Garment Wash Finishes for Denim

Denim has been a crucial textile to society ever since twill weaving was developed nearly one thousand years ago (Dickson). In the past, denim production was an expensive and time-consuming process. Originally a thick and bulky fabric, denim had to undergo extensive procedures to achieve desired serviceability (PatentStorm). Denim production and quality has improved over the past millennium due to technological advances and new inventions. In 1989, inventors Robert Jacobs and Edward Davis devised a new method for producing and manufacturing denim known as garment wash finishes (PatentStorm). Garment wash finishes made it possible to produce denim fabrics that "duplicate the look and feel of washed and tumble dried garments . . . which can be produced in a relatively inexpensive and quick procedure (PatentStorm)."

The garment wash finish method focuses on the importance of warp yarns. According to the textbook, warp yarns are "the group of yarns threaded through the loom in a woven fabric, parallel to the selvage (Kadolph 489)." Jacobs and Davis discovered that if they were able to raise the warp yarns in the denim fabric and rub them together, then the surface fibers would loosen, causing the fabric to have a softer, laundered feel. Upon this discovery, the men formulated a series of steps to raise the warp yarns (PatentStorm).

In first step of the garment wash finish procedure, the denim fabric is lightly singed and scoured with a blend of phosphate esters. Then, the fabric undergoes two types of washing- open-width and rope washing. The objective of this step is to leave the right percentage of starch and other non-fibrous materials on the fabric. This will ensure that the denim will have desirable hand and texture (PatentStorm). Next, rope marks and creases are removed by drying the fabric while it is placed under great tension. The fabric is then softened and lubricated by instruments known as wetters and softeners. Finally, the fabric undergoes compressive shrinking, a process commonly known as Sanforizing.RTM (PatentStorm). Once the fabric finishes the previous treatments, its warp yarns are raised and finally ready to be abraded and crimped.

In order to crimp the surface fibers smoothly, a 9-roll T-Ralph sander and fine sandpaper are used. This specific sander and paper will abrade the fabric "without making a napped or brushed type of finish (PatentStorm)." After sanding, the denim fabric is pre-shrunk so that it will maintain its shape and remain in the zero to two percent shrinkage range.

The invention of garment wash finishes for denim has had a vast impact on the textile industry. Producing and manufacturing denim garments is no longer expensive or time-consuming. Not only does this method help companies save money and make a profit, it also provides consumers with better quality denim at a more affordable price.


Works Cited

Dickson, Carol Anne. "Denim." Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 359-360. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. UNIV OF MISSOURI COLUMBIA. 16 Sept. 2008 <>.
Kadolph, Sara J. Textiles. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007. 489.

"US Patent 4863775 - Garment wash finish for denim." PatentStorm. PatentStorm LLC. 16 Sept. 2008 <>.

By Lindsay Schallon



Garment Wash Finishes for Denim

Have you ever wondered how one style of jeans can be made into so many different colors and washes? One of the answers to this question is garment washing which, according to Sarah J. Kadolph in Textiles:10th Edition, is the process of dying or finishing a garment after the garment has been cut and sewn together. When one waits until the product is sewn together it creates a faster response to customer demands rather than dying or finishing each individual piece separately (390). Most clothing items that you wear, especially denim products have been finished. This idea of finishing means that it has gone under some process to alter or enhance it. This could mean what it looks like, how it feels, or some way that it performs such as wrinkle resistance (Kadolph 330). Many of the denim finishes that are done today are done so that your jeans look broken in, much like what unwashed (dry denim) denim looks like after it has been worn many times. There are two main types of garment washes for denim: mechanical and chemical (

Chemical washes include denim bleaching, enzyme washing, and acid washing. Denim bleaching is a way to discolor the denim in specific places. The severity of the bleaching depends on the strength of the bleach, temperature, and length of time the treatment is on the denim. It is usually best for the treatment to be strong and quick. Enzyme washing is an "environmentally friendly" wash for denim. Organic enzymes are put onto the denim and eat away at the cellulose in the cotton. Enzyme washing produces several effects such as making seams, pockets, and hems more noticeable and a salt and pepper color (CampusCorner). "Enzymes have opened up new possibilities in denim finishing by increasing the variety of finishes available," says They go on to list that it is now safer to fade denim even further without worrying about damaging the product and create a larger range of colors in less time at less cost ( The last chemical denim wash is acid wash. A to Z Blue Jeans explains that this process is done by soaking pumice stones in chlorine, some other type of chemical, and then tumbling the stones with the denim to create the effect. By tumbling the stone soaked in the chemical it wears off the first layer of color on the jeans making them look faded in a random pattern and broken in (

Mechanical denim washes include stone washing and microsanding. Stone washing is similar to the chemical washing process of the acid wash. Stone washing also uses stones that are tumbled with freshly dyed denim. However stone washing does not require you to soak the stones in any chemicals. The size, shape, and hardness of the stone determines on the look of the end product. Although the end result is for a more worn in look, sometimes the jeans may be too worn in because the metal buttons and rivets get damaged in the process. There are three types of microsanding: sandblasting, machine sanding, and hand sanding. The sandblasting process is the most unique and starts by sending a very abrasive substance through a nozzle at the denim at high speed and pressure. This allows you to have a lot of control on what gets blasted and many different patterns can come from this (CampusCorner). Machine sanding is done by using a machine similar to one that you would use to sand down wood furniture in your home. This would be done to do a wider area on the denim. Hand sanding is done with a fine grain sand paper by hand. This allows you to be very precise on what gets sanded (StyleForum).

Although many different denim wash finishes were discussed, there are still many more and different ways are still being researched and discovered today. The next time you put on a pair of denim jeans, you will appreciate the multiple processes it went through.


Works Cited

"Acid Wash Jeans." A to Z Blue Jeans. <>.

"Bio Washing Enzymes." EnzymeIndia. <

"Denim Terminology and Links." Style Forum. <

Kadolph, Sara J. Textiles. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006.

Shalini, Noopur. "Fabric and garment finishing : Basic washes in denim fabric." CampusCorner.
Fibre2Fashion. <

By Jessica Schimweg





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