How To Fade Clothes? (Step-by-Step Guide)

It might sound weird that you want to fade your clothes intentionally, but there are many reasons you should fade your clothes. For example, you can fade clothes to achieve a specific color or look trendy.  It also gives your clothes a worn and relaxed look while retaining the style.

What Makes Clothes Fade And Why Fade Them?

Hot Water

Heat and friction make clothes bleed and fade out. For example, using hot water to wash your clothes in the washer causes them to fade, as it breaks down the fiber in your clothes and releases the dye quickly.

Hard water

Besides hot water, using hard water or water containing chlorine also makes clothes fade. Hard water contains large amounts of calcium and magnesium that make clothes dry and dull the color.

However, chlorine in water eliminates bacteria, but it can also wash out the dye from your clothes.

Air dryer

The tumbling action of the dryer also makes your clothes fade. It causes friction and affects the fibers of your clothes, causing them to break down and the surface to fade.

Also, selecting the heavy-wash setting instead of the delicate setting makes clothes fade.


Most detergents contain ingredients such as bleach that are harsh on the fabric of your clothes. This causes your clothes to fade out quickly too.

Why fade your clothes?

how to lighten fabric color without bleach

You can decide to fade your clothes for any of the following reasons intentionally:

To make them look vintage

Vintage outfits are the new trend. For any item of clothing to be truly classified as “vintage,” it needs to be at least 20 years old. While your clothes may not be that old, you can make them look vintage by fading them.

By the way, only a few clothing items can withstand the 20-year time test, so you can fade your shirts yourself instead of waiting for them to age.

To create a variety of wardrobe choices

You can also fade your clothes to have multiple options in your wardrobe. As such, you won’t have to wear the same clothes every day. Also, you’ll have options for activities such as a get-together with friends, casual meetings, light exercise routines, etc.

To reduce stiffness

High-quality cotton and polyester shirts can sometimes be stiff and scratchy when you first buy them. Usually, getting a “worn” look and feel takes time, multiple washes, and wearing the t-shirt several times in a row.

If, however, you can’t wait that long, you can use creative fade methods to get the desired worn look faster.

A Step-by-step Guide To Fade Clothes Using Bleach

fading clothes

Bleach is one of the quickest ways to fade colors from your clothes. The materials needed are rubber gloves to prevent skin damage, chlorine bleach, chlorine neutralizer, detergent, and large plastic basins.

There are three methods of fading clothes using bleach. Watch this video to learn more about bleaching:

  • For the first method, fill the washer with hot water and then add a cup of bleach. Allow the mixture to sit for a moment. This dilutes the bleach and allows the clothes to fade evenly. Next, put the clothes in the water and bleach solution, let it spin for about five minutes on a gentle cycle, and then let sit for an hour.  After, wash, rinse, and air-dry.
  • Another method is to run the fabric under hot water. Add one part bleach to five parts of water so that the bleach isn’t too much and damages the fibers of your clothes—for example, one cup of bleach to 10 cups of water. Next, submerge the clothes in water and bleach solution in a basin. Leave this for about 15 minutes. You can add a little more bleach if you don’t begin to see results after 15 minutes. After, fill a second basin with water and a chlorine neutralizer, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Remove your clothes from the first basin and put in the second after wringing them. Fill a third basin with cold water. Take the clothes out of the second basin and submerge in the third basin, thoroughly rinsing the bleach. Finally, take the fabric out of the cold water. Launder normally with detergent and water, and then put it in the dryer or air-dry.
  • For the third method, fill a clean spray bottle with one-fourth of bleach to three-fourths of water and shake it up a bit. Next, soak the fabric and wring out the excess water. Spread out a plastic tablecloth in a sunny area outside and arrange the damp clothes on it. Use the spray bottle to spritz bleach over the fabric, concentrating the bleach on areas you want to look more faded than others. Finally, let the clothes sit for an hour and check the fading progress. If it looks good, proceed to wash generally with detergent.

3 Ways To Fade Clothes Without Using Bleach


fading clothing

You can fade clothes by running the washer in hot water. You would have to run the cycle multiple times with the clothes you intend to fade. Keep repeating the process until you achieve your desired level of fading.

Note that the clothes appear brighter when still wet, so it might be hard to see if they are already faded. After, air-dry them to complete the fading process. If the fading isn’t as you desire after air-drying, you can repeat the washing cycle.


Vinegar and Tea Soak

how to fade clothes with vinegar

For this technique, you should first wash and dry your fabrics at least three times. Vinegar contains acetic acid, breaking down stains and dye on clothes. Teabags give fabrics a duller sheen making them look vintage.

  • Firstly, add five to ten tea bags into a shallow basin filled with water. Make sure to drape the tea bags to rest under the water.
  • After this, submerge the clothes in the tea and water solution and let them soak for two to four hours. When the clothes look darker, remove them from the solution and air-dry.
  • Fill another shallow basin with one-third vinegar to two-thirds water and soak the clothes for at least four hours.
  • Finally, rinse the clothes under running water and let them air-dry.


Salt Soak

how to fade clothes with salt

You can also achieve a dramatic fading by giving your clothes a salt bath. Adding salt to your laundry ordinarily removes strong stains such as ink stains. Salt can also be an abrasive agent to create a cool, dull, and vintage look. Watch this video on how to salt-soak clothes:

  • To do this, start by filling a basin with a gallon of water, one cup of baking soda, and four cups of iodized or sea salt to add friction to the clothes.
  • Next, soak your clothes in this solution for three days. You might need to stir once in a while to induce friction.
  • Finally, don’t just rinse out. Wash the clothes using a normal cycle in the washer to remove any salt residue from your fabrics. After, hang dry on the clothesline outside.

Don’t Want To Use Bleach, Vinegar, or Salt To Fade Your Clothes? Why Not Try Sun-fading?

how to fade fabric without bleach

Apart from bleach and other fading methods discussed above, you can choose to fade your clothes naturally in the sun! This is called sun-fading. However, it isn’t a quick method. It takes time and patience.

You would need to monitor the process so that you don’t end up having only one part of your fabric faded. Watch this video to learn about sun fading.

Tips to guide your sun-fading process

Many colored fabrics fade in the sunlight, but you must leave them in the sun for several days in a row, turning them when necessary to ensure an even distribution of sunlight.

  • The first step is to wash your clothes in your washer with hot water and then spread them outside. However, some clothes aren’t hot water-friendly, as their fibers get damaged when washed with hot water. Using hot water to wash your clothes before sun-fading isn’t necessarily compulsory but is advisable to speed up the fading process.
  • Find a nice sunny spot outside. Ensure it has plenty of sunlight. If you want, you can also use a sunny spot behind a glass window inside. However, the direction of the sunlight may change during the day, making this a less ideal option.
  • Spread a clean white bed sheet or cloth on the line and place the garment on top. Leave it in the sun for several hours. You should check on the garment every couple of hours to ensure that it is still in direct sunlight and adjust the fabric so that all parts get even sun exposure.
  • One thing to ensure before you start to sun-fade is to check if the clothes are coated with UV-resistant materials. Some clothes are coated with chemicals that make them resistant to sunlight. Such fabrics won’t fade in the sun, no matter how many hours they spend outside.  For such clothes, you should use other fading methods.
  • Finally, it is essential to note that, unlike the other methods, you can’t control the amount of fade your clothes get when sun-fading. Results will depend on the clothing material and the amount of dye in the fabric.


Fading your clothes is an inexpensive way to change their look and feel while making them trendy. Instead of waiting for your clothes to age (if they last that long), there are different and safe ways to fade your clothes.

You need to pick the method that suits your clothes to achieve that faded and vintage look.

how to fade fabric

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