How to Fade & Distress My Jeans

by Michelle Miley
Distressing can make a new pair of jeans look comfortable broken-in.

Distressing can make a new pair of jeans look comfortable broken-in.

Well-worn denim is always in style and wears better than the stiff fabric of new jeans. Unfortunately, allowing your jeans to age naturally takes time. Rather than pay designer prices for jeans that are distressed right from the start, you can spend an afternoon distressing your own jeans at home. Distressing new jeans yourself saves you money and allows you to fully customize your pants, fading and ripping the fabric exactly the way you want.

Put on your jeans and sit down in a chair. While seated, rub 60 or 80 grit sandpaper over the seams, knees and any high areas of your jeans where the fabric is creased. Sand the belt loops and edges of the pockets as well since these are places where natural wear occurs.

Mark any areas where you want to place holes or fray the fabric with chalk while you are still wearing the pants. The knees and thighs are the most natural places for this type of distressing.

Remove your pants and place a wooden block inside the pant leg under the area you marked to create a work surface. For a threadbare look, rub the pants perpendicularly with a pumice stone or rasp. If you prefer a hole, use scissors or a knife to cut the fabric and then rub the edges of the cut to create a frayed edge.

Spread your jeans on an old towel or sheet in your garage or other safe work area and pull on a pair of rubber gloves.

Wet a sponge with bleach, ring out the excess, and run the sponge up and down the pant legs. On areas that you want to appear more faded, such as the knees, rub harder to apply a bit more bleach. Do the front of your pants first and then flip them over and repeat the process on the back.

Wash your jeans by themselves in cold water for a full cycle. Dry your pants on low heat or line dry.

Items you will need

  • Chair
  • 60 to 80 grit sandpaper
  • Chalk
  • Wooden block
  • Pumice stone or rasp
  • Scissors or knife
  • Old towel or sheet
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sponge
  • Bleach
  • Washing machine
  • Dryer or clothesline


  • Repeat the process if you feel your pants need more distressing or fading. It is better to sand and bleach your pants too little than too much as you can always add more distressing.

About the Author

Writing professionally since 2008, Michelle Miley specializes in home and garden topics but frequently pens career, style and marketing pieces. Her essays have been used on college entrance exams and she has more than 4,000 publishing credits. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in accounting, having graduated summa cum laude.

Photo Credits

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