{updated September 2020}

Dirty looking denim, distressed denim, old and used looking denim – well, you know the deal! The more distressed, the more expensive.

So, it’s all really very simple: you can spend big bucks and get your dirty looking (aka distressed) denim ready made from any store, or you can also DIY and make them look dirty your own way.

If you’re not familiar with dirty denim, let me explain. Dirty denim jeans are smudged. The denim is faded in all the places you would expect wrinkles and distressing. It is a comfy kind of look, and the denim feels quite soft. But there’s more. Dirty denim has an orangish-gold tinge. It really does look dirty.

It’s easy to create the dirty denim look on jeans and other denim items, too. You can do this by over-dyeing jeans, skirts and jackets. All you need are some Rit dye (available in supermarkets, discount department stores and online) and these instructions:

Round up these materials:

– One package of tan Rit dye powder.

– ½ cup, or 4 ounces, of liquid tangerine Rit dye (optional).

– Distressed denim jeans, skirt, jacket, etc.

– Rubber gloves.

– Washing machine.

1. Turn the washing machine on, and let it fill with hot water. You want the water very hot, about 140 F. You may need to turn your water heater to “hot” a few hours in advance to achieve this very high temperature.

2. Add the tan Rit dye powder to the water.

3. Submerge the jeans or other items in the mixture, and soak them for 10 minutes. Close the lid of the washer to maintain the high temperature.

4. Rinse the items, and then wash and rinse again. You do not need to add detergent.

5. Dry in the usual manner.

6. Repeat steps 1-5 with the liquid tangerine Rit dye to give the denim an added “dirty” look (optional).

7. After dyeing, clean the washing machine by running it through a complete wash cycle with detergent and 1 to 2 cups of bleach.

There you go, dirty denim, for a fraction of the price.

{note from the editor: I once accidentally spilled some coffee on my already distressed jeans and loved the look, though not the scalding hot feeling lol! Sure, once you wash them, it all comes out. But you can always spill again (with ice-coffee)! ;-)}

And if you are not convinced, check out some ready made dirty denim from Balmain, ASOS Design, and Naked & Famous.



  1. I like my jeans soft and faded. These jeans look like someone fell in an Indian outdoor toilet.

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