When you want a pair of cool, worn jeans but can’t wait several months to achieve the effect, learn to distress them yourself. Simple techniques will have you sporting that designer faded and tattered look in a fraction of the time.

Things You'll Need

Fade your jeans by applying bleach to the fabric. Work in a ventilated area, wear rubber gloves and protect your work surface with plastic bags or old towels. Dip a sponge in bleach, wring it out until it’s nearly dry and press lightly where you’d like to lighten the denim. Wash the jeans immediately in a cold water cycle. Leaving bleach on the fabric will cause it to degrade.

Create worn spots by rubbing sandpaper, a steel brush, a cheese grater or the edge of a knife over spots on your jeans where natural fraying would occur. Try the hems, back pockets and knees, for example.

Tear strategically-placed holes by making a small snip with scissors, then using your fingers to rip an opening to the desired length. If you’re having trouble tearing it, use a knife to make a cut, then pull the loose threads or use sandpaper to fray and scuff the edges.

Use a seam ripper to remove one of the back pockets. If you attempt to tear the pocket off you might make or start a hole along the seam. You can also snip the threads at the corner of one pocket so it hangs down a little.


  • Practice these techniques (particularly bleaching and tearing) on an older pair of jeans before working on a newly-purchased pair.

  • If you’d like to save time or avoid working with bleach, simply buy a pair of jeans that are already faded, then use sandpaper to create a few worn or torn spots.