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

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

The pre-wash shots

Photos – DURING

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

Tackling the waves. The waves were surf-worthy.

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

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

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

Rubbing the ‘combs – one of the high wear areas that deserved some care

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

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

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

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

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

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

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

Human torpedo blasting out of the water. We brothers have a good time together

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

Returning from the water to the sand with wet denim

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

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:

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

Rinse, rinse, rinse

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

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

Rinse, rinse, rinse some more

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

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

Raw Denim Coral Beach Wash – The Definitive Guide

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.

Stay Raw!

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Well known for his 15 month Nudies Jeans denim experiment in 2010, Josh is a raw denim enthusiast, tennis fan, and foodie from Edmonton, Canada.

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  • thebrik

    i really thought i was the only one wearing GAP jeans and considering a sea wash 

    • Leroy J

      I have gap jeans as well. I thought I was the only one. Thanks

  • Jimmy

    I did a sea wash at the English Bay last year when I was in Vancouver , and I didn’t really know what it was for… but did it anyways as following the APC recipe.  Would you please give us more insight about sea water wash like how the result is going to differentiate from the regular machine wash? By the way, I am very interested in participating the fade friday.. my APC looks great and I only wore them for 7 months….   :0)  please let me know if you guys welcome readers to join the fade friday articles.   

  • http://twitter.com/RawrDenim Rawr Denim

    @google-dec48a2fee4ec7de0f6ebceb8c89cc5b:disqus You’re def not alone…

    @b8f4346fe5fed789e062ed2e1c12a473:disqus Thanks for the comments, we’ll be sure to get back to you with more insight on sea water washes.  We’d love to take a look at your A.P.C. denim too – feel free to reach out to us as info@rawrdenim.com.  

  • Anonymous

    Awesome job !

  • Anteezy

    Nice job!

  • Grazfather x

    Pleasantly surprised with how well that turned out.

  • http://PantsGUY.com PantsGUY

    Pretty damn cool. I wish I had acces to an ocean…and a pair of raw selvedge jeans that I’ve been wearing for more tha 5 months.

  • Bingo Baller

    When ever i’m feeling low i look at this article…. always makes my day :)

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  • CBroc.

    This is unbelievable amazing!! I didn’t know Naked & Famous would get fast unique fades by washing in ocean and rubbing with sand. Great idea! I would do that to my two pairs of Naked & Famous jeans if I plan on going to Mexico! Great article, by the way!

    • skfalcon

      they are not naked and famous. they are gap.

  • http://twitter.com/VerityDenim Verity Denim

    Really great article! Fun reading and great results! I did this a few years ago and the feeling is great to be honest. Great feeling to know that your jeans was only washed in sea. Makes it feel even more genuine for some reason :)

  • Jake

    The only part that’d hold me back is the whole rolling in the sand with a pair of jeans on on a crowded beach in Southern California thing. I think I would get a lot of stares. Good results though. I was expecting almost no noticeable difference. Also, does this technique 100% mirror the fades that would have been gotten if you just faded them naturally? Is it EXACTLY the same?

    • http://www.rawrdenim.com Rawr Denim

      Though controversial, the beach wash is an interesting & very unique method of washing and abrading denim. Thus, it’s unlikely you could achieve the same fades naturally or with another approach.

  • ikalam

    wow, does the water have to be salt water?

    • Joshua Le

      It can be any body of water. You’ll be good just as long as you’re in water and moving around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.low.148 Brian Low

    haha only reason there were no adverse effects with smell is because you went to a clean beach. im sure alot of people who did beach washes prior did it in a dirty beach with dirty sand.

  • http://twitter.com/A_Steez Ron Stathum

    sick results, was there alot of shrinkage… in the denim I mean?

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  • Chantel Pae

    I love this! I will doing a ocean wash soon with my women’s selvedge pair soon and will be following your instructions (:

    • Kamoteng Baging


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  • l.o.l


  • muhammad amin

    Very nice result but my experince is a very good this field

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