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What is ‘Sandblasting’ for Jeans?

Posted on July 23rd, 2014

It used to be the case that the worn-out jean look came from wearing your favourite pair of jeans day in and day out until they started to fall apart, but in the more recent years, jean-manufacturing companies have come up with techniques that give that worn-out look before you even put the jeans on. This trend is one that has swept across the world and become loved and desired by consumers, however, many of us don’t know the techniques implemented to create the ‘worn’ look of jeans; ‘sandblasting’ has been one of them. This technique has extremely harmful affects on the environment and is even more harmful for the workers making the jeans.

So what is sandblasting?

The process of sandblasting involves abrasive materials being propelled at high speed to clean and shape the surface of the denim. Although it has been banned in many countries, it is still used in parts of the world, sometimes under the radar,  since it is a fast and cheap way to create the desired affect on denim.

But what makes sandblasting so dangerous?

This denim-weathering technique causes workers to be exposed to silica dusts, which lead to emphysema and lung fibrosis, along with other respiratory illnesses. Consistent exposure to these toxins mixed with inadequate ventilation results in the development of life-threatening diseases that could lead to death.

A possible solution

A study published by the Biotechnology Journal suggests an alternative to sandblasting called ‘surface activation’. The process of surface activation creates a look similar to sandblasting while also being cheaper, more efficient and better for the environment. According to Science Daily, surface activation washes down the denim after dyeing and the technique, “presents several advantages including preventing the decease of fabric strength, shortening the duration of the wash-down process and reducing the concentrations of costly chemicals”.

Though it is a more eco-friendly solution and a step in the right direction, a variety of chemicals are still involved in the jean manufacturing process. We have to continue to explore other options and find alternatives to these harmful forms of garment production to promote both healthy working conditions and a healthy environment. Know of any? Please share!