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Dye It Yourself: How To Over-dye Your Denim Pants

Fade is the thing for denim pants. While some may think it is "wasteful” to over-dye the pair that you have developed fades on, over-dyeing in fact makes the pair in richer blue without completely wiping off their beautiful features, such as “whiskers" and “honeycombs.” It gives a new chapter to the history of your piece! In case you have a pair of which you are not sure and cannot get rid (say, one of those pairs from 80’s), over-dyeing is a great, fun way to refresh and “upcycle” it. Here is how.

Sample pants: Levi’s 501 (size W35 x L30)

You will need:

- 250 cc of vinegar (or 25 cc of acetic acid, industrial condensed vinegar)

- A pair of latex gloves

- 2 buckets whose capacity is 5 gallons or larger. Oval, wide shape is easier to use. It could be stainless steel or plastic.

- Plastic sheet to cover the floor if needed

- Laundry machine


1. Soak the denim pants in water.

2. Put on rubber gloves. Mix 50 g of Yamato Indigo Dye with 10 liters of water and stir well.

*This is the amount for the sample pants (approx. 800 g). Weight your pants and modify the amount of Yamato Indigo powder and water accordingly. The amounts of Yamato Indigo and water that you need are approx. 5 % of the total weight of denim and 1 liter per 5 g of Yamato Indigo respectively.

3. Skim off any bubbles from the surface of the vat using a wood stick or a piece of paper.

4. Take the pants out of water, squeeze them well, and dip them in the indigo vat. Make sure that the entire fabric is submerged in the vat, and massage the fabric for 10 min. This 10 min feels as if it might last forever, but you should keep massaging it for a darker, more even results, especially around waist, front rise, pockets and seams.

5. Take the pants out of the dye liquid, squeeze them well, and then expose them to the air for 10 min. The fabric may look green at first, but it will soon turn blue as it oxidizes.

6. Repeat step 4 and 5 one or two times to get darker results.

7. After dyeing a few times, the liquid in the vat starts to look less purplish and more matt bluish. This means it is weakened. If you want to keep dipping the pants darker, add 15 g of caustic soda and sodium hydrosulfite and mix well: The liquid returns to its original state. Repeat the dyeing and oxidizing process one or two more times.

8. Once the pants are dyed in rich, purplish blue, rinse them in water well. Then, put them in a washing machine and run the regular washing cycle in cold water (Do not add detergent) and rinse them thoroughly.

9. Pour 250 cc of regular vinegar (or 25 cc of acetic acid) into 5 liters of water and mix well. Soak the pants in the solution for 10 min.

10. Take the pants out of the solution, rinse them in water again, and dry them naturally.

Now enjoy your upcycled denim jeans!


- Vintage or worn-out denim dyes better. It is because the yarns are torn down and take dye pigments better. Most brand-new denims have coating on them. For dyeing a brand-new denim, boil it for 15 to 30 min to rinse off the coating before dyeing.

- After dyeing, avoid washing with whites for the first few rounds, or until the color stops running.

- In case you add caustic soda and sodium hydrosulfite to Yamato Indigo, add vinegar to the dye liquid before disposing it.

- For extra color protection, we provide a color-fixing agent for Yamato Indigo on demand. Please email to

If you are still not confident in dyeing your pair all by yourself, join in our Denim Over Dye Workshop on Saturday, August 5 ($65 per seat). Private session is also available for minimum two seats/pairs ($130). Or, send your pants to us, we will dye them for you at $80 per pair. For any inquiries, email to



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