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How To Bleach Jeans & Master The DIY Dip-Dyed Denim Look

Behind the ever-popular tie-dye trend, dip-dyed or bleach-washed denim is pacing to be one of summer 2020's hottest fashion trends. Accomplished with just bleach, water, and a pair of denim jeans (or any other denim clothing item, TBH), this style is easy to duplicate, and the materials used can likely already be found in your home. Not to mention, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will force most summer activities to be conducted within the safe confines of your home or backyard, it's prime time to let your creative juices flow. As for me, I’m an avid vintage shopper, and I love worn-in denim so much that I probably own at least 20 pairs of vintage jeans. That said, bleaching your jeans is an inventive way to upcycle denim, save money, and make a one of a kind item. So, with a free afternoon and a pair of jeans to spare, I tried the dip-dyed denim trend myself.

I was initially inspired by a few designers on Instagram, like @rileyvintage and @daviidminor. After watching a couple of how-to videos on YouTube (so I didn't jump in completely blind), I was confident and ready to try the dip-dyed denim style all on my own. I chose a pair of my baggiest jeans to test this style on, largely because I love the nostalgic trend of wearing crop tops, sports bras, and loose-fitting t-shirts with oversized denim jeans, reminiscent of celebrity looks from the '90s, like those of the late R&B singer Aaliyah, TLC, and Xscape. Their style of dress from this era is still relevant and trending today, and bleach-washed denim lends itself to the trend nicely.

To create your own dip-dyed denim look, you'll first want to gather all your materials. You’ll, of course, need a pair of denim you're willing to bleach, as well as a bucket or large container, bleach, water, a rubber band, protective gloves (so the bleach doesn't harm your skin), a plastic bag, a well-ventilated work space, and somewhere to rinse and wash your denim. For a look at the process, watch the video below, and read on for a detailed explainer of each step.

1. Make the bleach mixture.

To start, you'll want to make your bleach mixture by combining one part bleach with three parts water. It’s crucial to dilute the bleach, as a pure bleach soak can completely ruin your garment, and working with pure bleach can be harmful to your skin. Make sure your solution is enough to completely soak a large portion of your jeans in, and don't forget to wear protective gloves.

2. Prepare your jeans.

After your mixture is ready, it’s time to prepare your jeans to be bleached. Start by laying your denim flat and then scrunching the legs of your jeans together where you’d like the bleached portion to start, securing the two legs together with a rubber band. This helps the bleach starting point appear a bit more blended, rather than a straight line.

It's easy for bleach to splash, travel, and get where you don't want it to, so next, secure a plastic bag over the portion of your jeans that you don’t want bleached. This allows for added protection, since this process might get a little messy.

3. Dip and soak your jeans in the mixture.

Once you’re ready, slowly dip your jeans into your bleach mixture, up until just below the rubber band, and make sure they’re completely submerged. Then, carefully lay the non-bleached portion of your denim over the side of the bucket or container. Let your jeans soak for about an hour, but check in on their progress often, so you can assess how quickly the pigment is lifting. Try not to soak them for too long beyond an hour; otherwise, you risk ruining the integrity of your garment.

4. Rinse and wash the jeans.

After your jeans are lightened to the color you want them, carefully take them out of the bleach. (And because you're still dealing with the bleach mixture, make sure your protective gloves are on for this step, too!) Post-removal, undo the rubber band and plastic bag, and rinse the denim thoroughly to remove the excess bleach. This is particularly important before washing the jeans to ensure any remaining bleach doesn't affect the unbleached portion. Finally, wash your jeans in cold water, then tumble dry them or let them hang to air dry.

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5. Rock your new look.

Once your denim has dried, throw those jeans on and marvel at your new look. In the end, they're still denim, meaning you can pair them with just about anything in your closet, only now, any 'fit will have a completely new, trendy flair. In total this process took only a few hours to complete, and they payoff was well worth it. Not to mention, I hadn't done anything this creative in a while so this project felt very therapeutic and fulfilling.