How to Lighten Denim

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You're dying to sport a lighter look for summer but light on cash for a whole new denim wardrobe. Everyday household bleach is the secret to an easy at-home makeover that will transform darker denim shorts, skirts, jackets or jeans you already own into cool, casual pieces -- complete with an allover light-wash look.


Things You'll Need

  • Latex gloves

  • Protective plastic garment

  • Washbasin or bucket

  • Sponge

  • Drying rack

  • Old newspapers or towels

Step 1: Color Preview

Determine how much the denim will lighten with a swatch test. Mix 2 teaspoons bleach with 1/4 cup of water and apply a small drop inside the hem or waistband. Blot dry after a minute. The resulting lighter spot indicates the color and hue you can expect from bleaching your denim.

Step 2: Mix It Up

Fill a washbasin, bucket or large container with warm water. Put on latex gloves and a plastic cape or garment to protect your clothes and add 3/4 to 1-cup bleach for every gallon of water in the container, mixing it thoroughly with your hands.


Step 3: Let It Soak

Add your garment to the bleach solution, making sure it is fully submerged. Reposition the garment every few minutes to ensure even lightening, letting it soak for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove your clothing from the solution when the color has nearly faded to the desired hue.


Spot treat thicker areas. Dab the bleach solution onto more resistant areas of the garment -- think hems, seams and pockets -- with a sponge.

Step 4: Air Dry

Find a floor surface that can safely tolerate the bleach solution, avoiding carpeting or wood, and set up a drying rack over some old newspapers or towels. Carefully remove the garment from the basin or container and place it on the drying rack. Replace wet towels or newspapers as necessary while the garment is drying.


Step 5: Wash and Wear

Check the color once the clothing is completely dry. If the desired fade has not been achieved, repeat the process. When you're happy with your look, wash your garment separately the first time after lightening to avoid bleaching or fading other clothing.