Introduction: Transforming a Boring Old Black T-shirt Using Bleach!

Picture of Transforming a Boring Old Black T-shirt Using Bleach!

Do you have a few boring old black t-shirts that you are sick of? Here's a way to transform them into "something else". It's sort of like tie-dying, but using bleach to remove the dye, instead of adding dyes. It's also a much quicker process, which I am sure "the have-it-nows" will appreciate!

Step 1: Purloin Your Boring Old Shirt

Picture of Purloin Your Boring Old Shirt

I have kidnapped an old black shirt from my son! You can also use boring old dark blue shirts for this transformation too! It is really cool! Be sure to use 100% cotton for this. First you need to wash the shirt (for who knows what perils lurk within its folds!) Once washed you can spin it dry and you are ready to begin!

Step 2: You Are Now Spoiled for Choice...

Picture of You Are Now Spoiled for Choice...

Now that you have boring old you know what, you have so many choices ahead of you. How are you going to transform it into something amazing (with bleach.
Choice One: You can pretend you are doing a rainbow swirl tie-dye and place the shirt face down, place a dowel rod in the center and twirl it anti or clockwise to achieve "pie", and put rubber bands on to hold its shape

Step 3: Second Choice

Picture of Second Choice

Choice Two:
You can scrunch up your shirt in an irregular pattern and then keep in shape with rubber bands back and front.

Step 4: Bullseye Choice

Picture of Bullseye Choice

Third choice:Hold the shirt by its middle (back and front together) and let it free fall while you are holding the pointy end.  Then put on rubber bands round it, as many as you like and fairly tight.

Step 5: Choice Du Jour!

Picture of Choice Du Jour!

This is the method I quite like! Take boring old you know what and lay it face down, upside down, sideways down, any old down you like and beg borrow or steal marbles, stones, small rocks, or those litte weird glass shape things that you can buy to decorate vases or whatever! You are going to tie these into the shirt with rubber bands in either a regular or random pattern, whichever you like (by the way you can also do this with tie-dying)

Step 6: Band the Foreign Objects!

Picture of Band the Foreign Objects!

Now you have chosen your design and picked out some assorted foreign objects, start putting the marbles, etc. on the t-shirt and fix rubber bands around them. Make the rubber bands very tight and insert your marbles from both sides of the shirt as it makes a more interesting effect on the back and front. These pictures are over exposed so you can see the effect more.

Step 7: The Bleach Solution - Be Very Careful!

Picture of The Bleach Solution - Be Very Careful!

Prepare a mild bleach and water solution, using common household bleach. BE VERY CAREFUL, YOU ARE DEALING WITH BLEACH! Do not get bleach in your eyes or on your skin, accidental splashes rinse off immediately. Do not splash on your clothes as you will bleach them. Wear rubber gloves and old clothes (instead of old clothes you could wear a strategically adapted trash bag!) When you have mixed your bleach solution (about 1/3 bleach to 2/3rd cold tap water) place your bobbled, banded shirt into it and make sure it is completely submerged. This is the hard part, as depending on the dye used in the t-shirt when it was manufactured, there is really no hard and fast rule as to how long you should leave the shirt soaking in the bleach. I suggest that after 10 minutes, check the shirt by looking to see if it looks less black, and if there is dye in the water. It's not very scientific I'm afraid, but....... on no account get bleach on your skin or clothes.

Step 8: Yes! It Is the Same T-shirt

Picture of Yes!   It Is the Same T-shirt

I have un-banded my shirt, rinsed and washed in the washing machine, and here's what it looks like. It's brown with black splodges! Now all I have to do is to tell my son what I have done with his shirt! Ooops! The last pictures in this step are of a couple of shirts I bleached last year. They were both black to start with, but the bleach has made them very different colours. They were tied in what they call "the flower fold". The first picture is of the fronts and second the backs.

If you use a dark blue shirt, you will get pink with blue splodges! With black it depends on the dye of the original garment as to whether you will get brown or grey. Bottom line, it's not boring and it's quick!

Quick Note: for more bleach dyed effects go to


AntonyM17 (author)2016-08-26

Most of black and white bleaching creams are cheap and ok, but sometimes they just don't work as you wish.

xylo0 (author)2008-04-03

How do u get the arrow design?

BarbaraD75 (author)stinkymum2016-04-20

did it sucessfully but not happy with the orange black halloween dress look

stinkymum (author)xylo02008-08-18
jeana41 (author)stinkymum2009-04-08

Very cool! How do you get the patter of the one next to the diagonal (the "tiger" one)?

IsabellaE1 (author)2016-01-19

How do you do the design in the big picture after the diagonal one with the splotches. (the one that is kinda like fanning out from the center) ?

SaraF15 (author)2015-10-07

How can u make it actually white instead of brown or Grey? And once I do get it white(if I do) can I use another color on the white areas? I'm trying to do this with a black shirt but need yellow and white on it. Please someone help.... Thanks

WilliamS137 (author)SaraF152015-12-11

Do it in reverse i think is the only way.... tie dye a white shirt black then put colour in the remaining white parts? :)

TracieB3 (author)2015-09-21

1Akash (author)2015-07-14

It's Wonderful!! Thanks for sharing this. World appears beautiful for these reasons! I'll try it for sure and would place it here as well.

clutafobic (author)2012-10-23

Thanks for your pictures and instructions! I have tried to do the same with bleach on a black shirt. I did not get your beautiful results because I was too impatient. I kept adding more bleach until I see the black shirt changes colour.. I did get beautiful tie die results for a split second before ugly holes start to appear and the whole shirt falls apart. We should follow the proportion of water and bleach you provided!

masterochicken (author)2012-06-09

So would this not work for synthetics? I kind of want to try it with a pair of basketball shorts.

foobear (author)2011-08-28

wow, awesome results!

ve2vfd (author)2008-07-01

If you want additionnal spotty effect, when you take the shirt out of the bleach, lay it down flat on a table (outside!) and sprinkle straight vinegar on it.

The vinegar reacts violently with the bleach and burns deep spots in the fabric.

WARNING: This releases *very* nasty fumes, do it outside!

bomberman3 (author)ve2vfd2008-10-27

this also works with ammonia.

NinjaSloth (author)bomberman32009-01-19

if you mix bleach with just don't...... you'll die

Lance Mt. (author)NinjaSloth2009-12-21

 anyone know the actual chemical reaction taking place? To cause the toxicity? 

nina rabbit (author)Lance Mt.2011-07-12

According to Wikipedia: "Mixing with chlorine-containing products or strong oxidants, such as household bleach, can lead to hazardous compounds such as chloramines" (see Ammonia is generally irritating to mucous membranes such as in the eyes, nose, sinus, lungs, mouth, etc. Exposure to industrial strength ammonia for 30 minutes or more is considered hazardous to human respiratory health and injurious to the lungs. The fumes produced when ammonia and chlorine mix creates a gaseous release of compounds with even greater toxicity. In conclusion: DON'T MIX AMMONIA WITH BLEACH.

bomberman3 (author)bomberman32009-12-21

No, but seriously, don't. You will die.

Maureclaire (author)bomberman32009-04-11

NEVER mix bleach and ammonia !!! VERY toxic !!! I KNOW someone who DIED that way !!! I am serious !!!

x z i t (author)bomberman32009-03-13

viniger is easier 2 get tho

meyers (author)2010-06-21

what if i add a colour corant to the bleach and water solution? Would the dye be for example blue instead of the bleach stain colour?

mlockhart (author)meyers2011-03-06

No - only because bleach removes color from anything. If your dye is in the same solution as the bleach, the bleach'll suck the color right out of it!

But, if you dye the shirt a color afterward, the places you've bleached will be extra thirsty and be very receptive to color!

Cool idea

meyers (author)mlockhart2011-03-07

Well thank you very much ;D
I'll try it.

Perculiartom (author)2011-02-07

what type of bleach do you use?

gi joe (author)2010-07-14

thanks cool shirt

BobbyCage (author)2010-03-04

any way to keep all the "holes" black, makin 'em look like bullet holes?

BobbyCage (author)BobbyCage2010-03-04

 oh...and also, the bigger the "object", like the marble, the bigger the circle?

maniqueen (author)2010-02-10

I reaaally like the first one in the second row of pictures... you should do a tutorial for that one!! pleeease

KottonKandy (author)2009-12-07

Way cool! I can't wait to try this!

CriscoCisco (author)2009-07-16

Can you bleach tie dye with a brown shirt?

whitehawk (author)2008-03-27

Great instructable - thanks! Just a quick tip to add: When you remove the shirt from the bleach mixture, it's a good idea to rinse it first in water, then in water with vinegar added. The vinegar neutralizes the bleach to make sure it doesn't keep working. cheers, julie

stinkymum (author)whitehawk2008-03-27

Thanks, that's a good idea.

jeana41 (author)stinkymum2009-04-10

Very cool! How do you get the design of the one next to the diagonal, the tiger stripy looking one?

Legend (author)2008-03-27

I was thinking of tie-dying a pair of boxers into the Union Jack. It'll be hard to exclude the different places where I only want one colour. Perhaps I wont go tie-dye. Make a wooden rig eg in the red cross shape, get that on, then make an a rig with a load of triangles around the cross to make the blue trianles. Start with a white pair, so then I've the the union jack! Hmm, doesn't sound to hard, etiher.

stinkymum (author)Legend2008-03-28

If you find out how to do it, post it, as I would love to do a Union Jack! I have tie dyed an American flag using red and dark blue. That's fairly easy. However with the Brit flag, just a sufggestion - instead of using wood rig you could sew the shapes in somehow. Maybe fabric paint on a shirt would be the way to go, as then you could see what you are doing and have more control over the result.

kathynv (author)stinkymum2009-01-15

The place with the supplies and the knowledge to make any kind of tie dye you'd want is Dharma Trading (google it, they're online). I believe the way they'd have you make a Union Jack is to have you scrunch the shirt slightly, then mix the right color (or colour, since it's British) dye with a gel medium to thicken it. Use the thickened dye as if it were paint, and paint the scrunched up tee shirt. Naturally, you'd have to be careful about how you did the scrunching.

stinkymum (author)kathynv2009-01-16

Good idea! I love Dharma Trading, and that's where I buy all my dyes - they are the best.

libraryCat (author)stinkymum2009-01-09

-I don't know if this will help any, but once when I was in college I bleached out a pair of jeans, and I stapled some parts to make a design. Maybe that would work. Although, come to think of it, it might be hard on a t-shirt pulling all of those staples out. :) Just a thought.

stinkymum (author)Legend2008-03-28

Here's a picture of one of the "hint" of American flag shirts I did last year. There was a better one, but I can't find it! Someone splashed a bit of green on the front (one of the problems when dying with a group)

NinjaSloth (author)2009-01-12

does any dark color work because i want to try some of my old brown shirts. They arn't very dark but i just wanna know if it could work before i destroy them.

stinkymum (author)NinjaSloth2009-01-12

it should work, and the shirts will be brown and lighter brown.

hyperactiveguy (author)2008-11-28

I used to have a pair of black underwear... then somebody accidentally spilled bleach on them. Now they're black and orange HALLOWEEN ALL YEAR ROUND!!

hammer9876 (author)2008-08-20

I accidentally spilled multiple spots of some "mildew remover" (bleach) on a shirt I was wearing. It didn't looked bleached until it went through the wash. Over time, the fibers deteriorated and my white-splotched shirt became my holey shirt. Be careful will bleach.

stinkymum (author)hammer98762008-08-20

You are so right!

MissPennyFarthing (author)2008-08-18

Cool! :-) A couple of them remind me of Army camouflage!

seantowle (author)2008-08-16

how do you do the one where it has the three circles and the lines diagonally across? thanks in advance

stinkymum (author)seantowle2008-08-18

You scrunch diagonally from one corner to the sleeve opposite in pleats and rubber band round. Then you take some marbles and put them in the other corners and band them an then dip in the bleach solution.

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