How to Distress T Shirts

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Distressing T-shirts is simply the process of making the shirt look older and worn out. Wearing distress T-shirts is a trend in casual fashion. People choose to distress their T-shirts for parties, concerts, clubs and special events. When you distress your own T-shirt rather than buy a new shirt that is already distressed, you can save a great deal of money. Plus, you can give it the exact distressed look you're going for.

Things You'll Need

  • T-shirts
  • File
  • Foot file
  • Sandpaper
  • Bleach

Rub the shirt with something coarse such as sandpaper, a file (the tool, not a nail file) or a foot file. This is most often done on the bottom of the sleeves and/or the bottom of the shirt. This step makes the shirt look ripped and worn out. Be careful while you’re doing this, as it wears out the threads. Too much distress can tear the shirt more than you intended.

Put the shirt in a washing machine. This puts stress on the threads and stretches them out to help out with the look.

Hang the shirt up to dry. Don’t dry it all the way; only dry it so that it’s still fairly damp but until the shirt becomes stiff. This stiffens the threads that you've distressed.

Put the shirt in a dryer. This completes the look of the shirt by putting one last amount of stress on the threads. Your shirt should come out of the dryer looking old and beat up.

Bleach your shirt, if you so choose. Bleaching gives an even older-looking effect to the shirt, making it appear to have been washed many times. If you decide to do this, be careful not to put too much bleach on it. You’ll want to put the spots on the shirt sporadically to give it a random look. You can fade the shirt or bleach most of the color out of it, depending on how much bleach you put on it.

Try the shirt on. See how it looks. If you’re satisfied, you’re done. If not, repeat Step 1. It is not necessary to rewash after repeating Step 1, because the threads can weaken and tear completely.

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