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A lot of jeans in different colors I've bought over the last few years got faded lines after washing. The lines appear directly after washing, and also stay when ironed. I've tried most tips I found on the internet, without success, including:

  • washing them at a lower temperature (below 40°C)
  • air drying, not tumble drying them
  • washing them inside out
  • washing them with as few spin cycles as possible
  • buying higher-quality jeans
  • using (or not using) fabric softener, dryer balls, washing powder/liquid, etc.

The only two things that have some effect are ironing them immediately after washing, and rubbing the fabric against itself in the hope of transferring some dye to the faded lines. This does not really address the root cause of the fading though, which is what I would like to find out.

What am I doing wrong? If it's a problem with the washing machine, it might be useful to find out what to look out for when exchanging/fixing it.

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  • "The only two things that have any effect..." Do the better quality jeans also get these lines? Are the lines caused by other clothing that you wash them with? Are you using too much detergent in the belief it will clean the clothes better? Mar 11, 2023 at 20:45
  • Yes, both less and more expensive jeans so far showed the same lines unfortunately. I wash the jeans with clothing of similar colors, and I usually use the recommended amount of detergent (I've also tried a couple of different brands).
    – DK2AX
    Mar 12, 2023 at 17:35
  • Once the damage happens, how do you suppose it will be undone by trying the different options you list? Mar 12, 2023 at 17:40
  • The options listed related to what I've tried on new jeans (i.e. before there is damage), obviously not on jeans that already have faded lines.
    – DK2AX
    Mar 12, 2023 at 20:26
  • Once the jeans have been creased, they may never be completely removed by washing or ironing, and the lines probably follow the high points of the creases. They may have been creased in the manufacturing process. Some of my jeans have exhibited these marks, but not all of them. Mar 12, 2023 at 20:29

5 Answers 5

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As noted in other answers, this is caused by abrasion.
It is not really caused by bleaching - this would result in a more even fade - although it could be a contributory factor.

Cause: Your washing machine is not 're-shuffling' the items sufficiently as they are turned over in the drum. They're assuming a single screwed-up position then being rubbed around, always the same creases presented to the drum & other garments in the machine.
Natural dyes will make this tendency more apparent - this is how they 'stone-wash' them so easily in the first place.

Cure: Fewer simultaneous items per load, to give the washer more chance to mix them up, move the folds to new areas as the wash cycle progresses. The downside may be that these already-worn areas will now become the garments' 'favourite' places to crease again - as the fabric is now thinnest/weakest at these points - making this harder to apply remedially than for new garments.
Washing inside-out is likely to help, overall, though internal creases can still abrade against other inner surfaces of the same garment.

Prevent any unintentional additional bleaching by using a modern colour-safe detergent.

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  • Virolino, Elmy and Tetsujin correctly identified the cause of the marks shown. In addition to his suggested cures, try using the 'delicate' cycle which has less aggressive agitation. Good luck.
    – Stan
    Mar 18, 2023 at 14:52
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According to my own observation, jeans are not mass colored - they are colored only on one side, the inside remains white-ish.

What you see there are the wrinkles formed during washing - and they lost the color because of the friction caused by the washing, combined with the de-coloring power of the detergent, and possibly combined with the power of the chlorine in the water.

So long story short, you are doing everything OK. depending on the quality of the jeans, this experience will be stronger or weaker, but overall it is the "intended behavior".

So stop worrying, relax, and enjoy your pants. Those lines actually give your jeans their personality. They are like the "sexy" scars of the bad boys. Do not fight the wrinkles, but embrace them. :)

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  • " they are coloured only on one side" - this is because of how jeans are woven. The dying is done before weaving. One set of threads is dyed, the other is white. The way they are woven leaves the warp on one face & the weft on the other. It's 'an accident of design'.
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 20, 2023 at 11:11
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As virolino correctly stated, the lines are the creases that form in the washing machine and the color fades quicker along these lines because of the friction.

In my experience, turning the jeans inside out before washing can slow the fading down, because the dyed outside surfaces rub against each other.

The type of laundry detergent can also make a difference. All-purpose detergent (powder as well as liquid) often contains small quantities of bleach to prevent white fabric from yellowing. That was a big selling factor in the past - keeping your undies, bed linens and table cloths snow white - but has lost its importance in the last decades. Special detergent for colorful clothes contains no bleach and may even contain some color fasteners.

And lastly, it's not the retail price that determines how quickly a jeans fades, it's the dye. A few decades ago artificial dyes were much more commonly used because they resisted fading. Today the rugged, stone-washed look is desired by many customers, so the industry switched back to natural dyes (like indigo) that is known to fade quicker. Unfortunately manufacturers don't advertise the type of dye used in their products. Whenever you buy a new pair of jeans, look for a dark, intense and even color on the inside and outside and avoid anything that looks stone-washed or bleached in some areas.

If you think about throwing an intact pair of jeans away just because the color faded too much for your taste, consider re-dying it instead in a similar color. It's not complicated, but you should follow the instructions on the fabric dye packages precisely (soaking the jeans in clean water before adding them to the dye bath is important to avoid uneven patches!).

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Since the lines appear around the border of a color, I believe they were caused by the bleaching (or perhaps printing) process that made the jeans, and just become apparent when the user washes them.

Stone-washing is a slow process used to give denim a softer hand and a faded appearance. Acid-washing (really, bleaching) is far faster, but might lead to subsequent damage.

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Jeans are designed to fade. First of all, the dye used for jeans is not very stable, and the least reason for it to fade will fade it. Secondly, the yarn used for weaving jeans is soft and easily damaged, resulting in softer spots where the colour has faded.

That is the basic reason your jeans have faded lines, it comes from the basic design of jeans. If you want trousers without the faded effects you best chose an other kind of fabric.
To minimize the effects of fading is, what is already given in the question, wash inside out, soft handling, low spin cycles and so on. Hand washing (more rinsing and no rubbing and no wringing at all) might be better still.

If you prefer jeans, you better learn to like the fading, it comes with the fabric.

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