I found a pair of $5 Walmart jeans which were too short, but since the plan was to cut them off into denim shorts I happily handed over my fiver. When I got home and looked into my shorts drawer I saw that I already had three pair of denim shorts. Wa-wa!
Getting dressed later I was wishing for a pair of white denim shorts when it hit me – bleach ’em. One hitch though – they’re made of 31% cotton, 54% ramie, 14% polyester and 1% spandex. I wrote to Dr. Laundry over at Clorox.com – which BTW is a great resource for all kinds of cleaning and laundry dilemmas – and this is her reply:
This is a great question. Because the fabric includes a small percentage of spandex, you should not wash the shorts with Clorox Regular-Bleach since it can cause yellowing of this fiber type. You could try Rit Color Remover (available at drug stores) to strip the color (I’m assuming the shorts are blue, although denim does come in a variety of colors) but it’s difficult to know how successful you will be at getting the shorts to turn white. A lot depends on what type of dye was used, and how well it was applied. Also, denim is made by weaving colored yarns with white yarns–if the polyester portion of the yarn is colored, Rit won’t likely strip that away. Testing a hidden part of the shorts first with a few drops of the Rit solution is a good idea to see what change you might expect from the treatment. If you decide to give the Rit a try, please let me know how it turns out, and thanks for writing.
I then asked Dr. Laundry if bluing might help with any yellowing – and here is her answer:
That’s great that you have extra fabric from the cut-off pant legs that you can experiment with. I’m not sure how effective bluing would be at masking any yellowing that may result from stripping the color. Bluing imparts a faint blue color to fabric that is perceived as white–depending on how much yellowing there is and how concentrated the bluing solution is, I suppose you could end up with a slight green tint to the fabric! This is where having all that extra fabric to experiment with will be very helpful. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out. Be sure to take some pictures, too!
Luckily – since these were cut offs I have plenty of fabric to do a test run – or two – or three. I’ll do what it takes to get my white denim shorts. Of course if they don’t turn out I may end up dying them, but that’s Plan B and I haven’t even started on Plan A yet. So back to the bleach bucket.
Update: I bleached the heck out of those denims and they didn’t change color one little bit. The takeaway here? If you’re buying something that’s not a natural fiber don’t expect to be able to rely on bleaching or dying to make any significant changes. Since I also realized that these jeans are not very soft and I’ve been avoiding wearing them the other takeaway here is that no amount of refashioning is going to make a stiff fabric soft. I’m not a denim tote bag sort of gal so these denims will be donated.