Renewing my all-too-brief love affair with bleaching my own designs into clothing
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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.
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Diaphane1 year ago
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!
stencilbleach (4).JPG
Tek9091 year ago
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.
tyzzy2 years ago
you can also spray it with peroxide to deactivate the bleach
redfro23 years ago
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.
I was using card stock just because it's all I had on hand. Haha
BigNateMI3 years ago
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.
sharkstun973 years ago
*Gasp* To a polo shirt! lol but nice tutorial
XxGOTARxX5 years ago
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?
 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:
-Bleach in a design (Eg, onto a blue shirt)
-Dye the whole shirt with red (Making the bleached bit red and the rest purple)
-Bleach some of the red section (Making it ~white/pale)
Giving a three tone result.
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!
Mcblugi5 years ago
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 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.
prank (author)  suicidalwally8 years ago
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!
krazykat prank8 years ago
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.
gannon6 years ago
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 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.
xenor gannon6 years ago
I thought hydrogen peroxide was bleach.
mlmommy6 years ago
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.
diello6 years ago
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!
json6848 years ago
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.
im_tux json6846 years ago
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
j626no json6847 years ago
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
j626no j626no7 years ago
ok so this pic didnt post, here it is (im going to try again, no promises)
j626no j626no7 years ago
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.
prank (author)  fungus amungus8 years ago
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.
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