How to Get Stains Out of Vintage Denim

In this article, I will discuss how to remove stains from vintage denim. I have successfully removed stains with everything from hairspray to Clorox.

I mention bleach specifically in this article because it is the most effective way of removing tough stains.

Please be advised that any time you use bleach on your clothes, pre-test an area first or better yet, test all over your garment before proceeding.

White vinegar is also helpful when used to neutralize chlorine bleach after bleaching out a stain.

Vinegar can be applied directly to the garment or rubbed into an old toothbrush and then lightly brushed onto the material in small areas (start with one spot and see if it lightens). If you are concerned about residual vinegar scent after it dries, you can apply a little white vinegar to an old toothbrush and then brush the area.

Bleaching Tips

If you are working on a new denim garment, pre-wash it in hot water with detergent before bleaching.

 This will help prevent the dye from running onto other areas of your garment while using bleach. If your garment is made of pure cotton or some other fibre that does not bleed easily, you can apply plain bleach directly to the stain without washing first.

Remember that more is not better when it comes to bleaches. Rubbing upwards into the fabric will help bleach work better because gravity pulls the liquid towards the ground rather than having it run off of your hand or down your arm. If you rub gently, this should not damage the fabric.

If you are working with lighter coloured denim, take steps to protect yourself by keeping your hands covered with rubber gloves or cotton gloves/mittens and wearing old clothes in case the garment gets messy while working on it.

Be sure to work in a ventilated room so that fumes from the bleach do not make you sick (or get on another part of your body, such as your face). Bleach will damage most countertops and floors if spilt, so wear an apron or some other covering for protection.

Make sure that whatever container you use to hold the detergent or bleach does not leak.  You may want to put your garments into a bathtub before bleaching them to catch spills and also prevent any of the bleach from dripping onto the floor.

The best time to do laundry is early in the morning or late at night when there are fewer people around to be affected by fumes.

If you live in an apartment building (which I’m guessing most of you do because it’s cheaper), make sure that your neighbours won’t mind if they start smelling chlorine bleaches outside of their own homes!  

Once you have finished bleaching out a stain, wash the garment as soon as possible so that any residual chemical products don’t affect other garments or stains on clothing nearby. Also remember to remove gloves, discard them and wash your hands after working with bleach! Once again, test a small area first before proceeding.  If all goes well, your hands and the surrounding area will remain bleachy and not your clothes.

How to Wash Denim

When washing vintage jeans for the first time, I recommend doing a hot water wash with detergent or colour guard to make sure that the dye does not run onto other garments in your washing/drying machine.

 Also remember to remove any non-denim items from your washer before you start, because denim will bleed onto them! It is possible that colour may run onto other parts of your jeans while wearing them, especially if they are worn frequently.

This is called “breaking in” which refers to the natural fading process unique to each individual garment.

Vintage denim is made using different weaving techniques than modern-day denims, which makes them more susceptible to dye migration.  

That is why the best way to get stains out of vintage denim is by using bleach, not detergents or soaps!  


Please remember that having clean, stain-free clothes is a luxury for most people in the world.  

Don’t feel guilty about your stains!

Hanging up stains on hangers or donating them to Goodwill are both better options than throwing them away because there are many people who will really appreciate second-hand clothing with hidden gems inside, such as stretch marks from being too big!

Don’t overwork your garments by using bleach excessively unless you have really tough stains because excessive washing and bleaching can damage certain types of fabrics.

If you find any other cool vintage laundry tips, please share them with us so we can all get our vintage on without destroying our wardrobes!

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