Raw Denim Jeans Ocean Wash – The Definitive Guide

After many hours of dreaming about performing a beach wash for my raw denim, I had the opportunity to wash my jeans in Mexico and Australia. In 2010, I decided to hold off on the beach wash in Mexico because my Nudie Jeans were only 9 months old at that point.

In 2011, I, again, decided to hold off on the beach wash in Australia because my Naked & Famous jeans (my current pair that’s in the Superfuture Heavyweight Denim Competition) were only 5 months old at that point. Thankfully, my oldest brother Chris volunteered to do the beach wash with his Gap 1969 Straight Raw Selvedge Denim.

We wanted to do a bit of homework/research before performing the beach/saltwater wash, but we couldn’t find any good sources or write-ups on the procedure through a quick Google and forum search. The best we found was from A.P.C.‘s Denim Washing Recipes:

Let your jeans get dirty for as long as possible, go swimming in the ocean wearing your jeans, rub your jeans with dry sand, and repeat several times, rinse in fresh (not salt) water and let dry in the sun.

We made our way out to Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island by Cairns, Queensland, Australia – to perform the highly revered beach wash.

Here are the easy steps to perform a beach wash for your raw denim, which I hope serves as a good reference point:

  1. Wear for your jeans for as long as possible
  2. Get yourself to a beach (you’ll already have your jeans on, right?)
  3. Take the obligatory pre-wash photos
  4. Play/swim in the water
  5. Roll around in the sand and rub it evenly over your jeans or in the areas that you want to distress the most (i.e. thighs/whiskers, hamstrings, back of knee/combs, etc.)
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 several times until you’re satisfied or tired – the more times you repeat, the lighter your jeans will become
  7. Play/swim in the water one last time to rinse off excess sand – it’ll save some time for Step 8
  8. Rinse your jeans in fresh water (in whatever source is most convenient) – beaches typically have fresh water showers for you to rinse off the sand. Don’t be shy to rinse off your jeans because everyone already watched you perform the beach wash moments earlier.
  9. Wear your jeans until they’re dry or hang dry them in the sun


  • Name: Gap 1969 Selvage Straight Fit
  • Fit: Slim Straight
  • Length of Wear: 11 months
  • Number of Washes: 1

Photos – BEFORE



Photos – DURING


Tackling the waves. The waves were surf-worthy.


Covering every last millimeter (or inch) of denim with sand


Rubbing the whiskers – arguably the area with the most noticeable wear. Don’t forget to rub on the backside as well


After rubbing the jeans with the sand, the sand clings on to the denim as you’d imagine. I have a feeling that I’ve seen jeans distressed to look like this sometime in my life


Heading back to the water to rinse. (This is a total money shot! I hope you see this, Gap)


Returning from the water to the sand with wet denim


Since we were in Australia and the opportunity presented itself, we decided to kick it up a notch and add coral to the fun. How many people can boast a coral beach wash?

After rinsing and repeating several times, Chris ran through the beach water one last time before taking it to the fresh water shower:


Rinse, rinse, rinse

And more rinsing (both photos were too nice to pass up):


Rinse, rinse, rinse some more


Drying off the denim on the washed-up coral. You can see all sorts of coral in the background

Shortly after laying down the jeans to dry, we had to take the ferry from Fitzroy Island back to Cairns to catch our flight 1.5 hours later. Chris wore his jeans from wet to dry, and I was amazed to see the light blues emerge from his previous dark raw denim.

Summary of beach wash

  • Water sessions (including fresh water rinse): 6
  • Sand sessions: 4
  • Coral sessions: 1
  • Total elapsed time from pre-wash photo to starting to dry on coral: 1.5 hours (there were two 10-minute hikes in between the beach and the showers. Realistically, 1 hour long)

Last, but not least, the post-wash photos (taken back in Edmonton, Canada):

Photos – AFTER


Chris was pleased with the results of the wash. One big complaint people have with their jeans post-beach wash is stinky saltwater musks – Chris didn’t experience any adverse odours since the wash. I imagine the fresh water rinse helped with that element.

I hope that prepares you to perform your very own beach wash, or if you’ve done a beach wash before, let us know how it went.