From its humble origins, in the 19th century – where it was developed to be used to do heavy work, by cowboys, mine and railroad workers – to the present day, Denim went through a century and a half of wars, revolutions and changes in fashion trends. During this time, not only denim continued to be an important fabric, but even started to be used as a luxury product.

Washing is a very important step in denim creation. In this article, we will focus in the denim industrial washing techniques’ evolution, during the last 40 years. This is an instrumental part, that allows denim to be as it is today.


The 70’s e early 80’s – The Stone Age

In this period, we must refer to Adriano Goldschmied and Osvaldo Tonello.

The first is known as “The Godfather of Denim”, founded more than 50 brands and is responsible for the creation of some of the most successful and innovative denim brands from the 1970s. He was even Diesel’s co-founder.


Image 1: Adriano Goldschmied

Osvaldo Tonello was the founder of the washing and dyeing machinery company Tonello. He was an industrial innovator and created the first machine exclusively designed for commercial washing.

They also started to use stone in their washes, in this period, to make a simulation of wear. 

Image 2: Tonello’s 1st laundry machine – RC60-120

Image 3: Osvaldo Tonello

The 80’s – Artisans and Replicas

In the 80’s there were a lot of changes that improved washing processes in denim, such as:

  • Integration of designers in the laundry process with the objective of looking for new techniques.
  • Development of located abrasions with techniques such as sandblasting and hypochlorite spray.
  • The first attempts to reproduce whiskers
  • The use of destroyed details, cuts and reserves
  • Introduction of acid wash (moistened stone wash in hypochlorite)

Image 4: Acid Wash – Process 1

Image 5: Acid Wash – Example

Image 6: 80’s Levi’s – Sandblast/StoneWash/Bleach

The 90’s – The Rise of the Machines

Machines play an important role in the denim production. And the 90’s were important to it, with some important marks, such as:

Image 7: Manual Wiskers process

  • At the 90’s start, the first pants with whiskers and jet with sandpaper were created.
  • In the middle of the 90’s, they revealed the first dummies for sandpaper.
  • At the end of the decade the first robots, for sandpaper and painting, were created.
  • Introduction of potassium permanganate, an important indigo oxidizing agent.

00’s until today – Luxury discovers Denim: the golden age of jeans

We live in a world where denim production tends to be more sustainable and effective. That was mainly due to improvements over the last 2 decades such as:

  • Development and improvement of new technologies and innovation in wear
  • Emergence of robots/mannequins of 3D wiskers
  • Laser technology appearance and evolution, with more intuitive softwares, that lead to product improvement.
  • Increased use of enzymes and drastic reduction in the use of pumice stone.
  • Concern about resources and it’s consumption
  • Use of environmentally friendly products and with less impact on laundry workers’ health.
  • Ozone appearance development: consists of a technique used in machinery in which the parts are in contact with the ozone, which gives them a unique wear and tear.
  • Companies started to hire denim innovation specialists and bet on denim innovation


Image 8: Wash example from 00’s

There were important steps in denim wash evolution in the last 40 years, as we can see in this article. The industrial techniques have evolved to meet the costumer’s demands, and to have a more effective and efficient production. Currently, as referred in our Kingpins Show Amsterdam Article, we are witnessing a moment of change: with the industry focusing on environment and the workers safety and wellbeing.

We at Minority Denim are very happy to be witnessing this movement. We also hope to be able to make our contribution with respect to good practices; and the constant demand for the preservation of nature and the health of professionals.

Below you can see a video that shows one way of doing an industrial commercial washing…by Minority Denim:

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