Have you ever wondered what creates those bleached, vintage looks on your favorite jeans and denim jackets? How your brand new pair of jeans looks beautifully worn and faded, but without any wear and tear of the denim itself? This is the end result of a process known as denim washing.
After the denim is dyed with indigo, it is washed with different materials that produce a variety of effects on the texture and the color of the denim fabric. Mechanical washes include rinse washes, stone washes, as well as laser abrasion whereas chemical washes include acid and bleach treatments, as well as enzyme fading and ozone treatments. These are five major types of denim washes:
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- Rinse Wash
Rinse washes, also known as mill washes, are the simplest kind of denim washes. They simply remove the excess indigo dyes out of the fabric and are used to create the darkest shades of jeans. This wash uses the least amount of water out of all washes.
- Stone Wash
Stonewash consists of washing denim fabrics with pumice stones in order to produce distressed and faded looks. The pumice stones are loaded into the washing machines along with the denim and abrade the denim during the wash cycle, removing the indigo dye as well as creating a worn look.
Stone washing has a huge environmental impact. The grit from the pumice stones can get into the pockets of garments and has to be physically removed. This requires the denim to be washed several times in order to get rid of the dust and grit, the disposal of which creates large amounts of waste. It can take more than 70 liters of water to remove the pumice residues out of one load of denim!
- Acid Wash
The acid wash process uses pumice stones that are presoaked in acid to create either yellow splotches or a snow-like whitening effect, as shown in the picture below. Common acids used are potassium permanganate and sodium hypochlorite, which contaminate the water during the wash cycle and can produce toxic health hazards if not properly disposed of.
- Bleach Wash
Bleach washing is similar to acid wash, in that bleach is used to alter the color of denim instead of acid. The oxidative bleach is used with or without pumice stones to destroy the indigo dye molecules during the wash. Bleach can be splattered or painted on denim in order to create beautiful patterns without putting it through a wash cycle.
However, bleach can cause damage to the denim fabric as well as cause water pollution when the denim is washed during the finishing stages.
- Enzyme Wash
Enzyme washing has been developed as a new way to reduce the impact of stone and acid washes on the environment. Cellulase enzymes are commonly used and are naturally derived, so they reduce adverse effects on the environment. Many enzyme washes can be done without water, thus saving a precious resource, but some are used along with pumice stones in order to reduce the wash time.
We created HMS to make fashion more sustainable and less hazardous for our planet. Our HandMade Stones use 20% less water than normal stone washes and are biodegradable, so they don’t pollute rivers and lakes. Check out our website to learn more about our company and our range of sustainable products. Happy denim wearing!