How to bleach your jeans to a light color FAST

How to bleach your jeans to a lighter color.

how to bleach jeans

Everyone deserves a makeover – even your jeans. A very inexpensive and effective makeover you can do with your jeans is to use bleach on them. If you are tired of wearing the same dark washed plain jeans and want to transform it into a new light-colored one or just want to lighten your dark jeans in selected places you can use the bleach to do your job easily. Result is, you get completely new jeans

With bleaching you can either lighten dark jeans evenly or in patches.
how to bleach jeans

Jeans can be bleached in many ways. You can bleach your dark wash jeans to a light-wash one evenly or with a distressed un-even look, make particular designs on it, bleach it completely white, or just bleach one leg lighter. All of this can be done with a bottle of liquid bleach and some simple tools.

Jeans have a reputation as a symbol of hard work and also rebellion. It is made of a hard-wearing cotton material in a twill weave, making it all the more work-ready and durable. Worn, distressed jeans which has lost all color because of wear and wash, became a form of self-expression for those who rebelled against the traditional society from the 1950s. Today, You can get the exact-same distressed look without raising a finger (other than the effort it takes to bleach your jeans)

People usually bleach their dark-colored denim. Raw denim is untreated, non-washed denim with even dark coloring. If you want it to look faded with that ready-to-wear store-bought distressed look fast, your best bet is to use bleach.

Bleach is versatile, for want of a better word. Other than for cleaning purposes, it is used to make clothing appear lighter in color. It is a color remover for fabrics.

Things I learned when bleaching my jeans

You have to use chlorine bleach for the full effect. Oxygen bleach, peroxide, lime juice – they don’t do what chlorine bleach does.

✔  The results of bleaching jeans can be very unpredictable. 

The bleach you have may be different from the bleach I have. The strength of the bleach can vary, and so would the result. So test first on a similar scrap piece of denim to verify the result you need.

The quality of the denim also can be a variable. Some jeans are known to turn yellow, pink, orange and even green, instead of the soft distressed look you were expecting.

liquid bleach used to bleach jeans to white or lighter color.

✔  Using Diluted vs. undiluted bleach.

Another variable that decides you result is the amount of water you add. If you are using undiluted bleach, you will get the result faster. The color will fade right before you in a matter of seconds. But I do not know if it is good for the fabric. So, you can dilute the bleach with water and keep the fabric in a lot longer. Usually, a 1:4 solution of bleach and water is used, and the jeans are kept in this bleach solution for about five plus hours.

But you may find the result is much tamer than when using undiluted bleach. And It takes hours for the diluted bleach to work. So take your pick. Fast results or slower reactions. 

I found that the secret to bleaching the jeans faster is wetting them first. Not dripping wet, but slightly damp all over so that bleach will reach all corners of the fabric faster. This results in better even coloring than you would if you were using a dry jeans.

The jeans will look darker when it is wet. And after washing, it can go even one shade lighter. So do not be haste in deciding whether the color is the exact one you want. Think it through, or wait until it is dry after the bleaching process.

✔  Bleach is chemical and potentially corrosive. Cover everything that will be exposed, other than your garment when bleaching – the surface, your skin, your dress, and areas you do not want bleached.

If you are bleaching stretch jeans, you have to be forewarned that the stretch may be slightly reduced after bleaching.

And yellow tinge may develop on areas that have been over-bleached or over-exposed.

Holes may form over time if bleach is left on the clothing. It may refuse to deactivate even after washing.

✔  You can use a neutralizer to stop the bleaching action (the chemical process goes on if you do not stop it). A readily available solution is Hydrogen peroxide. Use 1 cup of peroxide with 1 gallon/5 liters of water. Soak for about 10 to 15 minutes. This serves as a neutralizing agent and stops the bleach from continuing its action and ultimately destroying the fabric.
Use this after the bleach is rinsed off thoroughly in plain water.

✔  If you do not like the final result of bleaching, do not despair. Dyeing back to the blue you had is an option. You can re-dye over-bleached jeans back – it may not look the same, but …

supplies needed for bleaching jeans.

What you need to bleach jeans

  • Your jeans.
  • Liquid bleach (Undiluted or bleach solution)
  • A plastic sheet to protect your work area
  • Gloves
  • Plastic vessels dedicated to this work or disposable. Tub or a big vessel for even bleaching. 
  • Stencils, spray bottle, sponge brush, cotton swabs.
  • Mask

Decide on how much color you want to remove from your jeans and from where. You can bleach so that your jeans are fully evenly faded in color, or just partially on the thighs and back, or completely white to remove the whole color.

You can either dip your jeans in bleach or splatter bleach to make spots. Splattered bleach creates random designs on denim.

A ballpark figure for how many hours to keep is about 5 hours, for diluted bleach. For undiluted bleach, this is counted in minutes.

Bleaching your jeans

How to bleach jeans

Bleach fully or in particular areas

There are several methods to apply bleach to your jeans.

Methods of applying bleach on your jeans


Fill a basin or bathtub with enough quantity of water to completely soak the jeans. Add 1/2 cup bleach to the water and mix well. Now completely soak your jeans in the bleaching solution.

Swish it around every now and then for the bleach to reach every inch of the jeans. Let it soak for half an hour or till the desired color is acquired.

Take out the jeans and wring out the bleach. Machine wash or hand wash the jeans, without any detergent, to get rid of the bleach completely and dry.

Spraying bleach

If you do not want to change the color fully or if you want that artistic look, spraying bleach on your jeans is the best option. It de-colors in areas you desire

Hang your jeans using a clothes clip so that you can easily access both sides. or Slide a piece of plastic or cardboard inside the jeans to prevent the bleach from reaching the back. 

Fill a spray bottle with full-strength bleach. In this method, you don’t dilute the bleach. Change the setting of the spray bottle to mist. Now hold the spray bottle some 5-8 inches away from the jeans and spray the bleach on the areas where you want your jeans to change color.

The way your spray bottle nozzle is adjusted can create different effects on your jeans. If you loosen the nozzle you get larger spraying effect. If the nozzle is tight it will spray wider. 

Wait for 5 to maximum 20 minutes or till the spots have turned to the desired color. Immediately soak it in plain cold water to prevent further stripping of color.

If you are not satisfied with the bleached effect repeat the spraying.

Wash in cold water without detergent for the final rinse. 

Try the sprayer on a waste cloth several times before using on the real garment. A fine spray is ideal so use a sprayer that gives this. 

Stenciling designs

In this method stencils are used on the jeans and bleach is applied through the gaps in the stencil as a result of which the design on the stencil is applied on the denim surface. You can either apply the bleach with a brush or use a sprayer

You can make designs like the one below (this one is not made with bleach).

Remember to attach the stencil firmly on the fabric to prevent bleeding. Use masking tape for this.  After the bleach is applied, before the stencil is removed wipe the stencil with a paper towel to remove any excess bleach on the surface – this will drip back on the fabric if it is not wiped. 

If you are using Hydrogen Peroxide on the jeans instead of regular chlorine bleach (Peroxide is a safer alternative) do not forget to combine this with exposure to sunlight. After applying the Hydrogen Peroxide solution keep the garment out in the sun. 

Wary of using chemicals on your clothes but still want to bleach your jeans – you can try using natural processes like washing your jeans in hot water, using other distressing methods like rubbing with a pumice stone, etc. You can check out this post on more (15) methods to distress jeans

Related post : How to make fabric look old.

Bleaching jeans evenly

This is the scenario when you want a particularly lighter shade for the whole of the jeans. From dark-colored jeans to white or even light blue.

The secret here to iron out all the wrinkles on the jeans and use a large vessel or even your tub to bleach the jeans.

Fill your bathtub or vessel with a lot of water. You can fill it up with about 50 cups, or 3 gallons of water. Add 12 cups of bleach for a strong solution and stir it nicely, so it is fully dissolved.

Dampen the jeans and squeeze out all water.

Place the dampened jeans inside the vessel/tub. Lay it down as straight as possible in the bathtub, if you want even bleaching. Submerge the whole of the jeans in the thoroughly stirred bleach solution.

Also, turn it around as you wait for the bleach to work. Infact, this maybe a deciding factor on getting an even color. Turn every 30 minutes or so. 

After 3 hours, check to see if the color is to your liking. If not, leave for more time – around 2 to 3 more hours. Not more than this. 

Your jeans may still bleach to an uneven color; as I said, the unpredictability of bleach. 

Distressing jeans with bleach

This involves making faded marks on places you would expect it on a worn jeans. Cat’s whiskers is a very common distressed pattern.

cat's whisker patterns
You can apply bleach on thighs, behind the knee, on top of the pocket, under the pocket etc.

How to bleach jeans completely white

Bleaching jeans white involves using concentrated bleach solution in a large quantity and immersing the jeans inside the solution.

The challenge is to bleach jeans white, not yellow. Usually, when concentrated bleach is used to remove color altogether, or the bleach is used for a long time, the area can change to a pale yellow tinge.

Bleaching jeans with designs

This is my favorite method. This is usually done with stencils. You can also use a bleach pen.

You can make stencils for bleaching jeans with cardboard or even packing tape. You need something that covers the other areas you do not want to be bleached. It can be the outside of a design or the inside.

Decide on bleach design. You can use rectangular stencils for a geometric pattern on your jeans.

Bleaching jeans with a spray bottle

using a spray bottle to bleach jeans.

If you want to use a spray bottle to bleach, you must have a splotchy pattern in mind. Using a spray bottle creates a mottled look on the material. Undiluted bleach splatters can instantly remove color, so think before spraying.

Carefully pour the bleach mixture inside the spray bottle and squirt the spray all over or in certain places.

Bleach jeans one-leg

one side lighter jeans

One-side bleaching is a nice look. One side of the jeans is dipped in bleach and dyed almost white or a very light color. A very nice way to make your jeans look different.

seal the places where you do not want bleach to lighten.

For this, you have use packing tape to seal the areas near the middle.

What to do if your jeans turn yellow after bleaching?

Too much bleach and too long exposure can cause faded jeans to a yellow shade, which is not at all attractive. It looks dirty. This may be due to the reaction of washing with detergent afterwards with bleach on it. So wash bleached jeans without detergent thorougly before using detergent.

And air dry afterwards. Do not tumble dry.

You can stop all the bleaching action with a neutralizer, as discussed.  And then use a bluing liquid on the jeans to return to a better color.

One preventive method is to only bleach light-colored jeans to white. So you do not have to keep the material longer in the bleach.

Bleaching precautions

First and foremost, use bleach on 100% cotton denim or at least 95% cotton denim. Most jeans have Elastane fibers added for stretch – these are not the ideal jeans you want for bleaching.

Never mix household bleach with any other chemicals as it can be hazardous. The fumes are dangerous and the solution too.

As I said, bleach can be damaging on many levels, so you must be cautious using it. It can damage your skin if you are exposed to it directly. And garment care after bleaching is important too.

As much as it removes color, it can also damage the fabric’s fiber. Prolonged use can disintegrate fibers. Bleach may even work after it is rinsed out, so better to err on the side of caution than be sorry at the sad state of your favorite jeans. Even though you think only chainsaw and your deliberate distressing efforts can destroy your jeans, bleach can too.

You cannot trivialize bleach. Bleach can look like water and may look completely harmless, but it is all an illusion. Not advising this, but you can just dip a finger in undiluted or even diluted bleach for some time to see how it shrivels up the skin. So you can imagine what it can do to delicate fibers of a fabric.

And to frighten you further, the bleach action does not stop when you simply wash once or twice. If you are using concentrated bleach on thin fabric, you will have to use a chemical to stop the bleaching action.  There is no way that you want to ruin your favorite jeans knowing what you do about it. So — be cautious…

Cover everything and everywhere you do not want to bleach – Always remember to cover the area and yourself because if bleach gets accidentally splashed or sprayed on your clothes or the surface, it can cause color change and even damage.

If you are using tools that drip (faulty sprayer, leaking stencil) you will not get the results you want because bleach de-colors everywhere it touches – even a small drop will turn the fibers to white in a matter of minutes.

A few minutes is all it takes for bleach to remove color. Always remember to thoroughly mix the bleach in water but if you have to use undiluted bleach, leave only for a short time otherwise it can damage your fabric. 20 minutes is enough for most bleaching jobs.

Protect your body – Always wear a pair of gloves as bleach can cause temporary wrinkles on your hands, and may even burn if it is directly splashed. Finally, it is always better to work in an open space or at least in a properly ventilated area to protect yourself from the penetrating and toxic smell.

Keep a tub full of clean water with detergent mixed-in ready for washing (or your washing machine with water filled in) before you start bleaching. The bleach should not be left on the fabric after the stipulated time.

Rinse well – Bleach, if not rinsed out well, will continue to leach color as well as strength from the fabric. You can also keep a tub of Vinegar-water solution ready for a rinse because vinegar is supposed to stop the bleaching solution.

Naturally bleaching jeans

To bleach the natural color of jeans, dark indigo blue to a lighter color you can use other less corrosive chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, and reducing agents such as sulfur dioxide and sodium bisulfite. Natural chemicals like Lemon juice and Vinegar can also be used.

To bleach jeans naturally, Load your jeans in a washing machine, set the temperature level to maximum, and wash. Hot water can take away the extra color from your denim – several such hot water washes can help to fade the color a little bit. But if you are after radical change this is not going to satisfy you.

Some even recommend using salt to lighten your jeans. Jeans are soaked in a salt solution for half an hour and agitated with the salt solution. After this you can dry the jeans in full sunlight and leave it there – sun’s rays are supposed to naturally strip the color out of fabric.

And finally, the best way to distress your jeans is to wear it consistently for a month or two and wait for that natural distressing from wear. 

Related posts :Bleach printing; How to embellish jeans ; Resist printing; 45 Different types of jeans. ; Different types of jeans washes

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