How to Dye White or Faded Jeans

dyed blue jeans
Courtesy of Rit Studios

Jeans are a wardrobe staple. And while blue remains the most popular color, today jeans are every color from black to white to orange. If you want to change or freshen the color of a favorite pair, there are a couple of ways you can do it yourself.

Use Bluing to Refresh Blue Jeans

Bluing is a laundry product often used to brighten white fabrics that have yellowed. The blue pigment tricks the eye making the fabric look whiter. Since liquid bluing is a highly concentrated colloidal suspension of blue iron powder and water, it works great to darken and refresh blue jeans.

Supplies You'll Need

  • Liquid Bluing
  • Faded Jeans
  • Non-plastic Measuring Spoons
  • Glass Quart Jar
  • Porcelain Sink or Washing Machine

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Jeans can be refreshed in a washer or in a porcelain or stainless steel sink. Never use a fiberglass sink or tub or any plastic container. The blue stains will be nearly permanent.
  2. Fill the sink or washer with enough water to completely submerge the blue jeans. They should be totally wet before adding the bluing.
  3. You will need to experiment a bit to achieve the level of darkness you desire for the fabric. Use up to one teaspoon of liquid bluing for each pair of jeans. Always dilute the bluing in one quart of cold water before adding to the sink or washer. Never pour bluing directly on the fabric because spotting will occur. 
  4. Allow the jeans to soak in the bluing solution for at least ten minutes. You can then wash as usual with detergent but do not add bleach, fabric softener, or any other laundry product. There will be no hazardous fumes, but the other products will cause spotting or staining.
  5. The jeans can be air-dried or tossed in the dryer. Repeated washings will remove the bluing so if the color is too dark, simply wash several times.
  1. If you cannot find buttons to match your newly dyed jeans, dye them yourself.

How to Dye Jeans With Rit Dye

Whether you want to create colored jeans in your favorite hue or simply refresh and deepen the color of faded jeans, a commercial liquid dye is a simple method. You can even mix two colors to get the exact one you want. Rit Dye offers a simple dyeing technique in a bucket.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 100% White Cotton Jeans
  • Rit Liquid Dye (1 Bottle)
  • Fabric Scrap or paper towel to test dye color
  • One Cup Salt
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Four-gallon dishpan, pot, or bucket
  • measuring cup
  • large metal spoon
  • paper towels
  • plastic table cover
  • rubber gloves

Select Your Color

Use any color Rit Dye or create a custom color by mixing two different dyes. You can add a touch of black dye to the dye bath to make the color it even richer and darker. To darken faded blue jeans, the recommended color is Denim Blue.

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Prewash jeans with a good laundry detergent to remove any finishes that may interfere with dye absorption.
  2. Spread a plastic table cover or plastic cloth on the floor or the counter to prevent stains from spills.
  3. Place dishpan or bucket on the plastic and fill with three gallons very hot tap water (140° F). Note: If water is not hot enough, heat some water in a teakettle or in the microwave.
  4. As a guideline, one-half cup (half bottle) of liquid dye will dye one pair of jeans. To achieve a dark, more intense color, use the entire bottle of dye (one cup).
  5. Dye Preparation: Wearing rubber gloves, shake dye bottle well and pour into the water. Then measure one cup of salt; dissolve in two cups very hot water and stir well. Add to the dye bath.
  6. Add a squirt of dishwashing liquid to the bath and stir well.
  7. Test the dye color to be sure you are satisfied. You can test using a cotton fabric scrap or by dipping a piece of paper towel into the dye bath. Note: If color is too light, add more dye. If color is too dark, add more water.
  1. Wet the jeans in plain warm water and squeeze out excess water.
  2. Immerse jeans in the dye bath and stir with a metal spoon continuously for 20 minutes, then occasionally for 10 minutes or until the desired color is achieved (up to one hour). The longer the jeans remain in the dye bath, the darker the color will be. (Color will appear lighter when dry.) Stirring helps to ensure an even color distribution.
  3. Wearing the rubber gloves, remove jeans from the dye bath and squeeze out excess dye. Rinse in cold running water until water begins to run clear. Then machine-wash separately with an old towel or two or hand wash jeans in warm water with mild detergent.

Disclosure: All projects, techniques, and photos included here are either the sole property of Rit Dye or are paid for content where Rit owns the rights to distribute it to promote Rit’s products. We hereby grant about.com the rights to use this content.