How to Fade a T-Shirt Deliberately

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Although many t-shirts are made of cotton, a natural and breathable fabric, they also often come out of the factory bright and loaded with manufacturing chemicals. From brand new concert tees to weekend wear, make your shirt into a well-loved, faded fashion statement without waiting a decade for the results.

Salt Soak

Soften and fade your shirt with products you can find in your pantry. Mix together 1/4 cup sodium bicarbonate washing soda and 2 cups of iodized salt in a quart of water. Soak the t-shirt in the mixture for at least a day and up to three days.

The salt works to fade and soften the fabric while the sodium bicarbonate removes the protective factory-made sizing and manufacturing chemicals. Swirl the fabric in the mixture every once in a while to make sure the product is getting into the fabric evenly.

Hot Wash

Nothing works better at fading color than piping hot water, as black jeans have tragically proven in the past. After soaking your t-shirt in the brine mixture, throw it in the washing machine with some strong, powdered detergent.

Set the machine to the highest possible temperature and agitation settings. Repeat the wash cycle a few times to quickly fade the fabric. Dry the t-shirt on a high heat setting. The repeated use of heat will weaken and softens fibers while also toning down the color.

Tip

  • Leave your t-shirt in the sun to dry after washing or whenever you are not wearing it. The rays quickly fade color and you don't have to lift a finger.

Heavy Duty Fade

If soaking, washing and drying don't fade your fabric effectively, you can up the ante. Mix a gallon of water with 1/2 cup of bleach. Put on some rubber gloves and place your shirt in the mixture and agitate the shirt for about 5 minutes.

Keep an eye on the color as you agitate and remove as soon as you see the color you desire. Keep in mind bleach works quickly. Remove promptly and put in a hot wash cycle to remove any excess bleach.

Tip

  • Sweep some fine-grain sandpaper over any screen print designs to fade the ink and give the t-shirt a vintage, worn-in feel.

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