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Sanding Jeans: Essential Tools and Techniques for Destroyed Denim

Sanding jeans has become a popular DIY trend these days.. new jeans aren’t so new, well what I mean is they may be new but look aged.

So before you decided on buying a distressed pair, take a look in your wardrobe and grab some of these household items (see below) to DIY your denim into something less ordinary.

Take tips from Amber Kingsley a writer and blogger living in Southern California, interested in DIY fashion, and is always looking for new ways to personalize her wardrobe.


How to Use Different Kinds of Tools For Sanding Jeans

Everyone loves the feel of broken-in denim. The comfort and personality lent by wear and tear not only help the jeans conform more to their owner’s body, but tell a lot about them. Although nowadays it’s possible to buy many jeans “pre-distressed,” it is undoubtedly more cost-effective, personal and fun to do it yourself through sanding jeans.

There are several ways you can distress your own jeans at home for a cheaper personalized look:


Probably the cheapest and most popular way of distressing jeans is by using sandpaper. This achieves a worn look without resorting to bleaching or making actual holes. Some denim gurus will recommend using a cheese grater, but sandpaper (particularly a sanding block) is cheaper and allows for finer scraping. For the best results, you’ll want to use 220 grit or something even finer.

Some great places to use sandpaper are:

  • Back Pockets– By putting cards in your back pockets, it’s possible to sand the edges to simulate typical wallet-shaped wear.
  • Pant Legs– Pant legs incur most of the wear on jeans, so some places to sand down the most are the backs of the knees, the front of the thighs, and the bottoms of the legs.


This tool of the trade is most effective on the hems and seams of your jeans. Razors should be used subtly, if even at all, for making small cuts on the outsides of pockets and the bottoms of the legs. Razors will also allow you to separate and cut the indigo-dyed threads from the white cotton threads, which will maintain the structure of the jeans while getting rid of some of their color.


Perhaps the most obvious way of “destroying” jeans, scissors are most useful for making holes. The best use of scissors is for making artificial holes in the knees, where jeans are most often worn through. For this method it’s best to put the jeans on first and mark where your kneecaps are, just to make sure the cuts are lined up correctly.

A Deck of Cards or a Block of Wood

While any small hard surface will do, decks of cards and wooden blocks are most easily found around the house. A small, flat surface like this is important because it helps create a level, hard surface that you can put inside of one of the pant legs in order to keep from cutting or bleaching through to the other side.

This will also keep your cuts and sanding more level and evenly-distributed, resulting in a more natural appearance. This will also help a great deal when working with the pockets. By putting a deck of cards in the pockets, it’s possible to work on the seams and surface with greater ease.


Bleaching is another method of getting a worn look out of your jeans, but it is the trickiest. Bleach will leave discolored splotches, and should be used in moderation!

With this method, however, it’s possible to add a distressed look along with interesting patterns! Making patterns with bleach can be done several ways:

  • Paintbrush- Try dipping a paintbrush in bleach to draw your own bleach designs! Use a large brush for sweeping strokes or a small brush for intricate designs.
  • Spray Bottle– This method, also known as the resist method, is used to create patterns with a spray bottle and stencils. Lay the stencil over your jeans and spray!

You’ll not only want to put cardboard in the jeans to control soaking through to the other side, but you’ll want to make sure you don’t want to bleach the clothes you’re wearing. You’ll also want rubber gloves and a plastic sheet to cover your work surface.

Things to Remember

Distressing your own jeans, particularly through the technique of sanding jeans, can be very fun and artistic, but there are several things to keep in mind to avoid ruining your jeans.

  • Lighter-colored jean will be easier to distress than darker jeans. This will require overall less sanding, bleaching and cutting.
  • Stick to areas that experience the most wear: hems, seams, back pockets and knees. This will result in a more realistic-looking wear pattern.
  • Start off slow, and decide from there. It’s best to add a little bit of distressing at a time, because holes that are too big or overly bleached jeans cannot be repaired!
  • After doing all of your distressing, you’ll want to put your jeans through the wash in order to get the most natural look.

As long as you keep these things in mind, you’ll be on your way to having trendy, affordable jeans in no time!

Amber Kingsley is a writer and blogger based in Southern California. After a short punk rock phase in high school, she became interested in DIY fashion, and is always looking for new ways to personalize her wardrobe.

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