Learn how to distress and acid wash a t-shirt with me!

Street style with acid wash
My first acid wash T!

Who here went through a low-key, Avril Lavigne, punk rocker-ish phase back in high school? I definitely did and I never left it 100% in the past! My personal style never has and never will have a category or label. I bounce around from extremely preppy, to euro-chic, to grunge/punk, to whatever we’d classify Zooey Deschanel (love you Zooey!). I’ve never fallen into one category, it’s just too limiting for me. I can’t predict what my mood or a certain occasion will inspire and that’s what makes fashion so fun! You can be whoever you want to be, whenever you want to be. The only drawback is that being versatile requires a very large closet. 😉

Like so many of us, I’m loving the tie-dye trend and really can’t get enough. However, since I’m trying to limit spending during these uncertain times, I didn’t want to invest in a tie-dye kit and fresh white clothing. So, I decided to embrace my edgy high school days and try my hand at distressing and acid washing shirts that I already had in my closet. I’ve always loved the distressed acid wash look, but buying those pieces can get pricey! If you prefer to buy rather than DIY here are a few cool options that I found: this one and this one. But if you’re up for a little DIY project then let me tell you how to distress and acid wash a t-shirt!

You Will Need

  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Spray Bottle
  • Plastic Garbage Bag or Table Cloth
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Rubber Bands (optional)

Get Prepped

Pinpoint a few items from your closet that you’d be willing to totally redesign. (I chose this rep T-Shirt that I bought to wear to Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour – best concert ever). I recommend finding items with bold colours because then you’ll really be able to see the acid wash magic. Keep in mind that black items won’t necessarily bleach to white, they tend to go a bit peachy/orange no matter how much bleach you pour (see mine as an example).

  1. Once you’ve decided on the item/s you want to distress and acid wash you will need to set up your DIY area. Since this project requires A LOT of bleach you’ll need to make sure you’re working somewhere that won’t be destroyed by the chemicals. I chose my kitchen counter and laid down some garbage bags as an extra precaution to protect the countertops.
  2. Now it’s time to prepare the solution. I used an old spray bottle and mixed one part Clorox bleach with one part water. You can also use pure bleach, but I found that you get similar results both ways so why not save some of your chemicals for cleaning.  🙂

How To Distress The Fabric

It's a lewk!
It’s a lewk!

You can absolutely skip the distressing and go straight to the acid wash in Step 5, but if you want an even more grungy aesthetic then I recommend trying out this step. Distressing the fabric just means that you are creating tiny holes, rips, and tears to get a more vintage vibe. It’s actually a lot easier than you’d think!  I did most of the distressing around the collar, the chest/shoulders, and toward the bottom of the shirt. I also scraped the “rep” letters to make sure the distressing looked cohesive. I also cut off the hems of my sleeves to get an even edgier look, I thought they just seemed too perfect otherwise. There are two ways to do this, I went with Option 2 because it was quicker, but you do you!

  1. Pinch the fabric and cut tiny little holes wherever you desire. The bigger the pinched fabric, the bigger the hole. *This method is more calculated, but also takes a lot longer. If you want to make your tiny holes bigger you can simply wiggle your finger in the hole and spread it out. I watched this video for some extra help!
  2. The scraping method is so much quicker, but much less predictable. Open your scissors as wide as possible and then press the blade against the fabric and begin scraping the fabric with the sharp edge with a pulling down motion. You will quickly see the tears and tiny holes. Watch your fingers! Just remember that you can always go back and add more holes or more bleach, so start with less and work your way up from there.

How To Acid Wash The Fabric

Once you’re happy with the distressing you can move on to the acid wash. Be sure to put on your rubber gloves before bleach so that your hands don’t stink afterwards. 🙂 There are a few ways to do the acid washing, it all just depends on what look you have in mind. You can do the traditional spiral that you would do with rubber bands when tie-dying or you can do more of a splatter look (like mine). Personally, I think the splatter look is best with distressing and acid wash. Simply lay your t-shirt flat and then mist in various spots with your spray bottle. I sprayed closer to the fabric in places that I wanted to be more saturated with bleach. The bleach will change the fabric’s color almost instantly so you’ll easily be able to see what design you’re creating and where you need more of the solution. For more dots and drag dots you can dip your q-tip into the solution and place where desired. I also flicked the q-tip to create a splatter look. Don’t forget to do the back too! Some of the solution will soak through to both sides, but you’ll still need to go over it to improve the design.

Double Spiral
Double Spiral

Finishing Touches

  1. When you love your new design, rinse the t-shirt (or whatever you’re acid washing) with water to remove any excess bleach.
  2. Wash and dry your t-shirt by itself for the first wash or two to make sure you don’t bleach any of your other clothes.
  3. Style your shirt with a pair of distressed jeans or jean shorts and some fun jewellery for the perfect, edgy look!

Now you’ve successfully learned how to distress and acid wash a t-shirt! If you try this method be sure to let me know how it went in the comments! Any other DIY projects you’d like to see? Let me know and happy DIYing!

Xx, Ashley

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