Make Your Own $200 Waxed Denim Jeans at Home -- For $12.95!

Why pay more?
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Alison Freer
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Why pay more?

I've recently gone from being a person who never wears jeans to a creature who owns at least a dozen pairs. Rag & Bone are forever my favorites, but what I really love these days is a great pair of waxed or coated denim skinnies. They add a bit of textural interest to any outfit -- and the rock 'n roll vibe they project is undeniable. The only problem is that they can cost somewhere north of 200 bucks, which is a big OUCH in the wallet. 

But did you know that you can actually make your own waxed denim jeans at home? I myself wasn't aware of this fact until the show I'm currently designing called for a character to wear a pair of leather pants, something we didn't have the budget for. So I bought a $12.95 bar of 100% natural Otter Wax heavy-duty fabric wax and got busy with it, coating a $20 pair of black skinny jeans from Target until they had a classic leather-look sheen to them.

Otter Wax fabric wax bar, $12.95/2.25 oz.

Otter Wax fabric wax bar, $12.95/2.25 oz.

They turned out so good, I decided to make a pair for myself! Otter Wax is ridiculously easy to use -- you just rub the bar into the fabric in a back and forth motion to create friction, smoothing out any lumps or uneven wax spots (like over seams or around the waistband) with your fingers as you go. I did the front of the jeans, allowed the wax to cure for 24 hours, then did the back side and let it cure for another 24 hours in a warm, dry place before wearing them. (Alternatively, you can put your jeans in the freezer to speed up the curing process.) If you just do the front and then flip 'em over immediately to do the back, you risk scraping off the treatment you've just done to the front side while applying pressure to the back side.

The easiest DIY that ever was. If you can manage to smear lotion on your body, you can make these jeans.

The easiest DIY that ever was. If you can manage to smear lotion on your body, you can make these jeans.

One pair of jeans used just shy of a whole bar, so you'll still have some left over for touch ups or treating a tote bag or pair of canvas sneakers. Otter Wax is actually meant for uber-practical uses: waterproofing bags, jackets, hats, camping gear and luggage -- really any fabric item you want to protect from rain, snow and sleet. It's just a cool side benefit that you can also use it to make your jeans more fashionable!

Otter Wax is made in the USA (Portland, Oregon, to be exact) of pure beeswax (along with other plant-based waxes and oils) and contains absolutely no petroleum, paraffin or silicone. It has a very faint woodsy scent, not overpowering at all -- and the smell fades once your item is cured. Plus, the packaging the bar comes in is made of 100% post-consumer materials, so waste is kept to a minimum.

The finished product! (2 days later...)

The finished product! (2 days later...)

Washing any pair of waxed or coated jeans is a challenge -- and I've never washed mine, exactly. l mean, like, ever. It's true that you can put a pair of jeans in the freezer for a few hours to kill odor, but sometimes you just need a little soap and water to get rid of actual, factual dirt and grime buildup. You can indeed wash a pair of jeans that you've coated with Otter Wax -- you just need to be extra careful! And that means using the right soap. 

Regular laundry detergent will strip the wax right off of a treated garment, so the best way to wash a waxed item is to soak it inside out in a bucket filled with cold water and a few tablespoons of pure, liquid castile soap. Pure castile soap is vegetable based, so it won't break down the wax like proper detergent will. Otter Wax makes a castile-soap based canvas cleaner, but you can just as easily use a bit of Dr. Bronner's that you may have lurking in your bathroom.

Swish your inside-out waxed jeans around in the cold soapy water mixture for about five minutes, using a rag to gently scrub the non-waxed side of the garment if necessary. Rinse thoroughly in cold water, leave them inside out, and hang to dry. Once your jeans are completely dry (at least a good 24 hours or so) you can touch up any areas where the wax has worn down. Et voilà! Now any old pair of jeans can look like they cost you a pretty penny when they actually didn't. 

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison