Recently I answered similar questions, and one of my answers
referenced using rock salt in the washer to distress denim.
From the website Fabrics.net - Fabric Dyeing Questions
4. "Another option for distressing denim is to wash the fabric in the
washer with rock salt. (I think I learned this exact tip from Queer
Eye for the Straight Guy.)"
(Rock salt is available at most hardware stores and supermarkets.)
Please read through the other 2 answers provided by me and you'll find
many suggestions and tips gathered from various sources.
Rit Fast FadeŽ helps to make denim lighter, softer and more
comfortable quickly, easily and safely without damaging fabric fibers.
Available in powder only.
Rit Dye Fabric Treatment - Powder Fast Fade 1 3/4oz
Update your jeans that are too new looking by giving them a well-worn
finish. Use Easy Bleach? to distress your denim a little or a lot,
create a tie-dye look, add details or create freehand designs or
stencil patterns. Package contains 1 oz. Easy Bleach Powder and 1 oz.
Developer, mixing bottle, latex gloves, plus a detailed instruction
sheet including color illustrations and design tips. Easy bleach is
odor free, but should be used carefully because it is a caustic agent.
Mix together 8 parts water to one part bleach. Wet your fabric and
place fabric in mix. Watch closely and remove when fading is to your
satisfaction. After fading wash fabric with detergent, rinse and dry.
You may wash & dry by machine or by hand, whatever is appropriate for
the fabric type.
NOTE: Before fading your fabric, test a scrap of the fabric first.
This is important as some dyes in some print fabrics will run and
bleed with other colors in the print."
"Fading works best on 100% cottons and most wool may also be faded
with success. If you wish to fade velvets, the higher the cotton
content, the better the results."
"The fashion look in jeans is distressed denim. Identified by several
terms including acid washed, stonewashed, ravaged, aged; white washed,
bleached, super bleached and simply prewashed, the resulting fabric
features a pre-worn look. Treatments give softer hand, more texture
and color variation from frosted, bleached light to faded looks, and
distressed edges. Years ago consumers would break in their own denims
by wearing and laundering. Now, the trend is to buy jeans already
Distressed denim, often identified by the terms "acid washed" or
"washed," is achieved through chemical (bleaching), mechanical
(rubbing or abrading), or a combination of both processes. Most
distressed jean looks are achieved by some variation of tumbling denim
fabric with special pumice stones soaked in a bleaching agent called
potassium permanganate. Different sized stones create varying effects.
In addition to the bleaching effect, both the pumice stones rubbing
the fabric surface, as well as the laundry action itself soften the
fabric and abrade or create a worn look on the fabric surface."
"Regardless of the method used to produce distressed denim, durability
is decreased and the life of the garment shortened. Excessive
bleaching and abrading weaken fibers and may cause holes to form and
seams to break after a few wearings. It is estimated that "acid wash"
processing is equal to 25 home launderings. Shrinkage becomes less of
a problem in the purchased garment, however, since the "acid wash" or
other processes also pre-shrink the fabric.
Several products or kits are now available to consumers who want to
"distress" their own denim fabric. All systems use some type of mild
bleaching action or mechanical abraders such as a pumice stone for
rubbing, or emery boards. These processes may not be as harsh as
commercial treatments, but still lower the garment's durability and
Clarification of Answer by
07 Sep 2004 19:12 PDT
Well, the good news is the instructions for using Rock Salt are
available in the free catalogue for Dharma Trading Co.
According to a question posted at: http://www.fabrics.net/dizzylettuce804.asp
"I found a bolt of good quality denim cloth for nearly nothing. I want
to make a sofa slipcover with it. The only problem is that the denim
is darker than I want it. Is there a way to evening fade the denim. I
want it to look like the "washed denim" jeans you can buy."
"... You can try Rit color discharger or a similar product that is
available at www.dharmatrading.com. Use rock salt for a coarse, uneven
discharged look. All the instructions are available in Dharma's
If you'd rather speak with a human, please call toll-free from
anywhere in the U.S. or Canada 8am to 5pm California time:
Click on Request a Catalogue to the right of Dharma Trading Co. logo.
In addition, I found a bit more at a Forum called: Craftsers.org -
Crafty Hipsters share clever ideas.
The Topic is Various Techniques for Making T-Shirts/Clothes Look &
Feel Vintage. I selected the information that refers to using Rock
"rock salt is the salt that you use with ice cream machines---- it's
lumps of salt mixed in with bits of rocks... you can find it by the
ice cream machines at nearly any store- and it's fairly cheap
I was really interested in trying this out and I checked out some
sites but there really wasn't that much info.
the most helpfull site I found was called fig and plum
it calls for 2 gallons warm water, 1/2 cup sea salt or maybe it's rock
salt, and 2 Tablespoons of bleach. You supposedly let it soak for a
couple days, wash the shirt and voila
I tried it with rock salt- and it was not to successful. probably
because I'm not the most patient person---at all. I added a little
more bleach (because it destroys the cotton- fibers=soft shirt) and it
just bleached my shirt.
I will try it again- and give it more time- I might try scrubbing it
with the rock salt while it is soaking, not sure if it will make a
difference but it is worth a shot!"
From the FigandPlum site:
"I tried this technique with a black 50/50 T-shirt. I used 3 teaspoons
of bleach, 1/2 a cup of rock salt, and 2 gal of water. My shirt was
not bleached and came out soft after a day and a half of soaking. I
think using too much bleach is why most people have a problem. Take it
easy on the bleach and longer on the soaking. Remember patience is a
"For Mild Fade:
Soak tee in 8 cups of water,1 1/2 cup salt for three days
Step 2: wring and rub down with sandpaper
Step 3: Hang dry in sun
Step 4: wash and dry normally
They have one for extreme fade too
The shirt has to be 1/2 cotton/ 1/2 polyester blend
Soak tee in 6 cups water, 2 cups bleach 1/2 cup salt for two days
Wash and dry"
"I have some experience breaking down clothing for movies and theatre,
and what we do is wash, wash wash, over and over. If you can set your
machine to just keep ajitating, and leave the clothes in there for an
hour or two, then things are great. Throw a big rough towel in there
to help the abrasion.
You can add rock salt, or TSP (household cleaner), that tend to eat into it a bit.
I don't think I would recommend soaking in the bleach recipes...those
seem pretty strong and would probably end up weakening the fabric to
the point that it would fall apart the next time you wash it.
Use sandpaper to rub at printing or decals if you want them to wear
off a bit, and you can use sandpaper to gently thin the fabric, (rub
in long strokes), but be very careful not to get any tiny holes in it,
because they will get bigger every time you wash it.
Hanging in the sun is a great way to unevenly fade it."
"With jeans, you can attack them w/ sandpaper, razors and cheese
graters, then use some of the rock salf etc methods in here 2 fade
I have never done it, but it sounds like fun!"
"...I mixed 6 c. water with 1/2 c. rock salt and just a metric glug
and a half of bleach. I took a navy blue shirt and folded it from the
bottom up like an accordian and secured with two rubber bands. I left
the shirt to soak oustide in the bowl for 4-5 hours. When I came back,
the folded-in bands were less bleached than the folded-out bands,
creating a striped bleachy look (as seen on expensive jeans I've
seen). The fabric was definitely thinner and drained of quite a bit of
color. I was surprised that some posts were suggesting 2 days, as 4-5
hours resulted in quite a dramatic difference. I'm quite pleased with
the results and glad I gave it a try. If i can get some good pictures
once the shirt's completely dry, I'll post them.
P.S. What's the purpose of the rock salt? I don't find that it
particularly wears anything away, as it either ionizes in the water or
settles to the bottom. If anyone's got a hypothesis, the chemist here
would appreciate it."