Renewing my all-too-brief love affair with bleaching my own designs into clothing

Step 1: What this is

This is a really simple way of putting text or other designs onto a T-Shirt. It takes about 1 minute, once you have all the materials. Basically, I put bleach into a perfume spritz bottle, spelled things out with magnetic refridgerator letters, and then spritzed over them onto a dark thrift store shirt. It works really well--Check it out!


Step 2: Get your stuff

You need:
Bleach. Get it from any market/gas station/convenience store. Costs about $2
A dark cotton T-shirt. Support your local thrift store. Costs about 20 cents
A cheap perfume spritz bottle. The finer the spray, the better. $1 from Jax, a cheap retail outletish thing. I went for the JOOP variety of perfume. It smelled like joop.

Magnetic fridge letters. About $7 from your favorite toy store. Go Stellabella toys!

Step 3: bleach=perfume

Pour the perfume into the neighbors' backyard, or douse yourself in it. Refill the bottle with bleach, and put the cap back on.
It's probably a good idea to label the bottle, since even if you're smart enough to remember that it now is full of death-and burning liquid, rather than the original, more benign foul-smelling liquid, your friends/husband/dog/cousin you keep locked in the attic probably will mistakenly perfume themselves with bleach at some point. Bleach is a really good perfume, in that a really small amount will make you smell like it for days.

Step 4: Send your message to the world!

This is a good outside project. That way you don't have to worry about bleaching the hardwood floors your landlord is sooooo proud of and would whack you over the head with a cattle prod if you mess them up.
(I wish I had thought about that before etching circuit boards. EIT!)

Anyway, put on your best collection of punk covers of the song "Hole in my heart(all the way to china)" by Cyndi Lauper and spread your shirt out flat on the ground.

Spell something out on your shirt with the refridgerator letters. Alternatively, put something cool on your shirt, like a buzzsaw or chains and sprockets or your neighbor.

Now, spritz that bleach like you were born to do it!

You don't need much--don't soak the fabric, but just get bleach all around the letters. It starts changing color instantly--it's magic!

Step 5: Finish up

Let the shirt sit for a minute or two, to make sure the bleach can fully destroy the color (how does bleach suck color out of stuff? Isn't that absolutely terrifying?)
Then, take the letters off, being careful not to smear any bleach, and rinse the shirt in a sink for a minute or so, kneading it. Rinse it until the water running off the shirt is clear.

Now, put your shirt out into the sun to dry.
Go take a shower--it's a hot day.
The shirt will be dry by the time you get out.
It it's not, take another shower. Or write an instructable or something.

By now, it's about 2 in the afternoon--time to get to work. Put on your creation, and go dazzle your friends with your artistic ability!

happy shirting!
I did this with a bag I have made out of a shirt. I used a doily for a stencil. Worked great! I'm gonna try it with letters too!
i have been doing this for a few years. but i use to make stencils. i use to print on to normal paper then cover it in clear contact (not sure what you guys call it around the world, book contact....??) or cover it in clear sticky tape so it was semi water proof then cut the stencil to shape.
you can also spray it with peroxide to deactivate the bleach
Fun foam like you would buy in a craft store (Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc) makes for a good stencil too. It's sold in flat sheets like sheets of paper. They can also be found in various pre-cut shapes. I bought a box full of fun foam snowflakes of all different shapes and sizes, dropped them randomly on a dark blue t-shirt, bleached, and voila! Pumpkin stencils work too for ghoulish t's.
Foam sheets are a really good idea. Never would have thought of that. <br>I was using card stock just because it's all I had on hand. Haha
We used this technique for entertaining the kids at a nurses' union sign making event. It worked out perfectly. By the end of the event, the adults were lining up to have their union-issue red T-shirts personalized. The kids did the layout, and the rinsing with a hose. Adults did the bleach application, as nobody wanted to see a kid get a face-full of bleach, even within spitting distance of a hundred RNs. We used steel baking pans inside the shirts. and magnetic foam letters for a resist. We also used DIY'd foam stencils with a dusting of Elmer's spray adhesive for the graphics. As we had most of these things on hand, cost was $4 for a new T-shirt, or free if you had your own.
*Gasp* To a polo shirt! lol but nice tutorial
My question that I have been hunting all over the net to find is... Is it possible to bleach dye to get different colors. At least is it possible to do a heavysolution and then a lighter one later on the same shirt to atleast make two shades. Would adding food coloring to the bleach solution cause a slighty different color tint?
&nbsp;I think the fod colouring would just wash out; but what you could do is either use clothes dye applied directly in certain spots after bleaching, or:<br /> -Bleach in a design (Eg, onto a blue shirt)<br /> -Dye the whole shirt with red (Making the bleached bit red and the rest purple)<br /> -Bleach some of the red section (Making it ~white/pale)<br /> Giving a three tone result.<br />
The problem with a heavier solution is it might burn through the fabric. If you did 50/50 and maybe 75 % water and 25% Bleach it might work. I don't know about the food coloring but that seems interesting.
Great tutorial and so funny!<br />
I used a cleaner spray bottle and it worked fine. I over sprayed though and when I rinsed it 5 minutes later after blotting it with a paper towel and waiting 2 more minutes, the bleach bled into the back of my shirt which I can deal with but I don't like. Also, using colored shirts instead of black shirts are really cool. I've done a orange one which turns out kind of pink w/ the bleach. The blue one turned out kind of purple. Depending on how much you spray it seems like it would change the color
great idea - i've been looking for a better way to put writing and stuff on shirts than just using sharpies, and this is terrific. one question - any idea how you might do images or designs that aren't purely black and white?
Many black fabrics are actually another color underneath and can be stopped at that point by rinsing in cold water and placing in an Anti-Chlor (from www.prochemical.com)solution. In some cases, manufacturers have an over-run of a particular color of fabric so they will dye it black and use it for something else. The underlying color may or may not pop up. It depends on the initial dye process and whether direct dyes (like Rit) were used or whether a fiber-reactive dye like Procion MX was used. There are several other classes of dyes as well. Some are dischargeable to a rust, cream or near white from black. Some can't be discharged at all. As a dyer, I alway ask for a small sliver of any black fabric I want to buy and go do a bleach test in my car. I do this EVERY time because different bolts from the same company can discharge to different colors. Some colors cannot be discharged with bleach such as Procion MX turquoise. I also use other colored commercial fabrics to bleach besides just black. It makes sense to pick a dark color rather than pastels since you're looking for contrast. There are some very interesting results. Virtually all dyed fabrics are a mixture of dyes to get a particular color. One of the colors used in manufacturing may not be dischargeable and the others will so you will get one of the underlying colors and it will never go to cream or white. Sorry to be so windy here but it is really an involved process that some people have made a career of. Personally, I am a hobby dyer but love the process. Besides spraying, you can make up a thickened bleach to paint on specific area altho now that the Bleach Pen is available I don't do the thickner anymore.
nope. well, actually, I'm lying. I don't pretend to understand the chemistry, but most shirts seem to have an intermediate color that they bleach to as they bleach to white. Black shirts, for example, tend to turn orange first. The longer you leave the bleach in, the more white it gets. So if you put on a mask, bleach is, wait a certain amount of time, and then wash it out, you could do several masks, waiting different amounts of time for each one, and get a kind of 'grayscale', except going from white to orange to black. try it!
I tried this bleach spritz and everything went smoothly except it ended up that when I rinsed the shirt, the bleach went onto other parts of the shirt and it looked terrible. Even tried a vinegar/water rinse to stop the bleach. Any suggestions on rinsing while keeping the bleach away from the rest of shirt? THANKS.
i wasnt paying much attention in science today, but somewhere in there "bleach is a pretty strong base" actually go into my consciousness. i know that lemon juice is an acid of fair strength and seeing as acids and bases are opposites(but both can be corrosive), if you wanted to neutralize the bleach the chemical knowledge in me would say spray some lemon juice on there. at the least you'll smell lemony and nice :)
yeah but to confuise matters further, chlorine gas makes acid then bleaches litmus... unless it's like chlorine hydroxide... or something
I had one semi-failure when I use just a paper stencil. Some of the bleach soaked through the paper and 'sort-of' bleached the area around my intended design. I tried to correct it and ruined it, or I would show you a pic. I was using half bleach-half water. by the way.
I did this bleaching technique about 10 years ago in wearable art class I took. Try making the stencils out of freezer paper. Cut them out and then iron them on to the fabric with a medium hot iron. Spritz on the 50% bleach LIGHTLY and wait only a minute or two, then plunge into a vinegar and water bath...sorry, don't remember how much vinegar...then wash immediately in cold water.
Forgot to mention that you leave the stencils on until after you get it out of the vinegar water bath. Then, they should just peel right off.
You can use any type of spray bottle, not just perfume bottles. I use the generic household spray bottles I buy at the big-box stores. Diluting the bleach about 50-50 with water will buy additional time to finish spraying the entire area and also decreases the amount of damage bleach does to the fabric. I've also used it at a 20% strength (2 parts bleach to 8 parts water) when working on a large project. A larger spray allows you to get the bleach on faster. The dilution of the bleach is inversely proportionaly to the amount of time it takes to remove the color. Weaker solutions take longer but are less likely to damage fiber. Once the color is removed, you can remove the resist items like the letters or or other objects placed on the garment to block the bleach, before you rinse the garment in cold water and then soak in the Anti-Chlor to completely stop the bleaching action. Washing in a regular wash is then recommended.
Hydrogen peroxide or Oxy-Clean will neutralize the bleach. Using vinegar or lemon juice can lead to nasty poisonous gas, I believe, if I remember high school chemistry decades afo.
There is a better & cheaper product called Anti-Chlor available from www.prochemical.com. Otherwise, the bleach will eat holes in the fabric after a few washings. We won't discuss how I know about the holes! There are many classes for dyers re: discharge of color and this is the recommended product. There is also about 3 tons of How-To info on their website on dyeing and painting fabrics.
I thought hydrogen peroxide <em>was</em> bleach.<br/>
Use liquid dishwasher detergent. Cascade or just a generic brand. You can paint it on. My kids use cookie cutters dipped in it to make their patterns. Wait about 30 minutes, then wash it off. Easy.
Awesome trick, using magnet letters :) You can also use masking tape and make some neat-o designs. Also, if you want to stop the bleaching process before it gets this far (some like it barely there;), you can dip it in cold water at your desired level of bleach.
hey, nice instructable...will definately try i think my chemistry teacher said that bleach oxidises things which removes the colour but im not sure how or why!
I have done this too. But I used a more average spray bottle. The kind that usually holds cleaner. It's spray isn't nearly as fine as a spritzer, but I rather like the effect. Almost like paint dripping. The bottle doesn't wear out, so you don't have to worry about that. The way I do it I also get a bottle of vinegar out. In an attempt to neutralize the bleach so it doesn't bleach the shirt too much. I haven't tried it without it, but I like how it looks. Also, you might look into using transparencies. Like for overheads and such. It is more expensive, but you can use it multiple times and not worry about it wearing out. And one final tip, if you use a black shirt you can then use a can of plain spray paint afterward to add a little color. And it is hard to notice on the unbleached portion. The paint will eventually wear off, but it takes some time for that to happen.
if you use a bottle of spray bleach like clorox klean up then ya hold it far away of the mist itll make the image clearer
i really like json's work; however, here is my attempt at modern art. my art student friends really liked it, although most people said it was kind of distrubing. i still think its really cool, any questions dont be afraid to ask. if you ever see this json, how did you make that cube...i REALLY like it and wanna make one for myself. thanks
ok so this pic didnt post, here it is (im going to try again, no promises)
ok so does anybody know how i can post a picture in my comment? it never works for me and its getting really annoying. thanks
I tried this bleach spritz and everything went smoothly except it ended up that when I rinsed the shirt, the bleach went onto other parts of the shirt and it looked terrible. Even tried a vinegar/water rinse to stop the bleach. Any suggestions on rinsing while keeping the bleach away from the rest of shirt? THANKS.
let the bleach dry then rinse it off. but don't leave it on too long.
I prefer using discharge paste. Yes, it's real stuff. Look it up.
what's in it? It looks like a pretty nice alternative to bleach, which I hate using, since I hate getting it on me and smelling like a swimming pool for a week afterwards. Do you just paint it on? Is there any way to thin it so that you could spray it? The stuff I saw online looked pretty thick
It is thick. Thick and white and gooey and everything that something called "discharge paste" shouldn't be. Smells kinda nasty, too. Especially when you iron it in the final step to activate it. Should be used with good ventilation or a respirator. The advantage to it is that it's much more controllable. You can silkscreen with it, make clean stencils, or brush it directly onto the fabric. It's not going to run everywhere. I know that you can thin it out with water, but that's mostly for getting it deeper into the fabric. The label states that it shouldn't be sprayed anyway.
Would using a bleach/cornstarch mixture not do the same thing?
Here's a shirt that I did recently with the ol' paste.
that's really pretty. How did you do your stencils? Really amazing work, dude
The ones I've been doing lately are simply out of regular printer paper. I should try out that freezer paper trick, but I have so many spare sheets of paper and spray mount around that I haven't bothered. I can do an instructable for the discharge paste. Wouldn't be too much new info, I'm afraid. Really just a description of the different type of goop. I'll do it when I get a new design I need to put on a shirt.
How would you do LETTERS on a Tshirt with discharge paste? Any suggestions?
I did one of these with my son (14) and I like the way it turned out too. More importantly, his friends were impressed. I used spray adhesive to glue the printed image to posterboard before cutting out the stencil, then more spray adhesive to glue the stencil to the shirt. I think this made a huge difference in making the image crisp and clean. Check it out!
I've been doing stencils recently, and you're right--the spray adhesive makes everything SO much better
freaky i'm in the process of making myself a stencil for spray painting the exact same on to a shirt...
hell I was doing this aswell but keep meaning to get positive stencils so i can dot white letters on black, though I could just put black dye in the bottle...
Im going to try and bleach a hoodie on friday for a concert on saturday-your instructions seems so easy and simple-Thank you!
I'm no chemist but I'm pretty sure that if you mixed bleach and vinegar at full strength you'll have a really bad smelling bleach. The only thing I know of that stops bleach is lots and lots of water.

About This Instructable


188 favorites


Bio: here: http://www.artiswrong.com But really, I'm just this guy. For up-to-the-minute, action-packed updates on my life (and occasional drawings of tapeworms getting ... More »
More by prank: How to Draw Sweet 3D Graphics for LED cubes Make rad solar panels in minutes with a sweet desktop laminator Pixie, the world's most intense desk lamp
Add instructable to: