Washing hand-painted blue jeans 🧥
June 26, 2022 11:44 AM   Subscribe

My son has a hand-painted blue jeans jacket he bought two years ago. He's never washed it, but would like to. Is it safe to put it in the washer, or should we hand wash it? Is there anything we need to add to make sure the paint doesn't come off?

We bought it with the painting. We don't have any way of tracking down the maker. I think it's a base of white paint, and marker over it. Here's a closeup.
posted by signal to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total)
Without knowing exactly what paint and markers were used, I think the only way of doing this safely is to proceed in steps, only moving on to the next step if the design seems undamaged:

1. Gently hand wash a small, inconspicuous section, and let dry

2. Gently hand wash the entire jacket, and let dry

3. Machine wash the jacket

I personally would not feel comfortable machine washing something like this; even if the paint is waterproof and washable the agitation could still wear it away. I would proceed VERY gently with the hand washing until you have a sense of how waterproof the marker and paint are.
posted by mekily at 11:55 AM on June 26 [6 favorites]

I would hand wash … by that I would gently soak it in warm water, flat in the bathtub. A soak should get it pretty clean but you can spot clean or add a little detergent then a rinse. Then sandwich it between two towels to get excess water out and then hang dry. Basically you don’t want to crumple or crease the painted area, especially if you don’t know if it’s proper flexible fabric paint.

Otherwise you can use the old trick to de-stink by spritzing with vodka (would not spritz directly on the painted part.) But that won’t get sweat out like a soak will.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:08 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]

Vodka sprayed on the inside, repeatedly, and hanging in breezy sunlight (inside out, to get the sun on the probable stinkiest).

Also, if the worst parts don’t have paint on the other side, damp soapy rag scrubbing will help. I would worry about pushing the paint off the other side of painted regions.
posted by clew at 1:37 PM on June 26

I would take it to a dry cleaner and ask them what they advise.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:47 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

If you wet this cotton fabric, it will swell and crack the paint layer sitting on it. Your best bet is to find a eco-friendly dry cleaner to clean it. There are also home dry cleaner kits, but I think a good dry cleaner will have more experience treating the fabric.
posted by effluvia at 2:20 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

Dry cleaning uses a non-water solvent. Some paints may be susceptible to solvents, so it would be helpful to consult a dry cleaning professional if you go that way.

Testing a spot with water is the way I would go. That being said, I have used fabric paint, that can be machine washed. I have also used acrylic alone (no fabric medium) on shoes, and the only issue is cracking, but not really separation as the paint usually gets into the fibers pretty well. I also hand washed and machine dried vintage painted curtains with no issue. Again, it's all a risk, but so is wearing it.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:34 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Most dry cleaners won't touch this for fear of damaging the garment, but they may have helpful suggestions.

Looking at the image, and knowing the denim jacket decor community (thanks, Tiktok!) the chances are good that it's either white acrylic paint, posca paint markers, or fabric paint pens. (Or a combination!) You can set this permanently using heat (google around, of course, and be careful! but usually I'm trying to get acrylic paint out of clothes, rather than the other way around...) Too much heat may melt the acrylic paint, as it's technically a plastic. The artist may have heat-set it themselves or used a fabric medium mixed with their paint. If the paint has a kind of plastic-y feel, chances are? Acrylic. My fear is if the artist used a sharpie on top of the paint, which can sometimes wear away faster than the paint because it has different needs.

Try taking a damp cloth and wiping at an edge of the art- see if the paint spreads at all, or the lines smudge. You may want to just spot clean, use the suggested vodka spray, or be very, very, very gentle about handwashing it if water impacts the design. Good luck!
posted by Torosaurus at 6:36 PM on June 26

I remember reading about people putting denim jeans in the freezer prevent them from fading due to washing. The theory was that any bacteria would be killed in the freezer to prevent the jeans from smelling. Not sure how they handled actual dirty on the jeans. I thought the whole idea was pretty silly, but might work in this case.
posted by tman99 at 9:07 AM on June 27

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