is a little too raw for your taste, follow these tips to speed up the breaking-in process.

Soak your raw-denim jeans in a basin or bathtub filled with just enough hot water to cover the jeans. Add 1 cup of liquid starch then stir the jeans around and leave them in the water until the water cools.

Squeeze as much water as possible out of the jeans. Lay them flat on a large, absorbent bath towel and roll the towel up like a yoga mat or jelly roll. Step on the towel so that as much of the water as possible is squeezed out of the jeans and into the towel.

Put your jeans on and wear them until they are almost dry. Move around as much as possible so that natural creases begin to form, then sit with your legs crossed or folded for an hour or two as the starch stiffens. Take the jeans off, lay them flat and pinch up the creases so they form sharper peaks and deeper valleys as they finish drying.

Sand the creases of the dry jeans with fine-grit sandpaper or a pumice stone. The sanding will help to wear away the dye.

Wash your jeans alone in the washing machine with warm water and laundry detergent. Hang them to dry in the sun to help speed the fading of the fabric. Repeat the above process as needed until your denim is as faded as you would like.

Items you will need
  •  Basin or bathtub
  •  Liquid starch
  •  Large absorbant bath towel
  •  Fine-grit sandpaper or pumice stone
  •  Laundry detergent


  • Always wash your raw denim by hand or with other denim in the washing machine to prevent dye transfer.

About the Author

S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.

Photo Credits

  • Katy Winn/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images