How to Darken Black Jeans

by Kimberly Johnson
Restore faded black jeans with black dye.

Restore faded black jeans with black dye.

If your favorite black jeans have faded to grey in a hurry, you may be tempted to just toss them and buy a new pair. But don’t stuff them in the back of your closet just yet. While faded-out black may cramp your look, there are ways to bring those beloved jeans back to style-worthy condition. A little black dye is all you need to turn the jeans from drab to fab in a single afternoon.

Create a workspace, either indoors or outdoors, by spreading a tarp over the area for protection. Set paper towels next to the tarp to quickly clean up spills. Choose a well-ventilated location to disperse dye fumes.

Fill a large, microwaveable bowl with water and place it in the microwave on high heat for 60 seconds. Insert a food thermometer into the water to test the temperature. If the temperature is not at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, heat the water an additional 60 seconds until it reaches at least 140 degrees.

Put on oven mitts and carry the bowl to your work space. Pour the water into a 4-gallon or larger tub. Continue heating batches of water in the microwave and pouring it into the tub until you have 3 gallons of heated water in the tub.

Put on disposable gloves and an apron or old clothing in case the dye spills or splashes.

Pour one bottle of black, all-purpose fabric dye into the tub and stir the water with a long-handled spoon. Pour 1 cup of salt into the water and stir again for 60 to 90 seconds until the salt is completely dissolved. Be sure to follow the dye-manufacturer's instructions if they ask for a different amount of salt, water or dye.

Place the black jeans in a sink and run water over them until they are saturated. Turn the faucet off and wring out most of the water.

Insert the jeans immediately into the dye mixture and submerge them with the spoon.

Stir the mixture at least once every one to two minutes with the spoon for the first 20 minutes. Then, let the jeans soak another 10 minutes, stirring them after five minutes.

Remove the jeans from the dye and place them on the tarp. Dispose of the dye water by pouring it down a sink or tub drain. Wipe the dye residue from the drain area using paper towels to prevent staining.

Weigh the jeans on a scale to determine their weight. Refill the tub with hot water and add 1 ounce of dye fixative for every 1 pound of fabric, or refer to the product packaging for suggested amounts. Insert the jeans into the solution of dye fixative and let them soak for 30 minutes.

Turn on the cold-water faucet at a sink or tub and rinse the jeans under the water until the water runs clear. Wipe the sink or tub area immediately with a paper towel to remove any dye droplets that may stain the area.

Wash the jeans alone in a washing machine using warm water and a mild laundry detergent designed for delicate fabric.

Dry the jeans in the dryer as specified on the fabric-care label or allow them to air-dry.

Items you will need

  • Tarp
  • Paper towels
  • Microwavable bowl
  • Water
  • Microwave
  • Oven mitts
  • Food thermometer
  • 4-gallon or larger tub
  • Disposable gloves
  • Apron or old clothes
  • Black, all-purpose fabric dye
  • Long-handled spoon
  • Salt
  • Dye fixative
  • Sink
  • Washing machine
  • Mild laundry detergent designed for delicates
  • Dryer (optional)


  • Prevent the black jeans from fading prematurely by turning them inside out before each wash.


  • Always wash the black jeans by themselves or with other dark clothing since small traces of the dye may come out in future washings.

About the Author

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.

Photo Credits

  • NA/ Images