Acid-washed jeans are a fashionable style statement. They can be expensive to buy, though. Is there a way to get the acid wash effect at home? How can I acid wash jeans?
To acid wash jeans, use chlorine bleach. Scrunch wet jeans into pleats or folds. Hold the folds in place with rubber bands. Spray the jeans with chlorine bleach. For extra effect, use a pumice stone to scrub the bleach into the denim fabric. Let the bleach soak for an hour. Wash the jeans and allow them to air dry.
In this article, you’ll learn how to acid wash your jeans safely and effectively. Find out how to use a pumice stone and bleach to get the acid wash look of your dreams.
- What Are Acid Washed Jeans?
- How to Acid Wash Jeans
- How to Make Acid Wash Jeans Without Bleach
- How to Acid Wash Black Jeans
- How to Acid Wash a Denim Jacket
- Acid Wash vs Stonewashed: What’s the Difference?
- Are Acid Wash Jeans in Style?
- What to Wear With Acid Wash Jeans
What Are Acid Washed Jeans?Acid washed jeans are essentially jeans that have been treated with chemicals to remove the color. Not from all over, but from random areas. The treatment creates a distressed look that makes new jeans look old and well-worn.
It has a similar look to the technique of tie-dying a garment. Depending on how you add the chemicals, you can create various patterns. Because of this, no two acid-washed jeans are identical.
This helps promote a unique fashion style that is hard to replicate and yet easy to accomplish. In other words, you can stand out in a crowd and rock your individuality effortlessly.
As the name suggests, the chemicals used in the process are acidic. Denim jeans are made using blue threads. These are woven with white threads to make a twill weave. Adding acid to the jeans removes the blue dye from the thread, making the whiter threads stand out more.
This is why acid washed jeans look like they are well-worn. The technique mimics the natural aging process of denim. Jeans will fade from dark indigo to a pale, washed-out blue over time. Acid washing your jeans will speed things up a bit.
Although you can acid wash any color of jeans, it works best on blue denim. Other shades aren’t necessarily made in the same way. Black jeans, for instance, are dyed black rather than woven from the black thread. Add acid to black jeans and they aren’t guaranteed to fade to white. They may turn a dismal gray.
Acid washed jeans are readily available from clothing stores. Purchasing a pair ready-made is the easiest way to join in with the fashion trend. However, as the look is highly popular, this can make commercial acid wash jeans expensive.
The good news is you can acid wash your jeans at home. You probably already have all the equipment you’ll need. A DIY acid wash involves chlorine bleach and a pair of denim jeans. As an optional extra, you can also use a pumice stone to intensify the success of the bleach.
How to Acid Wash Jeans
When you find out just how easy it is to acid wash your jeans, you’ll probably wonder why you haven’t tried it before. There are a couple of things to watch out for, though.
All jeans can be acid washed. But, the results aren’t always going to be what you expected. As mentioned in the previous section, black jeans are problematic to acid wash. Synthetic fibers can also cause concern.
Acid washing jeans involves the use of bleach. Make sure your jeans will survive a bleach bath before you try to acid wash them. Many synthetics, particularly if they contain lycra or spandex, don’t react well to being dipped in bleach. Rather than improve your street cred, you could end up destroying your jeans.
If this is the first time, you have tried the technique, practice on an old pair of blue jeans that you don’t mind ruining. You can pick up a cheap pair from a thrift store if you don’t have any. Avoid using brand new expensive jeans as you could end up with a costly set of new dishcloths.
I’ve put together a step-by-step guide for you. Follow these tips for the best results. Remember, acid washing works best on blue denim. But, the garment doesn’t have to be pants. It will work on most items made from blue denim like jackets, shirts, skirts, and your blue jeans.
You will need:
- A pair of jeans
- Large bleach-proof bucket
- Chlorine Bleach
- Spray bottle
- Rubber gloves
- Rubber bands
- Laundry tongs
- Washing machine
- Your usual laundry detergent
Method One – Bleach The Whole Garment
Step 1 – Wet Your Jeans
The process will work better if you get your jeans wet first. You don’t have to wash them, although it would be good if they were clean. Simply soak them in a bucket of cool water until they are wet. Squeeze out any excess water; they don’t need to be dripping.
Step 2 – Scrunch Your Jeans
Next, scrunch your jeans up into knots or folds. Hold the scrunched sections in place with the rubber bands. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this. Just keep scrunching in any part of the jeans you like. When you are happy you’ve scrunched them enough, move on to the next step.
Step 3 – Bleach Your Jeans
Fill your bucket with enough water to cover the jeans. Add 1 cup of bleach and swirl it around until it is mixed. Then, dip your jeans into the bleach bath using your laundry tongs. Make sure you wear rubber gloves for this. Bleach can cause skin irritation. Dunk the jeans with the laundry tongs and stir them.
Step 4 – Soak Your Jeans
Leave the jeans in the bucket for no more than an hour. Keep checking on them every 10 minutes and stir them. Be careful to watch the effect the bleach is having on the jeans. You might find that a 30-minute soak is long enough. Bleach can speed up the fading process, but it will also damage the fibers in the denim. Don’t leave your jeans to soak for too long.
Step 4 – Rinse Your Jeans
It’s important to get as much of the bleach out of the denim as possible. Rinse them with plenty of cold water. Keep your rubber gloves on for this, so the bleach doesn’t touch your skin. Put your jeans in your washing machine and wash on a cold cycle without detergent. When the cycle has completed, add detergent and wash your jeans again.
Step 5 – Dry Your Jeans
The best way to dry your jeans is outside on a clothesline. It’s best to avoid the dryer as the heat could damage the jeans. They’ll be more delicate than usual because of the bleach. Sunlight, although it can still be warm, is less harmful and there’s more access to a breeze. Air and sun will help remove any remaining traces of bleach and any bleach odor.
Method Two – Bleach Parts of the Garment
Step 1 – Prepare Your Jeans
You should prepare your jeans the same way you would for bleaching the whole garment. Get them wet and scrunch them up. Hold the scrunched sections in place with rubber bands. When you are happy you have the design you want, move on to step 2.
Step 2 – Choose a Side
Lay your jeans on a flat surface. It doesn’t matter which way up. You decide if you want to work on the back of your jeans or the front first. The key is that you need to work on one side at a time. You could just spray the front and leave the back untouched if you want.
Step 3 – Spray Your Jeans
Put on your rubber gloves and fill your spray bottle with a solution made using a 2:1 ratio. That’s 2 parts water and 1 part bleach. Any more than that and you risk damaging the denim. Spray the solution onto the jeans. You can spray the scrunched areas or the areas below the scrunches. Spray the folds, or spray the parts you didn’t fold. It’s up to you. They are your jeans and it’s your design.
Step 4 – Flip Your Jeans
When you’ve finished working on one side, flip your jeans over and work on the other. Spray the bleach solution in the areas you want to acid wash. Leave them for 30 minutes to an hour so the bleach can work on the dye.
Step 5 – Rinse Your Jeans
Remove the rubber bands and rinse out the bleach under cold running water. Wear your rubber gloves to keep the bleach away from your hands. Put your jeans in your washing machine and run them through a cold cycle without detergent. Then, wash them again with detergent.
Step 6 – Dry Your Jeans
Hang your jeans out to dry on an external clothesline. The fresh air and sunlight will help set the bleached effect. Don’t be tempted to use your dryer, as this could damage the denim in your jeans.
How to Make Acid Wash Jeans Without Bleach
There is a way to acid wash jeans without using bleach. You’re going to need a substance you probably haven’t used much. It’s called potassium permanganate. It’s still an acid but a salt acid rather than a bleach.
You can buy potassium permanganate from pharmacies and big box stores. It’s used as water treatment and as a preservative for food. However, even though it isn’t bleach, it can still irritate, particularly if you breathe it in or get it in your eyes.
You will need:
- Potassium Permanganate
- Pumice stone
- Your jeans
- Rubber gloves
- Eye goggles
- Small bucket
- Large bucket with a lid
- Washing machine
- Your usual laundry detergent
Step 1 – Prepare the Pumice Stone
Fill your bucket with water and add the potassium permanganate. You don’t need much, only enough to soak your pumice stones. Let your pumice stones sit in the potassium permanganate water for about 30 minutes. Leave them for longer if you want a more drastic effect.
Step 2 – Agitate Your Jeans
Put on your rubber gloves and eye goggles. You don’t want any potassium permanganate splashes getting on your hands or in your eyes. Place your jeans in the large bucket. There’s no need to be neat about it; just dump them in. Add the pumice stones and close the lid. Now comes the fun part. Shake the bucket vigorously. Up and down and side to side.
After 5 minutes:
- Stop and open the bucket.
- Take the jeans out and adjust them so that they are laying in a different position.
- Close the bucket and start to shake it again.
- Keep shaking for 5 minutes and stopping to readjust the jeans for 20 minutes, or until you are happy with the effect.
You can use your washing machine to agitate your jeans if you want to. Although, you will have to run it on a washing cycle without any water for 20 minutes. Double check you can turn the water to the machine off before using it. Please note that stones in a washing machine can damage the drum so use caution.
Step 3 – Wash Your Jeans
Wash your jeans as you would normally using your regular laundry detergent. Set the machine for an extra rinse cycle to make sure all the potassium permanganate has been removed.
Step 4 – Dry Your Jeans
You can use an external clothesline or a dryer to dry your jeans. A clothesline is best because there is less chance of shrinking your jeans. If you use a dryer, take them out before they are completely dry. Then, let them air dry.
How to Acid Wash Black JeansBlack jeans can be acid washed in the same way as blue jeans. However, the technique works best on blue jeans. This is down to the way the jeans are manufactured. While blue jeans use blue and white threads woven together to achieve the famous denim look, black jeans are dyed.
When you acid wash black jeans, you won’t get the same effect as you would with blue jeans. There are no white threads to expose. What happens is you’ll remove the black dye from the fabric. Leaving a gray surface behind. Sometimes bleach can react with the black dye and turn the fabric orange.
It’s not easy to ascertain what result you’ll get when you acid wash black jeans. Because of this, you should always do a spot check before committing your black jeans to any bleach treatment. It’s also advisable to use the spray method rather than the full garment soak. That way, you can control how long the black jeans are exposed to bleach.
You may find using potassium permanganate works better. Coupled with a pumice stone, you should be able to create a look for your jeans that you can live with.
Either way, be prepared for a surprising result. Acid washing black jeans is not an exact science. But you are sure to end up with an individual and unique pair of pants.
How to Acid Wash a Denim Jacket
It’s not just jeans that can be acid washed. You can use this technique on any item made from denim. So if you want to create a head-to-toe acid wash outfit, you can. By treating your jeans, skirt, shirt, or denim jacket, you can create a coordinating ensemble to up your level in the fashion stakes.
Denim jackets can be acid washed using the same method as your jeans. Simply follow the step-by-step instructions in the “How to Acid Wash Jeans” section above. Make sure you identify the type of denim you are working with first.
Pay particular attention to the fiber content. Not all denim can be treated with bleach. Stretch denim and denim with a high synthetic content can be ruined if exposed to bleach or other acidic liquids.
Even if you plan to use potassium permanganate to acid wash your denim jacket, do a spot check first. Make sure the fibers can withstand an acid treatment before trying to distress your denim. Otherwise, it could be you who ends up distressed.
Acid Wash vs Stonewashed: What’s the Difference?
There isn’t much of a difference between acid-washed and stone-washed denim. They are essentially the same thing. Both are terms given to the process of creating distressed denim using an acidic solution.
Originally, the lightened look of distressed denim was created by washing the fabric with pumice stones soaked in bleach. Similarly to the method I described earlier, the denim would have been put in a rotating tub. The agitating effect of being tossed about with the bleach-soaked stones caused fading.
Because the jeans were washed with stones, they were called stonewashed jeans. A similar effect is created when jeans are blasted with sand; in that instance, they are called sandblasted jeans.
New and improved methods have led to a move away from bleach. These days stonewashed jeans are still washed with pumice stones. Only the acid used is more likely to be potassium permanganate. Changing the acid doesn’t change the effect, though, so the term stonewashed is still used.
Acid washed jeans have the same look but without the use of stones. They are not agitated with acid-soaked pumice. Instead, an acid wash is more direct. The jeans are washed in acid. So, the only difference between stonewashed and acid washed jeans is that one is washed with stones and the other isn’t.
Are Acid Wash Jeans in Style?
Yes, absolutely! Acid wash jeans are in style and have been for some time. In fact, it’s a look that is rarely out of fashion. Acid washed jeans are part of the distressed denim movement. As such, there is a variation on the faded theme available in nearly every fashion season.
There’s something about the worn denim look that screams comfort and relaxation. Wearing a pair of acid washed jeans can showcase your personality as a fun-loving individual with impeccable taste.
It’s a look that has moved since its heyday in the 1980s. While a pair of acid washed jeans from the early days may not be on-trend now, the look itself is as popular as ever. The reason is that it’s a trend that has embraced the color palette of the 2020s.
These days you can get acid washed jeans in a range of fashionable, modern colors. From a stonewashed green to a subtle acid washed black, you can find a pair that can take you from a walk in the park to a night on the town. Simply by changing your accessories.
Acid washed jeans, jackets, shirts, and even skirts ooze street style and sophistication. The key is to stay current. Go for a vibrant shade or a stylish modern cut for your denim clothing, and you’ll be elevated to the level of fashionista extraordinaire.
What to Wear With Acid Wash Jeans
Acid washed jeans will go with almost everything. You can go for a super casual look or dress your jeans up. Anything goes. What you decide to wear them with is totally up to you.
They’ll look great paired with a ripped t-shirt and equally good with a tailored shirt. You do need to match your outfit to your event. Although they will look good with anything, some situations require a smarter approach.
Some acid washed denim can look too grungy for a night out at a posh restaurant, for instance. For that kind of occasion, go for a more subtle effect on a dark pair of jeans. If there is a dress code, you may find even a faint trace of acid wash will get you barred from the premises.
Similarly, if you have been invited to a beach party with an 80s theme, darker hues could look out of place. For an authentic 80s look, team your bleached-blue denim with a cropped top and a pair of sneakers. If you want a 90s vibe, go dark and grab some combat boots.
Acid washed jeans are on-trend and a great way to uplift an old pair of denim pants. Simple to create at home, they can add a hint of rebellion to your wardrobe. Treat your jeans with bleach and a pumice stone for a look that is both unique and individual.
Have you ever owned a pair of acid washed jeans? Have you tried making your own? How did you get on? Let me know in the comments.