Introduction: Controlled Bleaching With Discharge Paste

Picture of Controlled Bleaching With Discharge Paste

This is more of an introduction to discharge paste than an instructable. Yes, the name is terrible and the stuff is white and gooey which makes it even more wrong. But it's pretty damn cool, so you just accept it and move on towards greatness.

Where bleach is incredibly thin and can destroy natural fibers if you're not careful, discharge paste is the opposite. It's gooey so it doesn't spill easily and can be used with silkscreens. It's also nice to natural fibers, which is good as well. It removes most fiber reactives, direct dyes and acid dyes and typically leaves a light golden color when it's done.

Everything you need to know about this is printed right on the label. To use it, you just apply it to a fabric, let it dry, and then iron it on the lowest steam setting for a few minutes to activate it. To make sure it works on a new fabric, test it by putting a small spot in a hidden area of the target material (assuming you're using a shirt) and see how well it works before spreading it everywhere.

Available in the U.S. from Dharma Trading Co.

Step 1: Apply to the Fabric of Your Life

Picture of Apply to the Fabric of Your Life

Put down a stencil or a silkscreen or forgo all premade plans and apply the paste directly to the fabric. If you want to let the goo seep in a little deeper, you can thin it out with some water. You can just go for it or keep on testing on more spots on the fabric.

Used shirts are cheap to play with, but for consistency and thin shirts, go to the underwear aisle and get the dyed t-shirts. They're usually less than $5 each for a decent one and tend to be thinner than the Beefy T's that make me sweat like I still live in SoCal.

Step 2: Make Magic With Your Iron

Picture of Make Magic With Your Iron

At first there's not much to see on the shirt. Even when you wait until the paste dries, there's still not much to see. This all changes dramatically when you put the iron on the fabric. The color quickly disappears and POW! there's your design.

One more thing, be sure to be in a well-ventilated area. This stuff stinks and when your fabric is done it too will stink until you wash it. So don't run out to a bar to show off your new clothes to your friends because you'll destroy your shirts first impression on them.

Now clean up your mess and plan out your next project.

Step 3: BONUS! Before and After... Again.

Picture of BONUS! Before and After... Again.

One more example of how the paste looks dried on black cotton and right after it's been ironed.


Squash (author)2016-06-09

I have a huge container of it. I've made about 5 projects and have more than half still remaining but the last two projects haven't worked out. It is not pulling the color out anymore. I suggest a smaller bottle unless you are planning on doing a LOT of projects pretty quickly. It may be losing it's "power" to remove the dye.

MelC14 (author)2016-03-17

Can I set discharge with clothes dryer on "hot" instead of using and iron?

Thanks :)

KemikalzAreFun (author)2013-09-13

Why do you need discharge paste? Couldn't you just mix up a bit of cornstarch an mix in some bleach so it's thicker? Then just wash it off?
Idk maybe that's a stupid idea.. But it sounds good to me :p

ChristiD4 (author)KemikalzAreFun2016-01-02

because bleach runs the risk of destroying the fibers of the cloth and putting holes in it and discharge paste does not

JasonH3 (author)2014-09-24

Does it work on spandex?

TinyPenguin (author)2012-06-07

How many of those swan thingys do you think I could make from 8oz. of discharge paste?

r3nrut (author)2009-05-16

Could you do this with peroxide

gwhizz (author)r3nrut2011-08-04

I was thinking that.
There doesn't seem to be anything similar on eBay UK, so...
... how about a pack of hair colour, but just use the bleach part without mixing in the dye?
Gotta be worth a try!

arobz (author)2009-07-28

How would I go about using this technique on a white shirt? I want to put some text on a plain white shirt but have it be black and also red. Is there a dye or something I can use to make that happen?

teckner (author)arobz2010-07-12

For that, you need to do silk screening. Here's an instructable I recommend:

AshleyJean (author)2009-06-02

I tried this out on a purple linen dress and it worked beautifully! I did freehand painting rather than a stencil. Thanks for the instructions!

AshleyJean (author)AshleyJean2009-10-22

 Here is a photo of the dress I did with discharge paste...

Agroking (author)AshleyJean2009-11-30

Very nice dress! Is that really purple? Looks more like maroon to me...

n8man (author)2009-05-11

I am planning on doing this with some red fabric for a flag, my question is though, will the color be bleached through the fabric or just on one side?

Squash (author)n8man2009-06-14

When I did it on a shirt, it did go all the way through in some spots. More than likely you will not get an even reverse image on the other side. If you want to do a mirror image, just mark it off after you do the first side. If you want a different design, you'll have to do it with two pieces of fabric and sew them together.

fraggle (author)2009-03-13

thanks for this... did this with middle schoolers at a summer day camp and they were amazed and enjoyed it a ton.

fungus amungus (author)fraggle2009-03-16

Cool. Have any pictures of the shirts?

gaby99 (author)2007-12-15

Do you have any idea of what colour it becomes for different coloured shirts, or if the amount of paste changes it at all? I just bought the 8 ounce one... expensive!

MrL33TPenguin (author)gaby992008-09-29

how expensive?

yo, it's in the link above but it is 8.39 for 8 ounces.

oh..... i dont read in between the lines...

thecheatscalc (author)2008-12-04

hmm... the question I have is, how much paste will a design like your bird take? I'm thinking of doing ~3 shirts of a design of about the same area, and want to know if an 8oz bottle would suffice?

moisture (author)thecheatscalc2008-12-19

Eight ounces will definitely be enough. I laid it on thick for one of my designs and it still looks like I just opened the 8oz jar.

moisture (author)2008-12-19

I made a TNT shirt for one of my destructive little brothers. The stencil was cut out of thick paper then pinned it to the shirt. A double-helping of paste followed. It's a little fuzzy but I quite like it and will definitely be doing more, thanks!

hivoltage (author)2008-10-14

i bought some of this stuff to try silksdcreening it onto tshirts and it worked great! i am very happy with the results. it has a consistency i wasnt really expecting, very sticky and goopy, less gel like. i was worried it wouldnt screen through well but it worked excellently. i accidentally exposed the screen for the guitar shirt backwards so now its a left handed guitar :) the skull shirtis a little fuzzy because i got impatient and ironed it before it was dry and i accidentally forgot to replug in the iron so i was smearing it around with an iron that wasnt even hot...

codongolev (author)hivoltage2008-12-09

AND WHAT'S WRONG WITH A LEFT HANDED GUITAR? ha, there's one sitting on my lap right now.

fungus amungus (author)hivoltage2008-10-15

Hey, nice look there!

hivoltage (author)fungus amungus2008-10-15

thanks! im very happy with them. i used slimguy379's great screen printing instructable to make the screens for these designs. this is kind of my first foray into screen printing and its a lot of fun. the possibilities are endless.i really like the discharge paste effect and i think ill be using it a lot. i just have to make sure to let it dry fully instead of getting impatient and ironing it before its dry.

askjerry (author)2008-09-18

Wow... that is really neat stuff. I have a 35w Laser Engraver so I can cut some really detailed stencils. I'll get some and try it out! If anyone needs a stencil cut I can probably do that pretty cheaply too. (Just let me know)

Silkscreens would be the best for doing a large number I suppose.

Thanks for the info!

theeekingeek (author)2008-08-30

Hello, I plan to use this method to design a hooded sweatshirt for someone and I was wondering if the the sweatshirt needs to be 100% cotton or just mostly cotton? A lot of the hooded sweatshirts are 90/10 or 80/20.

parke (author)2008-07-15

I've used this technique a few times now and only had a few problems. The bleaching was sometimes uneven with different shades, i'm guessing due to uneven application of the discharge paste. Also, i never invested the few dollars and time to get spray mount so i would just have to hold the stencils on the shirt, not quite as precise as a mounted stencil(bleach would get under the stencil). But altogether this technique is awesome... thanks

parke (author)2006-12-03

you said that you used spray mount to put the stencil on the shirt but i couldn't find it on any websites. Is there a technical name for the stuff or does anyone know where to buy it. thanks

resonanteye (author)parke2008-07-14

most art stores and hardware stores have it. spray mount adhesive. If you're looking online utrecht art supplier carries it.

snauzinator (author)parke2007-03-09

art stores will have this stuff... its called spray adhesive or spray mount, just ask!

fungus amungus (author)parke2006-12-03

You couldn't find it? Did you try Googling "spray mount"? 'Cuz that brings up a lot of results.

trayo (author)2008-06-28

Those designs are bomb digity.

amorello5401 (author)2008-04-24

This is really cool! I read a couple comments and looked up how to make discharge paste... after going through several pages of femanine hygene sites this one caught my eye.
It says to use soda ash and ammonia among other things. thanks for this instructable I can't wait to try it out.

Rishnai (author)2008-03-26

Kickass bird stencil, man! Did you design it yourself, or download it from someplace?

capitolhill (author)2008-03-16

Very helpful fungus amungus, thanks much.
Here is my result working from a laser printed stencil
(font is Birckham Script Pro, shirt is American Apparel The Summer Shirt).
My Flickr has the full sizers...

Cool! Nice detail there.

Thanks! I might as well ask this here, as I have been scouring the 'webs for while for info... Are you familiar with a fabric effect called 'burnout'? I have seen different t-shirt manufacturers doing it, but I have never been able to figure out the process. On a t-shirt, for example, the fabric looks almost see-thru, with chunks that are thicker. It sort of appears heavily bleached, but the fabric still has integrity... Sorry, that's the best I can describe it... Let me see if I can find a picture...

You're talking about the burnout, or devore, effect. What happens is that the plant fibers are dissolved such as cotton, rayon, or linen. If the material is a blend of plant and non-plant fibers, then the non-plant fibers remain.

There's Wilflex Oasis which has a burn out base as well as this stuff. I haven't tried it myself.

Awesome-- I think that will be my next experiment! Thanks for pointing the way, it appears I should have spent more time looking at Dharma's site. They certainly are a comprehensive resource.

iamthemargerineman (author)2008-03-15

woahhhh. this is sooo cool. the name is amusing though. i can't wait to walk into homeroom and have someone ask "hey! wher'd you get that kickass shirt?" to which i will then reply... "oh this old thing? i made it with dishcharge paste."

diN0bot (author)2008-02-17

The first shirt I tried this on didn't work out so well--- after ironing the paste looked yellowish and then faded back to black. after washing the shirt was still black. prolly a synthetic fabric? next few shirts worked great. the paste wont bleach off paint, but works fine for dye. excellent to use after tye dying. thanks for the heads up. ps - drying time can take 30 minutes to a few hours<-- to make sure it works fully. I assume the discharging occurs up until drying time (?) i've tried different amounts of paste to see if I can get more/less discharging. hard to control pps - ironing takes a minute, maybe a few more just to "make sure".

Scooterjockey (author)2008-02-06

I have never been more pleased with the final result of a project. I couldn't wait to try this! Great! -T

Yeah, the effect of ironing it and seeing the design pop out is pretty magical. Nice job on the skull!

ezuk (author)2008-02-06

Beautifull work. I want to try this method, but buying from Dharma isn't really an option for me, being located in Israel. (Shipping charges are killer.) Any idea how I can make a paste from common household materials? I saw mentions of cornstarch etc, but did anyone actually try?

fungus amungus (author)ezuk2008-02-06

I haven't tried that. I still have a ton of the stuff left so I haven't bothered with alternate methods.

Summer (author)2008-01-25

I've been reading about this product and was wondering if you used the detergents that The Dharma Trading Company recommended you use with it.

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to make things for the internets. I also sell a pretty cool calendar at You'll like it.
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