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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Lightening Blue Jeans

By Dr. Laundry November 20, 2008

Q. Could you please tell me how to lighten a pair of medium-colored Levi’s blue jeans?

A. There are several approaches that could work to lighten the color in your jeans. It depends on the “look” you are after. I am assuming you want kind of a uniform color. For that, a bleach soak is your best option.

  • For a bleach soak, you’ll need the following supplies:
  • Fill the large container using a ratio of approximately ¾-to-1 cup of Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 per gallon of warm water. Mix the solution using your gloved hands, then add the jeans and swirl to ensure they are fully submerged. Think ahead, and be careful not to get the bleach solution on the clothes you are wearing as they will also be bleached.
  • Soak for 5–7 minutes, changing/repositioning the jeans every couple of minutes to avoid extended exposure of any one area. Check for color change as you reposition. When you’re getting close, stop the process.
  • You may want to apply the bleach solution to seams, pocket and hemlines by dabbing them with the sponge. This helps avoid darker colors in these thicker areas.
  • Now think about where you can hang the jeans to dry. DO NOT do this over carpet or wood floors or any other floor surface that cannot be bleached. A drying rack placed over some old towels or newspapers is a good solution. Move the soak container to your drying area. Pull the jeans from the solution and gently place them on the rack. Change the towels or newspapers if they get too wet.
  • After drying, check the color and repeat if not light enough.
  • You can wash them before wearing. I would do this as a separate load to avoid any dye bleeding/transfer.

If you want to lighten certain areas only, then use the Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel. The fine point tip and scrubber tip offer two different applicators for designs and coverage.

    Simply put some newspapers on the floor and start drawing your favorite designs.
  • Let them dry 20–30 minutes then use a wet paper towel to remove any excess bleach gel.
  • Rinse the bleached areas well in the sink to remove any excess bleach.
  • Dry and repeat on the backside of the jeans.