Bleach Printing a T-shirt

Introduction: Bleach Printing a T-shirt

This instructable explains how I bleach printed a few t-shirts.  I wanted to try a little different approach for making some shirts for the band I'm in. The goal was to make something a little more distressed looking and less expensive.  There are bleaching techniques using waxed paper ironed to the shirt on but I was looking to make multiple shirts and waxed paper cut-outs weren't a good option.  this instructable will cover the details of how I made the shirt pictured, not necessarily How I mounted everything to the table I worked on.  That's really not all that important.

Hope you enjoy!

I scrounged the house for some of the materials and had a buy a few others.

The basic list is:
1 Gallon Bleach - I used a 1:3ish  solution of bleach to water
3% Hydrogen Peroxide (used to neutralize the bleach)
1 Pair rubber gloves
1 Spray bottle (to be filled with a bleach solution) - use a good bottle that produces a good fine mist
1 Spray bottle (to be filled with peroxide) - use a good bottle that produces a good fine mist
1 Old plexiglass screen door window
A couple of towels
A couple pieces of cardboard
Blank stencil material (purchased from Michael's)
Miscellaneous "shapes" - I used a paper plate and a larger ceramic dining plate.

Tools used:
Ruler and square
Metal file
Utility razor knife
Xacto knife
small hammer
2 spring clamps
Blue painter tape
5 gallon bucket for water

Use caution and/or eye protection when cutting plexiglass. 
Use bleach in a well ventillated area.
Be careful
Have fun!

Step 1: Cut the Plexiglass

I had an old plexiglass screen door window in my basement.  The stencil is 8" x 10" so I cut a square opening in the plexi about 9" wide by 7" tall allowing 1/2" around the edge to tape the stencil to the plexi.

To cut, mark the edge of the opening and score as deeply as possible with the utility knife (multiple shallow passes works better than pushin' real hard).  I got impatient so I drilled a couple of holes to accomodate my little hack saw and cut it out on 3 edges.  Use the small hammer to tap along the score to crack the plexi loose.  Use snips to trim off any jagged edges.

Step 2: Finish Off the Opening

Use a metal file to clean up the edges of the opening in the plexiglass.  There may be some extranious cracking.  It's ok because it'll be covered with tape.  When cutting and filing are done, wipe the plexi with a rag to remove the little bits and pieces and dust.

Step 3: Mounting and Hinging

I'm not going to go into detail about the mounting and hinging because it is very makeshift and not critical to making the shirt.
Quick & dirty steps:
Find a couple hinges
Line up and mount hinges to window frame and board (notch board as needed)
Square up and clamp board to table.

Step 4: Attach the Stencil

Line up the stencil under the plexiglass.  Tape the stencil to the plexiglass with blue painter's tape.  It can be easily removed (in most cases).  Lift the plexi and carefully tape the back side as well.

Step 5: Place the Shirt and Spray

Line up the shirt under the plexi and lay it down.  The first run, I overdid it a little on the bleach and it bled under the stencil.  Plus the shirt is thick enough that it make the plexi flex a little causing the center of the stencil to lift off the fabric.  This can be countered by making sure to pull the stencil tight when you tape it to the plexi and by placing small weights on the plexi to press the stencil down (cans of veggies would work).

When you're lined up, set the spray bottle to the finest mist it will produce and spray away.  It took about 8 or 10 pumps to thoroughly wet the fabric.  Let stand for 10 minutes (longer if you want a more pronounced bleaching effect.

Remove the weights and use a towel to blot up some of the bleach on the suface of the plexi and stencil.

Step 6: Have Fun With Shapes

I laid the dinner plate down and misted the bleach around it.  I removed the dinner plate and laid the smaller paper plate inside the ring.  I set the spray bottle to a coarse stream and lightly sprayed randomly around the edge to create a more distressed blotchly outline.
You could use anything to create additional shapes.  Nylon string would be fun!  After about 10 minutes, spray with hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the bleach and rinse the shirt in clean water.

Step 7: Wash and Dry

When satisfied with the level of bleaching, spray the bleached areas with 3% Hydrogen Peroxide to neutralize the bleach.  I have read that peroxide is safer to use than vinegar for neutralizing bleach and it doesn't smell nearly as bad.  The peroxide seems to neutralize the bleach faster than vinegar too.  Let the peroxide sit for a minute or so and then rinse thoroughly with water.  Here's the finished product.

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool looking! I've seen "tentacle" shirts using this technique. It might be a good idea to let the finished shirt sit in a weak vinegar solution to neutralize the bleach. I tried this technique years ago, and didn't neutralize the bleach - just washed it. Within a few washings the fibers were falling apart because the bleach had weakened them too much. Just a suggestion :)


    Reply 11 months ago

    Don't mix bleach and vinegar, no matter the strength. You'll create toxic chlorine gas.

    Stick to using cold water or peroxide.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'll add that step. For this shirt, I actually did neutralized the bleach by spraying it with straight 3% Hydrogen Peroxide (from Walgreens) which I've read is a safer neutralizer. Then I rinsed in water.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    you could also submerge it in a bucket of water and hydrogen peroxide for several minutes to be extra careful. that way all the bleach is neutralized. then rinse it out and it should be good for a wash cycle. and it's reusable so if you can just slap a lid on the bucket, you can use it over and over. cool tutorial by the way


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I like how ya' used the plate to ring the rest of the logo.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I intentionally make it kind of blotchy and irregualr around the edges hoping it would look similar to an eclipse corona.