How to Fade Raw Denim

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Raw denim, also known as selvedge, is a stiff, dark indigo-dyed denim that is not cleaned after the dying process. Most people buy raw denim specifically because it does not fade as quickly or as easily as washed denim, but rather, fades naturally during wearing, with faded spots conforming to the wear’s unique body shape. There are, however, ways to speed the process of fading raw denim, using both chemical and physical methods.

Wash raw denim in hot water combined with a strong detergent. Repeat the cycle three times, adding additional detergent with each round.

Remove raw denim from the washing machine and blot dry with an old towel. Lay the denim on a flat covered work surface and put on your rubber gloves.

Use an abrasive scrubbing pad dipped in bleach to scrub the denim to begin loosening the fibers and removing the indigo dye.

Fill washing machine with two cups of bleach and set the machine for a small load. Allow the washer to fill with hot water and begin to agitate the water/bleach solution.

Put the raw denim in the bleach and water-filled washing machine and allow it to soak for 15 minutes. If the machine starts to agitate, simply open the lid. After 15 minutes, run the regular wash cycle.

Wash raw denim in another cycle of hot water and strong detergent, then examine the color of the fabric. Repeat the first five steps of this process until the desired color is achieved.

Remove raw denim from the machine and if possible, air dry in the sun to promote further fading.