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Acid Wash Jeans: How to Make Acid Washed Jeans

Updated on September 12, 2012
You have to make sure you stay modern when wearing acid wash jeans.
You have to make sure you stay modern when wearing acid wash jeans. | Source

I’ve kept silent on this topic for too long now. I consider myself a very open-minded person, an advocate of “live and let live” and highly tolerant of 99.9% of all new and emerging trends. But, frankly there’s one that just needs to be called out, folks. It tickles my amygdala in such an uncomfortable way that it’s sent me running, not walking to my keyboard. I’m here to nip this new trend in the bud, whether or not I make enemies is simply inconsequential to me. I refuse to become a reclusive, prisoner in my own home agoraphobic unable to withstand even the briefest social interaction for fear of running into… acid washed jeans.

I have a highly impressionable tween, along with two emerging tweens, so this trend brings out the Mama Bear in me. When role models like Ashley Tisdale are spotted sporting the acid washed jeans look, I fear for my children. There are some 80’s fashions that died for a reason, aren’t meant to be reincarnated and just have no business back on the shelves.

Miley Cyrus wearing acid wash jeans in a modern way.
Miley Cyrus wearing acid wash jeans in a modern way. | Source

History of Acid Washed Jeans

Thankfully, the new methods utilized in acid washing jeans are geared towards creating a much tamer version than the gaudy 80’s fashion. Back in the rat pack days, when an Italian company, Rifle gave birth to acid washed jeans, the process involved soaking pumice in pure chlorine, vacuuming out the excess and washing or soaking the denim and stones together. You can “turn up or down the volume” by altering how much bleach is left in the pumice and how long the denim is left to soak. The desired effect is denim that’s been stripped of its top indigo color, introducing white specks from the bleach and allowing the bottom layers of blue denim to show through. Many people like the soft and relaxed feeling of these jeans. Levi Strauss called the term “acid wash” a misnomer since acid is not really used, they opted to call theirs “white wash”.

Ashely Tisdale
Ashely Tisdale | Source

Acid washed jeans spottings

Ashley Tisdale, High School Musical Star and fashionista role model for tweens near and far, please let bygones be bygones.  Imagine the repercussions for us Generation Xers when our little 10 year old daughters are begging for acid washed jeans.  All the awkward memories of our youth come flashing back from school dances ,Twisted Sister, Flashdance, mullets,  to metal hair.  My first pair of jeans were actually stone washed, a process similar to stone washing, except no bleach is added to the pumice.  They were just washed multiple times with the stones to produce the worn and faded look.  These days enzymes (biostoning) or a process called  “perlite” have replaced the stones for the stone wash and spray methods are utilized for the acid washed appearance.  Perlite is a type of silicon rock.  Although these newer methods are supposed to produce a tamer look that we sported in the 80’s, I’m  not quite seeing the “modern” shining through.  You be the judge.

Tips for Staying Modern in your Acid Wash Jeans: The Acid Test

If you insist this trend does indeed have a place in 2010, there are some essential guidelines you must abide by. Your goal is not to look like you just watched “Saved by the Bell”, played with your Pet Rock and lacquered your bangs.

  1. First, never ever wear more than one acid washed garment at a time. I promise, Jon Bon Jovi songs will be playing in your head and everyone’s around you. There’s absolutely nothing more dated than pairing the jeans with the jean jacket. ‘k?
  2. Never accessorize with 80’s fashion staples like gel bracelets, banana clips, scrunchies or jelly shoes. You want one and only one retro trend here, never PAIR any 80’s fashions with acid wash jeans. The only time this is acceptable is when you are going to a costume party.
  3. Just say “NO!” to acid washed leggings. This is inherently two 80’s fashion trends in one, again a no-no. And anything else acid washed just simply doesn’t look modern. I’ve seen some acid washed tee shirts strolling the streets, granted they as bad as the ripped and oversized workout shirts that had to expose one and only one shoulder courtesy Flashdance. But, the trend only extends itself to jeans, for now (and forever I hope).
  4. Don’t get all fussy. The top should be fairly basic and unfussy. A nice subtle floral print on top keeps things modern, balanced and feminine.
  5. Do pick edgy shoes IF you’re under 40 (and I’m being liberal here). Some chunky wedges create that cool, edgy look and keep you looking up to date. Now, I do have ONE exception to the “do not pair 80’s fashions”. I must say, Doc Martens and acid washed jeans do work together. They give you that funky, punk but modern look. I will warn you, however, this recommendation comes from a Dead Kennedys fan, so proceed with caution.
  6. Finally, acid washed jeans should be of the skinny jeans variety. Don’t think your favorite boyfriend’s jeans can pull off this look. They’re generally tightly fitting and tapered around the bottoms. Not everyone (myself included) can pull off this look.

How to Acid Wash Jeans


Acid Washing Your Own Jeans

It’s with great hesitation I share the method of home acid washing with you. I’m simply not sure you can be 100% trusted here. In fact, as far as acid washing goes, I really am a proponent of letting the experts do it. I’m a frugal gal, too… The good news is buying the jeans off the shelf is affordable. But, I realize there are those of you who already have jeans you’d like to “update”.. So, the frugal-minded woman in me prevails for those of you who are like-minded. Yes, I know how to do it. I “ruined” many a pair back in the 80’s this way, so read on.

There are two methods for acid washing, one is a bit easier than the other. Make sure you have your rubber gloves on, as bleach is very hard on the hands. It’s also preferable to find a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in the fumes. Also, it’s very wise to experiment on a pair of jeans you hate, or any denim fabric you have. You’ll definitely want a practice run here.

The Spray Method/Easy Method

  • Wet your garment in a bathtub or sink.
  • Wring out the excess moisture.
  • Spray on bleach from a squirt bottle in random places. Spray liberally and make sure to leave some spots uncovered.
  • Allow the bleached jeans to sit for a while, 10 minutes is a decent amount of time. But, depending upon the look you want, you may have them soak for shorter or longer.
  • When they’ve achieved the look you want, pop them in the washer and run the regular cycle. Voila!

The Pumice Stone Method

  • You will need to have pumice stone for this process, generally available at beauty stores or online. Again, make sure you have your gloves on.
  • Find a suitable plastic container, place the pumice in and fill container to the top with bleach. You want to make sure the stone is fully covered to saturate the porous pumice.
  • Allow stone to absorb the bleach, it takes 5 minutes tops.
  • Remove the stone and give it a few flicks to remove the excess bleach.
  • Now, you’ll gently rub the stone over your jeans. You may need to experiment with different methods to find the one you like the most. I used to purposefully create creases and wrinkles, and even wad up the denim a bit while I ran the stone over them. A tidier look will result in just passing the stone over the jeans. This is the look I’d be shooting for in 2010, by the way. Let your jeans sit for a while as you watch for the effect you’re trying to create.
  • When they look right to you, place your jeans in some water now to rinse out the bleach. Pop them in the washing machine and that’s all she wrote. Now you’re ready to rock your new little number (again with caution!!!).


Submit a Comment

  • Kristen Howe profile image

    Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

    This is a cool idea, Wordscribe. I would love to have a new pair of acid washed jeans. Voted up for useful!

  • Sophia Angel profile image

    Sophia Angel 3 years ago from Salt Lake City, Utah

    Love the way you have explained. Wanna try out on my old jeans first. May I know will this affect on jeans quality?

  • wordscribe43 profile image

    Elsie Nelson 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Yeah- they're back, cloverleaf. I've had to swallow and embrace the fad. I have a 13 year old that must wear them.

  • cloverleaffarm profile image

    Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

    Great hub. I, too thought this fad went out in the 80's. You are right, some fads died for a reason. Never heard the term "snow white" jeans.

  • mysisters profile image

    mysisters 7 years ago

    Nice Hub. These are some great tips and steps on how to make your own acid wash jeans.

  • Jai Warren profile image

    Jai Warren 7 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

    Hey Wordy, fashion is cyclical! Bell bottoms, been there done that. Skinny jeans, high school 1960s. Acid washed, throw some LSD in your Maytag... Voila!!! Loved it. Great Hub, Ciao!

  • wordscribe43 profile image

    Elsie Nelson 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

    Thanks, Kimberly... I can envision you wearing the matching acid washed jeans and jacket set now. Not good.

    Prasetio, thanks for the visit!

    Carrie, I'm so glad it's not just me, for crying out loud. I honestly feel a little nauseous when I see the look out in public. I went roller skating with my kids the other day and had to pinch myself in the hopes I hadn't accidentally boarded a time machine. There was actually a woman with one of those gnarly rat tail combs hanging out of her jeans (of course, acid washed). Had to leave.

  • Carrie.M profile image

    Carrie.M 7 years ago from MI, United States

    Great Hub and tip but I still don't think I am going to go there...again. Just looking at a pair of acid wash jeans brings back horrific 80's flashbacks. Very entertaining!

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Good information from you. I learn much from you. I am glad to follow your tips. Very useful for us. Thank you very much. ~prasetio

  • profile image

    kimberlyslyrics 7 years ago

    oh thank goodness, I thought you dropped acid and and am so relieved I am commenting and agreeing and still have not finished the hub, though I dropped bucid, which possibly could be why I acted a bit dramatic

    But you are hilarious and really is a great hub

    So glad you can't see what I'm wearing more than one of [sigh]