How to Bleach Jeans

If you have a dark pair of jeans that you want to lighten, bleaching can do the trick. Bleaching jeans can also give your pants a worn, softer feel. While you can buy pre-bleached jeans at the store, you can recreate the process at home. By monitoring the bleaching process closely and taking precautions beforehand, you can bleach your jeans to the color you want and avoid burning holes into your jeans.


[Edit]Preparing to Bleach

  1. Lay newspapers on your floor in case of spills. Before you start bleaching, lay out newspapers around the area you plan to bleach. Many surfaces, especially carpeted floors, are prone to getting stained by bleach.[1] Lay newspapers around your washing machine as well, as you will need to wash your jeans shortly after bleaching.
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  2. Change into clothes you don't mind staining. Wear older clothes, like sweats and a T-shirt, that you won't worry about staining with bleach. You could also wear an apron, if you would prefer.
    Bleach Jeans Step 2 Version 5.jpg
    • Wear thick rubber gloves to avoid irritating your skin from the solution.[2] You may also want to wear safety goggles to avoid getting bleach in your eyes.
  3. Choose a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling bleach fumes. Smelling bleach on its own usually doesn't induce negative health effects, but it can make some people anxious. If you feel faint, leave the area immediately and call poison control. Keep the product label nearby, if possible, to give information to poison control specialists.[3]
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    • Never mix bleach with other household products. Some chemicals, when mixed with bleach, create toxic fumes. Avoid mixing bleach and ammonia, or ammonia and rubbing alcohol.[4]
  4. Fill a bucket or bathtub with one part water and one part bleach. You can mix your bleach solution in a bucket, but using a bathtub makes it easy to turn on a fan and dispel fumes. Avoid a highly concentrated bleach solution. While you may get faster results, the solution will be corrosive and more likely to burn holes in the fabric.

  5. Experiment first. If you've never bleached jeans before, have an old pair of jeans or a patch of jean material handy. Try your solution out on your ruined jeans before you apply it to your favorite jeans. You will get a better handle of how bleach lightens jeans and whether your concentration is too strong.

    • Different jean colors may react in unique ways. Choose a ruined pair close to your favorite pair's color for the most accurate idea.
  6. Use a bleach pen as an alternative. If using straight bleach makes you squeamish, you can also opt for a bleach pen (these are available at most stores). Bleach pens won't create a quite as natural look, but they involve less clean-up and are applied more easily. You can also use a bleach pen to draw intricate designs or words onto your jeans.[5]

[Edit]Lightening Your Jeans

  1. Dampen your jeans. Bleach will dye materials better if that material is already wet. Dampen your pair of jeans in cold water before you work on them. The jeans don't need to be soaking wet, so wring them out if they are dripping water.

  2. Dab the bleach on with a sponge, paintbrush, or spray bottle. If you want to create patterns on your jeans, don't just put your jeans in the bleach solution. Instead, apply the bleach using one of several options.

    • For even, large areas, use a sponge to dab the bleach on.
    • For a splattered effect, use a paintbrush or toothbrush. Apply the bleach to the brush, then rub your thumb back across the bristles to achieve a splattered effect.
    • If you want to work quickly, fill a cheap spray bottle with the solution and apply it to areas you want lightened.
  3. Work on one side at a time. Focus on the front or back first, then flip the jeans over to work on the back. If you don't want to bleach a certain side, stuff your pants with newspaper before you begin. The newspaper will prevent the bleach from soaking through to the other side.
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  4. Submerge your jeans fully into the solution for an even color. If you want to lighten your jeans entirely, soak your jeans in the bleach solution for 20-30 minutes Reposition the jeans and swirl the water every few minutes to avoid overexposing one area. Check for color changes every time you reposition, and remove the jeans when you've reached an ideal color.[6]

    • Wring your jeans out over the bucket or basin to avoid staining the floor.
    • For a tie-dyed effect, tie rubber bands to the jeans before you submerge them. This will create a flowering pattern on the fabric.[7]

[Edit]Adding Final Touches

  1. Rinse the bleach off after five minutes. After you've finished applying the bleach or submerging your jeans, let them sit on the newspapers for five minutes. Then, rinse the jeans in cold water in either your sink or bathtub.

    • While your jeans are still wet, you will not have a full sense of how bleach lightened the fabric. Wait until they've dried to assess their color.
  2. Run your jeans through the washing machine without detergent. Carry your jeans to the washing machine, wrapping them in newspapers to avoid staining the floor. Run your jeans through the washing machine without using fabric softener or detergent, which can yellow the jeans. This will rinse out excess bleach and make them safe to wash with other clothing later.
    Bleach Jeans Step 12 Version 2.jpg
    • Put the jeans alone in the washing machine, without other clothes, to avoid bleaching your other clothing.
  3. Air-dry your jeans. After the first time you wash your jeans, do not put them in the dryer (which can also cause yellowing). Instead, hang your jeans to dry to avoid the intense heat of a dryer. After your jeans have washed and dried, your jeans are ready to wear.

  4. After drying, check the color. Now that your jeans are dry, you can have an accurate understanding of the color. If your jeans are not light enough, repeat the process using the bleach solution. Repeat until the jeans have faded to your ideal color.[8]
    Bleach Jeans Step 14 Version 2.jpg



  • With bleach, less is more. Stop bleaching when you've reached a color you're happy with. Remember: you can always do more later, but once your jeans have been dyed by bleach, you can't reverse the color.
  • Take precautionary measures to avoid staining your clothes or floors.


  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or vinegar, as both can emit a toxic gas.
  • If you start to feel faint, leave the area immediately.

[Edit]Things You'll Need

  • Jeans
  • Bleach (liquid or pen)
  • Rubber bands (optional)
  • A bucket, basin, or bathtub
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Tools for applying bleach: sponges, paintbrushes, toothbrushes, or spray bottles

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