Friday, 14 October 2011

Experiment, softening cotton denim with cocoa cola

When I made my failure denim trousers, Shams suggested that I try softening them with Coke. I had not heard of this fabric treatment before. Naturally I meant to do this straight away, but having no Coke in the house (we prefer to ingest our caffiene as coffee), and no real desire to wear the jeans, it took me a while to get around to it. Here are the two denim garments suffering from excess rigidity, folded in half and placed on the table on my back verandah, hem and waist to the table. Skirt to your left, jeans on your right. Note the height of the fabric piles in comparison to the coke bottle. This is a fair dinkum experiment with evidence;)
SAM_1117
I was not entirely sure how to proceed for the most effective softening. I bought a 2 litre bottle of coke (cheapest per mm price at the supermarker), and later found this thread at Stitchers Guild, suggesting that 2litres might be overkill.
Overkill meant that if it didn't work, it wouldn't be because of an insufficency of the product, so I placed the jeans and skirt made from my stiff denim in the laundry sink, poured in most of the Coke, topped it up with water so that all the fabric was covered with liquid, and left it to froth and bubble away for 24 hours. (The remaining coke was reserved by someone who wants to soak a dirty old coin in it)
Our laundry is under the house. Coke is attractive to insects, and fatal. Yuck.
After specific insect removal, I washed the coke soaked denim in a standard cotton wash in my front loader machine, 30 degrees C, using powdered laundry detergent, then line dried the garments (I don't own a clothes drier)
Results.
SAM_1125
The skirt, which I have worn and washed about 10 times prior to the experiment, is noticeably softer to handle, and seems less tall when placed on the verandah in the same manner as previously. The jeans, which were only washed during the fabric storage phase, and have never been worn, feel just as stiff as previously, and do not appear noticeably shorter in this photo.
Verdict - inconclusive, but in a statistically non signficant manner due to small subject sample size, appears to work on cotton denim that has been washed on multiple occasions prior to the Coke treatment.
I would try it again if it cools down enough to wear jeans.

16 comments:

countrygirlcouture said...

Well, it was probably a fun experiment anyway, right? Do you live near someone (or a laundromat--erm, a place with washers and dryers that you put money in to use) with a dryer? Because for real softening of new denim I've had the best luck with washing with liquid softener and then putting them in the dryer (maybe with a dryer sheet). We line dry a lot too, but I always give the jeans a 5 minute spin on low heat to soften them up. Hope you get them to a wearable state soon!

Mary said...

I am interested in trying this on a denim skirt I made recently. Thanks for the lab report!

Mary Beth said...

Marvelous reporting! So fun to read, too. I have gotten really picky about what denim I use for garments. The rough stuff goes for dog beds, etc, now. Guess I don't have to worry too much about whether I'm "cheating" or not, eh?

BetsyV said...

I had no idea Coke was an insecticide. I do know that it will take pine tree sap off the car, though. And the enamel off one's teeth.

Did it work on the coin?

Gail said...

Je gads, imagine what it could do to your stomach!

Sue said...

I have read a thread about this on pattern review, so was intereted to see how your experiment went. Maybe success or failure will be measured by how much you wear them now.

Bernice said...

It always makes me laugh when I read about all the things that Coke is supposed to do. Makes me shudder to think what it is doing to people's bodies.

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Janine said...

Interesting tip - perhaps that`s why the coke aisle takes up so much room in the supermarket! Friends tell me that diet coke is used to dislodge food stuck in the oesophagus presumably because of the bubbles but now I think it is just dissolving the food . congrats on winning the fabric .

Carol said...

I've never heard of this. Coke is useful for so many things, what on earth does it do to your insides? I once saw my father use it to clean a car radiator.

Handmade said...

Well good for you for doing the experiment - maybe the insects confounded the results??

Tanit-Isis said...

I've never heard of this---nifty. Denim is so lovely, but can be such a pain :P. I wonder if vinegar would work similarly (I'm presuming the carbonic acid in the pop is the active ingreedient, which of course may not be solely the case)

As to what it does to your insides, remember our stomachs are full of hydrochloric acid in the first place. Bad for teeth? yup. Too much sugar? yup. Acid vs. body? mm. Digestive system's set up pretty well to handle it.

Joy said...

How interesting. Coke is (possibly) good for softening. Tea is good for dyeing. How about milk or orange juice?

Gabrielle said...

Yay, this sounds like an experimental design post! (Is it?) If you wanted to rerun this experiment, you could cut an unwanted stiff test garment into many small pieces so as to increase your sample size. You could also test coke:water dilution and time spent soaking...

Sherry said...

Interesting lab test, must remember this!
Maybe the trousers prefer Pepsi?!

Stephanie Arslanian said...

I realize this post is much later than everyone else. But, I wanted to comment to maybe answer the failed experiment on the jeans.
First, I would guess the fabrics were different in composition.
Second, and most importantly, when softening denim, you always need to dry them in a dryer. (You can use a low heat temp) It continues to help with the breaking down process. If you add spiked dryer balls it creates an even better result.

I hope this helps!

kbenco said...

This was a very tongue in cheek "experiment", being undertaken for amusement and curiosity, but having a new comment on this old post , I thought I'd report back. I have worn (and therefore washed ;)) both garments multiple times over the past 2.5 years, and the coke softened skirt remains softer than the jeans even with this amount of aging.
Unfortunately, Stephanie's idea has missed a point or two from the post. 1. The fabric in the two garments is from the same cut piece, from the same bolt, and is therefore identical in composition. This is a sewing blog!
2. I did not use a drier, as I do not own one, but as several people have pointed out in the comments, using a drier is a good way to soften denim. The "experiment" was to assess the effect of coke.