Bleach Printing





Introduction: Bleach Printing

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Mart...

I've been wanting to try bleach printing for ages and I'm here to report that it's so easy and super fun! It's actually the reverse of printing in that it removes pigment instead of adding it, but it's the same basic concept in that you can create a pattern on fabric.

From the research I did before getting started, I found out that it works best on blue fabric (on black fabric the bleach can only remove some of the pigment and you are left with a pink or orange negative print instead of white).

In this Instructable I'll give you the basics that you need to create your own custom 'reverse' print/pattern!

Step 1: Supplies

- laundry grade bleach (I used Clorox)
- dark fabric (natural fibers only)
- flat bottomed glass or ceramic dish
- latex gloves
- masking tape
- 3 pencils with eraser ends
- two angled erasers (like pictured)
- pencil sharpener
- white chalk
*optional: pencil with cap eraser
- cardboard (to tape fabric to)

Step 2: Making Your Stamps

Erasers make great stamps! I left some as is (the two angle erasers and the cap eraser) and customized two of the pencil's erasers using the pencil sharpener so that I ended up with two smaller sized circles, three total including one un-sharpened eraser.

Step 3: Prepping Your Fabric

Tape your fabric onto the cardboard. If your fabric piece is too big to do this, print it in sections by folding the fabric over the cardboard and clipping the fabric securely to the cardboard edges with binder clips.

If your cardboard is cupping at all (not laying flat), tape it down to your work surface so your not stamping on a springy surface.

Step 4: My Chevron Print

I wanted to try a chunky chevron print using the two angled erasers. I used chalk to rough out the lines the print would follow. (*Note: The chalk will wash out and will not interfere with the printing!)

Step 5: Stamping Technique

1. Choose an area to work in that is well ventilated. (For safety info regarding bleach, see the bottle's label.)
2. Put on your latex gloves. This will protect your skin from any splashes. I would also recommend wearing an apron or old clothes just in case there are any flying bleach molecules.
3. Pour a very small amount of bleach into your flat bottomed container. You want the bottom surface JUST wet = not much depth to the bleach.
4. Place the stamp side of your chosen eraser down in the bleach.
5. Remove excess bleach by scraping the stamp bottom along the edge of your container. This is an important step! If you don't do this, you will not get a crisp outline. You can see in my finished chevron print that I got better and better at this as the print went on. (I ended up liking the mix of soft and hard lines!)
6. Place the stamp down onto the fabric and press firmly.
7. DON'T flip your eraser to use both sides to make the chevron, use two separate erasers so you don't get bleach all over your gloves.

Step 6: My Galaxy Print

For my Galaxy print, I used the pencil erasers in all three sizes, in a random pattern. I drew a chalk box around the edge as a stamping boundary.

Step 7: Sun Setting

Once you're done stamping, put the prints in the sun for 1 hour. This will help with the bleaching process.
When the hour's up, remove the fabric from the cardboard.

Step 8: Wash and Go!

To stop the bleaching process, hand wash the fabric in a bit of laundry detergent and water. Once this is done, you can safely add the fabric in with other articles in a regular wash/dry cycle.

FYI: I put the Galaxy print onto one of the Instructable napkins I sewed last week. For that how-to, click here!



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    Awesome idea :-) to play with bleach! :)

    Is there any reason you couldn't use this mixture with a paintbrush?
    Don't know whether I'd try a sable brush (natural fiber) or one of the
    ones you use for fabric paints. Any thoughts?

    Also, is there anything else that can be used to neutralize the bleach besides AntiChlor? I like to try to use natural substances like vinegar or baking soda, things like that.

    5 replies

    Hmm, more thoughts - can you use regular stamps for this? I gotta play with this idea!

    Another thing I thought of, if you test the black material and find that it bleaches to orange, might be fun for Hallowe'en!

    hey there, just so you know, I tried this using a linocut and got decent results. the linoleum isn't absorbent so not a lot of bleach holds on to it (rubber erasers are more porous) so you get a fainter image, and details are much harder to capture because of how runny the bleach is. If you were going to try this with stamps, I'd say a regular rubber stamp could work well, and any kind of foam would be even better. I kinda made an 'ink' pad by soaking a couple sheets of construction paper in bleach, stacking them, then pressing the block down on top of it, this should work well with more absorbent stamps. The linoleum is harder so i actually had to use a sponge brush to apply the bleach to the surface. But, like I said, decent results (i'll add a picture).

    If you want to carve your own rubber blocks (not linoleum), I know Speedball makes several types of blocks that are rubber based (their Speedy-Carve and Speedy-Cut [Speedy-Cut Easy, too] brands), that are easy to carve (just use basic lino cutters and an x-acto). I don't know if bleach will destroy these blocks or not though, so make sure you test it.

    If you're going to use a brush, try to only use ones with synthetic bristles, because they should resist the bleach destroying them for more uses than natural hair brushes. And hydrogen peroxide neutralizes bleach better than vinegar and is non-toxic, cheap, and widely available. Honestly I'm not even sure what this AntiChlor stuff is, but it sounds like it's not meant to be anywhere near skin or fabric without being super diluted, so I probably wouldn't touch the stuff.


    Cool, thanks! How would I use the hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the bleach? I have no clue about this.

    just mix with water and let the fabric soak in it for a couple minutes, should do the trick

    Cool! Thanks again. Gonna try this soon!

    You need one more thing for this 'ible: AntiChlor. If you use bleach on cotton and don't completely "disable" it at the end, no matter how many times you wash it, the bleach will continue to eat the fibers and in time you will have some very nice holes in your project. Once the bleach has done it's job, you rinse in cool water and then rinse in the AntiChlor solution to completely remove the bleach. Protects your project from holes. Bleach should not be used any stronger than 50%. i.e. half and half with water.

    There are several sources for AntiChlor. I usually get mine from Pro Chemical in Fall River, MA.

    5 replies

    I hate using anti-chlor because it is so dangerous, ie, must be used outside, still with a respirator etc. I used to get the little holes but didn't really care enough to continue using anti-chlor, won't vinegar work just as well to neutralize the bleach?

    Vinegar works, but it's weak. Hydrogen Peroxide works much better, is non-toxic, doesn't have the smell, and is cheap and available all over the place. If you're buying a bottle of regular first-aid hydrogen peroxide (i think it's usually a 3% solution), you can either use a spray bottle to heavily mist it on, or submerge the fabric in a bucket that's filled with peroxide and water (approx. 1:10 ratio, but more peroxide won't really hurt it, and might speed it up) for a few minutes (varies on how much bleach you used, the fabric, etc, so play around with it.).

    If you were to use a stencil and spray bleach on, misting should be fine since most of it remains on the surface, but using stamps pushes it into the fabric so submerging it would probably be safer.

    After that you can either hand wash it in soapy water, or just do a rinse cycle, and air dry it. after that the bleach should be effectively neutralized and not an issue anymore, and you can wash it like anything else. And like Dye said, always dilute bleach with water, any concentration over 50% (I find 1/3 is usually effective enough) and you're likely to damage the fabric the moment you apply it.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this. 10% hydrogen peroxide is available as well . I used to use to sterilize raw chicken for my dog's food.

    I use it outside because of spill risk but have never had to use a respirator. The trick is soaking the garment in clean cool water to dilute the bleach out. I usually use a 5 gal bucket for something like a T-shirt. After a 15-20 min swish/soak, I wring it out and then put it in the Anti-chlor bucket for 15 minutes, then wash.
    Alternatively, you can also use hydrogen peroxide. Not sure about amount but would definitely soak in the cold water before using it. The more you dilute the concentration of chlorine (or any chemical), the less problems you have with neutralizing it or having a more "violent" reaction during the process which could produce toxic fumes. You can probably find out more on the 'Net. Vinegar reacts with the bleach but doesn't neutralize it completely.
    The key to either substance is the pre-soak to dilute the bleach. I don't think Anti-Chlor is as dangerous as you believe. It's the same stuff we add to fish tank water to eliminate chlorine in the water. That's done inside and folks don't usually use a respirator for that. I used to have a really large tank and never thought twice about it. I used Stress Coat in my tank.

    Hi CrystalDyes, the MSDS sheet on anti-chlor is pretty scary to me, I would never even mix it up outside with out a real respirator on because of what it says. There has to be a better way. And yes, I always did a rinse cycle after bleaching (this was back when you could still use SunLight dishwashing soap, 'cause it had bleach and it was nice and thick), I had a washer out in my dye studio. I only used it for discharging the dyed piece and overdyeing it afterwards. Here is a link to the MSDS

    ohhh muito bom amiga tudo vale né, vai ficar lindo se for lenços obrigada

    CLOROX?! Bleach is bleach! Save your money. Hard to find Gallon Jugs for a dollar anymore, but, when I do, I buy a dozen. Bleach keeps fine! CLOROX has reduced the amount of product in their containers. Always used to be a full 128 ounces. Don't let them rip us off. They raised the price and reduced the amount (by 28%!) - all but doubling the cost per ounce!

    Neat trick - BTW ;)

    ☆☆ Thank you ☆☆

    I just read where you could dilute the bleach slightly and put it into a spray bottle to spritz over peel off decals for tshirts. Do you think this would work?

    2 replies

    I would not recommend using bleach in aerosol form as it could easily get into your eyes and lungs.