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What is Sandwashing?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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As one of the methods used to produce clothing that is soft to the touch, few methods make use of natural methods as sandwashing. Here is some background on the process of sandwashing, and how this method helps to produce garments that we love to wear.

Sandwashing is basically a garment washing process that is intended to remove any residual stiffness from the material used to make the clothing item. The aim of the sandwashing is not to produce a garment that will wrinkle easily. Rather, the focus is on ensuring that the clothing feels soft to the touch. After being treated for softness, the sandwashed garment can still undergo anti-wrinkling treatments and manage to retain the soft-brushed feel created by the treatment.

The sandwashing treatment itself originally involved the use of very fine lava rocks. A quantity of the lava rocks is placed into a container along with the finished garment. The container is then rotated, allowing the rocks to gently abrade the fibers of the garment. As the lava rocks come into contact with the material, the action gently buffs the fabric into a smooth and soft texture, resulting in a garment that always feels good against the skin, rather than feeling scratchy or irritating.

Over time, the use of rubber or silicone balls instead of lava rocks has become commonplace. Also, the range of fabrics that can receive a sandwashing treatment is much broader than in years past. Where once only natural fabrics were considered candidates for sandwashing, it is now possible to achieve the same effect with a number of different types of synthetics and blends.

Sandwashing has some other benefits as well. For instance, garments that undergo a sandwashing treatment are much less susceptible to shrinking in the wash, even if the garment is made of cotton material that was not pre-shrunk. The procedure also has produced some highly favored silk choices as well, since it leaves the silk with a subtle shehen that is less obvious than some other types of treatments.

There are those who prefer to administer a sandwashing treatment before dyeing the material, while others prefer to use sandwashing after the material has been dyed and made into a finished garment. Those who prefer to sandwash finished garments claim that the process produces a more event texture on the completed sandwashed garment, while there may be some slight irregularities if sandwashing is used on sheets of material.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon209976 — On Aug 28, 2011

There is still "real" sandblasting on jeans going on. In most cases, this is a deadly operation to the operators. They used to do sand blasting - and still do especially in Turkey - without any breathing gear. Because of that, the operators are getting their lungs filled with very fine silica dust. Later they cannot breathe and die a very painful death at a young age. They basically "drown" because the sand dust blocks their lungs.

So, if it says "sand blasted" on jeans, do not buy them, and be partially responsible for the death of some poor guys in Turkey! Most responsible brands already banned sand-blasting (for example, ESPRIT).

Sandwashing is different. Normally, they will put very small pumice stones in water in a washing machine and wash the garments there for 10 to 60 minutes. This does not have a bad impact on the operators.

By orangey03 — On Jul 07, 2011

I went to a fabric store with my grandmother. While wandering around bored, I found a roll of sandwashed silk. The term itself seemed a contradiction, so I strolled over to check it out.

The silk was so soft that it felt like suede. It draped wonderfully across my arm. I expected it to have a shiny surface, but the sandwashing had created a matte appearance.

I convinced my grandmother to buy some of it to make me a scarf. I love the feel of it, and I catch myself caressing it at my desk while lost in thought.

By shell4life — On Jul 07, 2011

My sister works at a veterinary clinic, and she has to wear scrubs to work everyday. Besides the fact that it is company policy, she has to be prepared to come into contact with various kinds of biological animal matter. She wears Dickies sandwashed scrubs for comfort.

I know that some scrubs she has worn in the past have been very uncomfortable. I felt of them in her closet, and they were almost paperlike in texture. Sandwashing does wonders for the scrubs. They almost feel like t-shirt material. I could sleep in them, and I think that she has a pair she uses as pajamas.

By Azuza — On Jul 07, 2011

@SZapper - I'm cracking up a little bit thinking about an entire factory full of people using tons of sand to make jeans soft. I've never really given it much thought but the name sure does make you think that's what goes on!

After reading this article I'm wondering if I could sandwash a pair of jeans on my own. It seems like all I would need are some lava rocks and a container. I may give it a try and see if it works.

By SZapper — On Jul 06, 2011

I'm a little surprised that sandwashing is done with rubber or silicone balls! All this time I've been thinking my "sandblasted" jeans were actually blasted with sand. I suppose that's not very practical to implement on a large scale like in a factory though.

Despite my disappointment that sandwashed jeans aren't actually washed in sand, this type of jeans will always hold a special place in my heart. They are just so soft and comfy!

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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