Bleach It Out: The Easy 3-Step Guide to Lighter, Cooler Denim

A good pair of jeans is perhaps the most universal style staple. Denim is a wardrobe staple for many reasons. They are durable, versatile, and can boost your confidence (especially if they fit you well). While the options are endless when it comes down to denim, we understand that you may already have a favorite pair of jeans, but wish they were more distressed or faded. Or perhaps you found a great pair at a thrift store or new but would like to make them look a little different. You can either wait for the jeans to fade or repeatedly wash them if that’s what you want. The good news is, that denim is among the easiest materials to customize, as long as you use the right products and follow the steps carefully.

Andrea Bernholtz is the co-founder and designer of Rock & Republic denim. She shared some of her top tips on how to lighten your jeans, giving them a new lease of life. Learn how to lighten jeans for a DIY project.

Getting Started

Decide how light you would like to go before you start the process. You’ll need to pay attention to both the product and time used, just as you would when bleaching or stripping your hair color. This will determine whether you achieve a light wash, a subtle one, or somewhere in between. Follow the instructions carefully to get the best results. This product is best used before dying your denim or other fabric with a different color. You may have to repeat the procedure in order to achieve a uniform appearance.

How to lighten denim with Bleach

Bleach is the best way to fade denim quickly. Wear gloves while using bleach. It will give your denim a lighter appearance quickly. Follow these steps to get the best results.

You will need

  • Your jeans
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Two buckets, or dishpans
  • Latex gloves

The Steps

Create bleach mixture: According to Clorox, mix 1 cup bleach with 1 gallon of cool water and then stir to combine. Use gloves to protect your hands when you are handling bleach.

Prepare a mixture of hydrogen peroxide: After washing the measuring cup in the previous step with clean, distilled water, add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to 1 gallon of water.

Begin bleaching your jeans. Place your jeans (or any other denim item) into the bleach solution, and stir until they are saturated.

Monitor progress: Check your progress after two minutes, while holding your denim over or in the bucket or pan. It will prevent the bleach from accidentally spilling elsewhere. Continue to swirl and check every one to two minutes (up to five total minutes) until your desired color is achieved.

Remove the jeans from the bleach. Put your jeans into the hydrogen peroxide solution to stop the bleaching. You’ll see a bubbling action if they are saturated.

Rinse jeans and air-dry them: After the bubbling has stopped, rinse your jeans in cool or cold water.

How to Distress Jeans

You can add light distressing to your jeans’ knees, pockets and/or edges using sandpaper. This is optional. Bernholtz recommends that you purchase a variety of grades from the hardware store or on Amazon (for $6 each) to customize the level of distressing.

Grab some material, and fold it into an accordion just below the pockets and the crotch. Sand your denim lightly, one side at a.


It is possible to lighten your jeans at home using the right products. This can be an enjoyable way to finish a DIY project, as well as a great way to achieve a customized appearance. We recommend using caution to avoid getting an unwanted result. However, it can be a fun way to give your old jeans a new lease of life or a thrifted pair. You might even make some DIY cutoffs to create a new denim wardrobe if you are feeling particularly inspired.

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