Quick Reverse Tie-Dye





Introduction: Quick Reverse Tie-Dye

About: I teach computer science and I do graphic design for printed bags, clothing, housewares, and much more. (http://www.BagChemistry.com, http://PaperTownToys.com and http://www.redbubble.com/people/bagchemistr...

This could possibly be the fastest and easiest way to tie-dye a shirt ever.

I found these navy and black tees on sale and I loved the fit, but I thought that they were a little plain.  I wanted to jazz them up a little, but in a subtle way, so that I could still wear them under a jacket or with jewelry.

Typically if you want to tie-dye something, you have to let the dye set for 6-8 hours.  With this method, you can be done in less than ten minutes.

Using bleach in a spray bottle, I was able to control how much of the shirt was altered and how much color was removed.

Step 1: Supplies and Stuff

You will need 
  • a clean dark tee shirt - the darker the better
  • a spray bottle
  • some rubber bands
  • bleach
  • a bleach-proof space 
Put a little bleach in your spray bottle. Label the bottle so that you don't accidentally mistake it for hair spray some day.

Arrange your tee in your bleach-proof space.  I have a plastic mannequin set up on my work table.  But you can just lay it flat on some plastic bags.  

These two instructables may give you some ideas for layouts:

1) Transforming a boring old black t-shirt using bleach!
2) Bleach Spritz Clothing

Step 2: Don't You Hate Delayed Gratification?

Now this is going to happen fast, so don't blink, or stop to check your email.

Gently mist your tee shirt.  Like magic, every where that a drop of bleach touches, color is removed.  Black turns brown and navy turns pink.

How does this happen?  According to http://www.howstuffworks.com/question189.htm, 

"When you buy a gallon of bleach at the grocery store, what you are buying is the chemical sodium hypochlorite mixed with water in a 5.25-percent solution. You're buying salt water that has been changed slightly by electricity.  

"Natural stains (as well as dyes) produced by everything from mildew to grass come from chemical compounds called chromophores. Chromophores can absorb light at specific wavelengths and therefore cause colors. When chlorine reacts with water, it produces hydrochloric acid and atomic oxygen. The oxygen reacts easily with the chromophores to eliminate the portion of its structure that causes the color."

I understood that completely.  Didn't you?

Anyway, the more bleach you use and the longer you leave on, the more color is removed. So, for subtle effects, mist lightly and go to the next step quickly.

On the example photos, I misted the black tee lightly and in an irregular pattern. For the navy blue tee, I went for a more dramatic tie-dye effect by tying rosettes into the fabric, using rubber bands. I also sprayed more heavily.

Step 3: And... You're Done!

To stop the chemical reaction, rinse and wash your tee immediately.

I just dumped mine in the kitchen sink with a little dish soap.

Its ready to wear when dry.



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    28 Discussions

    If I get a purple shirt what color would the bleach make it? Or, what color tee-shirt, when bleach is applied turns it purple?


    Oh I am so trying this! I'm a huge fan of bleach effects and I love this kind of pattern you did too. Thanks for posting!

    hi all
    take care when mixing bleach with detergent or soap, like you said in your last step... this can be dangerous as toxic fumes can be released. I once did this by mistake (in larger quantities) and my dog ran to the front door and stuck his nose through the letter-box! I had to dash out too and it wasn't safe for a few hours. Bleach and soap don't mix.

    5 replies

    Are you sure that detergent and bleach cause toxic fumes? If so, I should be dying every time I wash a load of whites. :-)

    You might be thinking of mixing bleach with ammonia. See http://chemistry.about.com/b/2010/08/20/why-you-shouldnt-mix-bleach-and-ammonia-bleach-and-ammonia-chemical-reactions.htm

    I read that you cannot safety mix bleach with dish soap or other soaps. LAUNDRY- soap is specially formulated, so it wont kill of the socker moms. I tried it and it is true.

    Hi Bitsi,
    maybe the detergent I was using had amonia in it, and your doesn't? Glad you replied as it alerted me to exactly what to avoid! Thanks for that...sorry for any confusion...
    it's a great Ible anyway... now I feel a bit more reasured! So I will try it,, taking care what NOT to mix.

    You are mixing up your medaphors and soaps...
    Not quite accurate. See my comment below... Cheap crap Discount Detergent mite do this,(react with bleach). not Tide or Cheer.
    Did it 50 times.

    Don't use vinegar to stop the bleaching process. It reacts with the bleach to form even more caustic compounds and will make your fabric deteriorate faster. Hydrogen peroxide is available at most drugstores/grocery stores if you just want to try this once or twice. If you want to do more, look for sodium or potassium metabisulfite where wine-making supplies are sold, it's cheap and you don't need to use very much. http://www.pburch.net/dyeing/FAQ/neutralizingdischarge.shtml has more information if you're interested.

    1 reply

    Yes , leaving residue of bleach will disintagrate your fabric in time So .Use Peroxide. I find rinsing well and then damp dry , then a little peroxide works fine. Peroxide is cheap on sale 75 c a pint, and most everyone has some , its good for mouthwash ,gives whiter teeth and on and on

    lebelling the bottle hairspray so when your sister sees it she uses it. then run like hell until she calms down. muahahahahahaa

    What a great idea! Maybe with this, I will not need to throw out some old boring t-shirts. :) thank you!

    i just did it with a dark purple v-neck and it turned out awesome!!! the bleach made it because a light maroon color. It look so cool! thank you for uploading this idea cause i always wanted to try it out but i never did cause i was afraid i would ruin it but im so glad i did :] BIG THANKS!

    Just completely recycled a black T that I put into the trash today. I love it! And it only took me 5 minutes! My shirt is drying on the porch right now...I can't wait to see the finished product! :)

    1 reply

    nice work, the design you did is actually wearable. I'm not fond of certain crazy tie dye looks.....less is more in my opinion.

    I might try this with a few old shirts of mine!

    1 reply

    Yes, I prefer to keep my crazy on the inside. But I'm really enjoying my subtly subversive tee shirts. Have fun with yours.


    Why stop there. With some home made or purchased stencils you can make these very customized. CS


    1 reply

    Great technique but . . .washing in water does not stop the damage the bleach will inflict on the fabric itself over time. When doing discharge dyeing the bleach has to be neutralized. Two ways to do this. One is to buy a product called Anti-Chlor or you can use white vinegar. Be sure to rinse the fabric well in plain water and then place it in the vinegar bath for about 15-20 minutes then wash as usual. The vinegar is not as effective as the Anti-Chlor but is better than nothing. You can also find a product in pet stores that is used for neutralizing the chlorine in a fish tank. That will work too. The main thing is to stop the bleach from eating the fabric over time. Whatever method you choose to use, the bleach should be rinsed out first before going to the neutralizing step.

    In Discharge Dyeing classes, the bleach is never used full strength. The strongest we use is 50-50 with water. Many instructors go with a 30% bleach solution to 70% water.