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How To Make a T Shirt Look Vintage in 8 Easy Ways

Not to knock brand new tees. But there’s something liberating about wearing a vintage t-shirt. I first got this fascination after watching The Big Lebowski (Aka the Dude.) It’s the story of a man who could influence any situation simply by being in a room. I was fascinated with how his vintage t-shirts made him look so effortlessly confident.

I’m sure you have your reasons for coveting a vintage t-shirt. But, we can agree that finding an authentic vintage t-shirt (something from 20-30 years back) is difficult. So what’s the solution? Well, I discovered a few safe ways to age a t-shirt to look vintage.

Since I’m feeling generous, I’ll share a few of my best tricks and tips to get you started. At first glance, it sounds challenging, but these methods are safe and easy to follow. And, best of all, you can age anything to look like a vintage t-shirt with a few items available in your home.

Does that sound like a fun project? Well, stay on that energy level as we dive straight into how we can make any t-shirt look vintage.

Why You Would Want To Make Your Shirt Look Vintage?

The main reason why I like vintage clothing is for the dated and worn-in look. Vintage t-shirts are particularly soft and comfortable to wear during summer days. This is because the ravages of time have worked their way into the fibers; Making them soft on the skin.

Loads of people blame their craving for vintage wear on FOMO (the fear of missing out). So, it’s not even an argument; Vintage t-shirts and everything else vintage is in vogue. unfortunately, The cost of avoiding this FOMO can be dear as authentic vintage clothing can cost a lot.

Sure, you could always rummage a thrift store for vintage clothing. But, this may take a lot from your day you wouldn’t want your friends to know you get your clothes from your local goodwill store.

So, turning new clothes into vintage clothing comes as a safe and easy option. And as you’ll see it doesn’t even have to cost you a lot. You can do it with a few household items as I’m about to show you!

8 Ways of Making Your T Shirt Look Vintage

There’s more than one proven and safe technique you can use to make any t-shirt look vintage. It all comes down to the tools you have available in your home and the time at your disposal. Any of the following methods will get you satisfying results if you follow along.

So in no particular order, here are 8 sure-fire ways of making your t-shirt look vintage:  

Method 1: Table Salt Soak

Tools and Materials Needed

  • A cup of table salt
  • Pumice stones
  • Warm water

I’ve found that this method works best on pure cotton or cotton/polyester T-shirts. The table salt works as the perfect fabric tenderizer.

Please note: If you’re working with a new garment, it’s essential to wash it with regular detergent before attempting anything. This checks for fabrics with colorfast dyes that can leach into the process and ruin the results.

Step 1: Salt Water Soak

Find new tees that fit your frame or different sizes depending on the intended look. Then, dissolve the table salt into a quart (32 fl oz.) of warm water and stir until it’s fully dissolved.

Step 2: Marinate It!

Dip the t-shirt into the solution and let it sit. Patience is key here as you’ll have to wait for all the t-shirts fibers to soften organically. This takes a three-day period because we can’t rush Mother Nature!

Step 3: Some Scrubbing:

After the 3days, you can wash the tee. I usually add a little fabric softener for good measure. If the t-shirt has a graphic printed, you can use fine sandpaper or pumice to wear the design motif down.

Rub inside part of the t-shirt to avoid wearing the graphics too much. Repeat the process 3 to 5 times to get the desired distressed look. I love this technique because it’s super easy. And I get a super soft t-shirt as a bonus reward for all the time it entails.

Method 2: Tea and Coffee Wash

making your t-shirt look aged and vintage by washing it with cold tea or cold coffee

Tools and Materials Needed

  • a bucket
  • cold coffee or cold taa (depending on your preference)

A coffee or tea soak is an excellent and effortless way to make any old or used t-shirt look. I get the best result on fabrics with light colors. These beverages contain non-toxic alkalis and colorants that enrich fabrics with color depth and texture.

Don’t forget to wash your tee before starting this process. This is because manufacturers often treat the fabric with a stain-resistant repellant that could deter the process.

Step 1: Drew and Soak

Brew a batch of extra potent coffee or tea. I usually pile on the coffee grounds or tea leaves until I get a deep and murky dark brown mixture. Ensure the brew is enough to cover your tee fully when immersed.

The result will depend on the strength of the brew. You will need to make a weaker solution for a lighter effect, and for a darker vintage effect, a more potent mix will do.

Step 2: Marinate It!

Once the coffee or tea is has cooled down. Soak your garment in the bucket and fully cover it with the solution. I usually leave it to soak for about two days to get that satisfying vintage effect.

Step 3: dry, wash, rinse, dry (again), and enjoy!

After two days, hang the tee in a shaded area until it dries. This allows the coffee or tea to stain the t-shirt for that rustic feel. Then wash and dry the tee as you usually would.

Now, you can enjoy your vintage t-shirt. It’ll look amazing with a pair of rugged or acid-washed jeans. I love adding a well worn denim jacket to complete the look.

Method 3: The Vinegar & Lemon Juice Soak 

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Bucket

Before proceeding, wash and dry your garment 1-3 times before starting the process. This small precaution helps to loosen the fabric so you can achieve the most satisfying results.

Step 1: A Lemon Soak

Prepare 1 part lemon and three parts water solution. Then immerse your tee in the solution. Let it soak for 3 to 12 hours. Keep checking on it and add more lemon juice to accelerate aging.

After the time lapses, line-dry the tee in a shaded place; I like using fine-grit sandpaper to roughen the texture of printed t-shirts. This spreads the effect of aging to the entire garment.

Step 2: Vinegar Soak

Fill your bucket with water, and then add a half cup of vinegar. Soak the tee from 4 to 12 hours. Once ready, you can line try the garment if possible. This step helps me to enhance the aging process further. But, sometimes, I skip this part if I get the desired effect from the lemon juice soak.

Step 3: Wash and Dry the T-Shirt

Once the tee is dry, wash normally using your usual detergents. Now you have a vintage tee with the use of household ingredients.

Method 4: Acetone Soak

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Acetone
  • Bowl
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sponge
  • Piece of cardboard

This method works best for cotton and cotton-polyester blends. I find it a super-effective way to strip color from screen-printed garments.

Before you proceed: perform a small test by applying a bit of acetone on the seam of a sleeve to see how the fibers and dyes react. This check is to prevent tee color from running all over the tee. The method is suitable for a graphic printed t-shirt. Please work outdoors or within a well-ventilated room as acetone can be toxic and potent in a poorly ventilated room.

Step 1: Preparations

Place the piece of cardboard on the underside of the t-shirt. Such a move prevents the acetone from soaking into the other side of the t-shirt.

Step 2: Procedure and results

For graphic t-shirts, soak a sponge in acetone for 30 to 60 seconds. Apply the acetone solution to the graphics-heavy section of the tee rather than soaking it in the entire garment. Repeat the process 3 to 5 times to create a worn-out vintage look.

For a plain t-shirt, you’ll require 3 gallons of water with 2cups of acetone. Soak your garment using your rubber gloves for five days to create the desired vintage look.

Method 5: Rock Salt or Pumice

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Pumice rock or 1 cup of rock salt
  • Bucket
  • Warm water

Rock salt works the same way as sandpaper. But, you get the added benefit of not needing to do as much rubbing as you do with sandpaper.

Step 1: Throw Everything into a Bucket

Fill your bucket with enough warm water to thoroughly soak the tee. Put the tee in the water start adding and stirring in the rock salt. Stir until all the rock salt is adequately mixed into the bucket of water.

Step 2: Salt rock Soak

Soak the tee for up to 3 days to get the desired effect. The method works best with prolonged soaking. After this period, rinse the tee in cold water. Then wash, dry, and iron your new(ish) vintage T-shirt.

Method 6: Bleaching

Tools and Materials Needed

  • bleach about ½ cups
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • hot and lukewarm water
  • rubber gloves
  • bucket

I discovered that you could use the corrosive properties of bleach to create fun, edgy, and trendy design motifs. The effect is that bleach works to remove the color from fabrics, and this same element can create a unique design on your t-shirt. This method works on most fabrics, but cotton yields the best results.

Precaution: Choose a well-ventilated location and remember to use your gloves. This is because bleach is toxic and can affect your skin and create allergic reactions.

Step 1: Soak the Garment

Fill your bucket with lukewarm water and half a cup of bleach. Stir using the mixture using a ladle or stick. Put on your latex gloves and immerse your tee into the solution. Let it soak for about 10 minutes.

Step 2: The Procedure

Next, rinse the tee using hot water. I prefer doing a simple machine washing with at least a 5-minute rinse-spin cycle when I want to lighten the fabric’s color. You can also neutralize the bleach with a 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 10 parts water solution.

Once the 10minutes have lapsed, rinse off the bleach solution from the garment, and transfer the t-shirt to your neutralizing solution for a further 10 minutes. Then wash the t-shirt.

What if you find this method to be too time-consuming? Well, you could use a washing machine instead of a bucket to soak the tee by doing the following:

  • Use hot water and the ½ cup bleach to the machine wash in a short cycle
  • Stop before reaching the rinse cycle
  • Allow the tee to sit and soak for around an hour to get the desired effect

Precautions to Make:  A 10-minute bleach soak is more than adequate. Prolonging this process messes with the integrity of the fabric and can turn your t-shirt tread-bare. Bleach also comes in handy to create a tie and dye or faux-acid washed effects on a white shirt to give it a distressed look.

With 1 part water and 1 part bleach, filled in a spray bottle. On the fabric of the garment, spray the bleach solution. The quantity to use will depend on the effect you want to create on the t-shirt.

Method 7: Sanding 

Tools and Materials Needed

  • fine-grit sandpaper

Sanding is an excellent technique to age a tee by a few decades. It’s also pretty simple if you have the elbow grease, unlike me!

Before you proceed: Choose a well-ventilated room and a surface that can’t get damaged by the sanding process, or better yet, protect the surface using a piece of cardboard or an old tarp.


Turn your tees inside out and then rub them using your sandpaper. This creates a softer worn-in look and feel. The sandpaper works by fraying the fabric without affecting the printed graphic on the front.

You can also turn the t-shirt “right front up” and give the graphic a fair run down to give them a distressed look too. The process can be faster and less tedious if you have an electric sander at home. Just don’t go crazy with the sander, as it can thin out too much fabric.

Coarse grit is ideal for your jeans, as it’s stronger and can work on that denim fabric to get that distressed look. The effect is distress, frayed fabric that is softer and worn in. My workmate prefers the sanding method because it’s quick and cost-effective.

Method 8: Tearing, Cutting, and Clipping

Tools and Materials Needed

  • A pair of scissors or a sharp razor blade
  • used tee shirt

I prefer this method to get a bold and edgy distressed look on a t-shirt. I go over the t-shirt while giving it a few tears, nips, and slashes. The collars and sleeves are usually my main target. You can use a pair of scissors to get that ultimate unruly distressed look. But, don’t go too wild as you don’t want to look like a homeless person! 

The spots that you can target to get that distinct distressed look include:

  • Rips and tears on the cuffs and hems
  • Slashes and frayed collar edges
  • Random holes on pockets and other surfaces
  • Frays and runs on the chest

You can also spray a bit of bleach to bring out the aged look. The key is to being as authentic as possible lies in creating a random pattern. This is because it’s hard to predict which part of a shirt gets affected with time, use, and abuse.  

The trick here is (and I don’t feel I can stress this enough) less is more! Please don’t go overboard, working overtime creating your style, and end up with a garment that looks worn-out and ready to retire.

The cool thing about this method is that you can use it on almost any garment fabric and style: your denim jacket, hoodies, and linens.

The above technique will get you a cool vintage look on most wears you choose to add to your vintage collection. You get to connect with your artistic side and create wearable art from the comfort of your home.

So wise up and stop investing hundreds of dollars on vintage looks that you can create with just a few ingredients available at home, and the best part, you can style them to exactly your taste.


How Do You Make a Shirt Look Faded?

For a lighter fade, you could wash a new t-shirt several times to create that faded look or expose it to sunlight for a prolonged period. For a heavy-duty fade, bleach leach might do the trick.

With just a gallon of water and a half cup of bleach, soaking your new tee into the solution for about 5 minutes using your gloves might do the trick.

How To Age T-Shirts?

A good lemon soak could age a t-shirt in about 12 hours by soaking the new tee in a solution on 1 part lemon and 3 part water. The graphics section of the tee can be worn down using sandpaper or rock salt. Bleaching is another method of aging t-shirts with a half cup of bleach and water.

You’re well on your way to a vintage t-shirt.

How To Make a Black Shirt Fade With Bleach?

Bleach is preferable as a quick method. But instead of soaking the garment directly into a bleach solution. This technique might leave it grey instead of creating a fade on it.

Use about a ¼ cup of bleach to your washing machine, repeating the process up to 5 or more times to get the desired effect.


I remember feeling short-changed when I started experimenting with these tricks. How could I pay so much for something I can make at home? It was one of my most persistent questions – But, in all fairness, it does take some time, cunning, and elbow grease to create something that looks like it withstood the test of time. And, knowing where to start is another challenge. But hopefully, after reading this, you know what to do.

There you go! – As promised 8 simple, safe, and cost-effective ways to turn any old or new tee into an Iconic vintage t-shirt.

What are you waiting for? Go out there and make something amazing! I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ll make. So, feel free to share it with me on my social media. And don’t forget to bookmark us so you can join us on our next adventure.

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