How To Distress and Destroy Denim Jeans

How to distress or destroy jeans

I've read lots of articles about destroying or distressing jeans. I agree with some suggestions, and others I just don't think work. I've listed methods that I have found to work for me, and methods that haven't, but you still might want to try out.

Keep in mind that different jeans distress differently. A thicker denim is going to be more difficult to destroy than a softer, thinner denim. Everyone's tastes are different, what appeals to one person, might not to another. I have not personally tried every method, I've used common sense and experience to categorize the suggestions that I haven't tried myself.

I would suggest trying your methods on an old pair of jeans first. That way you can hone your technique, and see what works best for the look you are trying to achieve.

What Works Well:

  1. Sandpaper... The one thing I find the most effective in destroying jeans. You can use different grits to get different looks. You can easily sand those spots that would wear normally, the seat, knees, hemline, etc. A Pumice stone can also be used.

  2. Cheese grater... Most have a side that is finer than the other side, use that. Better yet, use a cinnamon or nutmeg grater. They have a super fine grate and a smaller, rounded shape that works great for destroying jeans. Be careful with either grater, it is easy to go too far, and to shred your fingers in the process.

  3. Lots of washing and fabric softener. An oldie but a goody!

  4. Coffee... It can be brewed strong and splashed on, or soak the whole jeans for several hours or overnight.

  5. Take a utility knife and cut two straight horizontal cuts about two to four inches apart. Slide your hand behind the denim you just cut. Sandpaper the strip of denim you created until you start to see tiny holes and white cords.  Separate the white cords with your fingernails, but be careful you don't want to rip the cords. For an extra destroyed look, take a cheese grater and rub around the main holes you created for a unique look.

  6. Grease... Used sparingly, nothing beats it for natural looking staining.


What Might Not Work:

  1. Any type of bleach solutions. It is just too easy to ruin the jeans and I think it weakens the fabric when you use bleach. If you want to try it, here is one recipe... One part bleach to two parts water. There are many different methods that give totally different affects. You can try a spray bottle, adjusting the stream until you get the affect that you like. You can use a paintbrush and go for a "painted on design" from bleach. You can rubber band your jeans first so that the bleach will apply in a more random manner.

  2. Scissors... For a couple of reasons. It looks obvious that you did the destroying. I think it's hard to use scissors and make a cut that looks like natural wear. If you mess up, the jeans are ruined. I prefer methods that are not dramatic and do not put the jeans at risk of ruin. I prefer the method in number 5 above.

  3. You can also use power tools with grinding tips or other abrasive attachments. They will help you do things faster, but at the risk of overdoing. A Dremel Moto Tool is probably the easiest to handle and there are special tips with sandpaper attached.

  4. Marker pens, unless you want to create art.

And if you don't want to try it and would rather get a great pair of jeans that are already distressed / destroyed please check out: Distressed / Destroyed Jeans Shopping.


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