Aging T-Shirts In Six Easy Steps: Salt & Washing Soda (Part 5)

container of salt, container of super washing soda, a variety of sandpaper samples, and a clear plastic mixing cup

Getting Saltee (Groan...)


Materials: Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate), Salt, Washing Machine, Dryer

Methods: 1. Mix 1/4 cup sodium carbonate with 2 cups salt.

2. Add shirts to wash; set to “hot” or “high”.

3. When the water reaches its apex, add the mixture, along with a standard dose of detergent.

4. When the wash is complete, move the load over to the dryer, which should also be set to “high” (heat acts to break down the cotton).

5. Repeat 3-5 times, halving the amounts of washing soda and salt in each load as you go.

6. To finish, apply acetone between cycles.

(Likewise, two related approaches involving sandpaper and a vinegar & tea soak, can also be incorporated here. They will be explored in the next two installments of this project, accordingly!)

Results & Conclusions: This technique works, but its effects are subtle more than pronounced. There is some degradation of the print, as seen in the pictures embedded below, and the shirt is softer to the touch. Ultimately, the process is mildly successful but also time and energy-consuming. Is it a true short cut that cheats the passage of time? I’ll leave that for the reader to judge.

The Surf Nicaragua tee was, arguably, our best, most convincing work:

two blue surf nicaragua t-shirts that have been faded

Stressed (left), more stressed (right).


The tee on the left was run through the wash process five times; the tee on the left, three, followed by a dip in the bleach tub. Each tee was also treated with acetone prior to washing.

Compare with the following shot which also includes a brand new tee on the left for contrast.

three blue surf nicaragua t-shirts, one is new and two are faded

From left to right: brand new, washed 5 times, washed 3 times (and then bleached).


Take a walk (baseball pun intended) on the wild side:

two white t-shirts with black wriring, one is faded and one is newStressed on the left, new on the right. Note that this shirt (the one of the left) was also soaked in a tea bath, a strategy that will be explored in our final chapter.


We also turned this trick on our new Firebirds design, which clearly shows significant color loss:

two white t-shirts with red and blue screenprinting, one is faded and one is new

Treated on the left, untreated on the right.


Once more, with feeling:

close up of white t-shirt with faded blue and red screen printing

Flyway to the danger zone.


Next: Sandpaper!