Shibori Dyed T-shirt... Using Bleach!




About: I am an artist and clothing designer with a passion for helping others bring their own creative dreams to life.

This is a really fun, easy, and inexpensive project. It's also a great way to "rescue" a shirt that accidentally got bleach spots on it.

You only need a few things:

A colored t-shirt
A spray bottle that sprays a fine mist
A small plastic bucket that is about as big around as your shirt's collar
String, yarn, or heavy thread
1/3 cup (79 ml) of chlorine bleach
4 cups (1 liter) of vinegar

Step 1: Select Your Shirt

Any colored cotton t-shirt will work (you won't have the same luck with synthetics), but keep in mind that the bleach might not turn it the color you expected!

Red will usually turn pink, sometimes white.
Orange most often ends up a lighter shade of orange.
Yellow will usually turn white.
Greens will turn a light yellowish green or white.
Darker blues turn red or pink. Lighter blues turn white.
Purple will almost always end up pink.
Most black shirts will turn orange or red.
Gray and brown will usually turn pink.
White will turn... white. So don't use a white shirt. =)

The only way to be absolutely certain what color the shirt will turn... is to bleach it! If you're the cautious type, try cutting the sleeves a smidgen shorter and spraying the scraps with bleach. This is pretty much the only way you can "test" without bleaching your entire shirt, but of course you'll have shorter sleeves now!

The one I picked is a layered-look shirt that's purple on the top, and teal on the bottom.

Step 2: Dress the Bucket

Choose a plastic bucket that's small enough for the collar of your shirt to fit all the way around it. 

Place the shirt around the bucket, as though the bucket is wearing your shirt. Tie the string tightly around the hem (bottom) of the shirt to hold it in place.

Step 3: Wrap the String Around the Shirt

Start wrapping the string in a spiral fashion up the shirt, leaving an inch or two between the wraps. 

When you run out of room to wrap the string, slide the part you've already wrapped down the bucket (towards the hem), and then keep wrapping. The shirt will wrinkle and the wraps will overlap each other, but that's what you want to happen.

When you get to the sleeves, just try to flatten them out the best that you can. Keep wrapping the string and sliding the wrapped portion of the shirt down until... you have no more shirt left to wrap! Tie the string off to hold everything in place.

Try not to have any wrinkles be too big or uneven, but don't stress out about it too much. It'll look great when we're done!

Step 4: Bleach It!

Mix up 1/3 cup (79 ml) chlorine bleach and 2/3 cup (158 ml) water. Pour it into a spray bottle that sprays a fine mist.

Now mix 4 cups (1 liter) of vinegar with 4 cups (1 liter) of water. Keep this separate from the bleach mixture, to use in a few minutes.

Make sure that you're outside and wearing old clothes for this next part: spray the wrapped shirt all over with the bleach/water mixture. Get it nice and wet, and let it sit there for 5 to 10 minutes. The color will get lighter the longer it sits, so let it sit longer if you want higher-contrast stripes. Don't let it sit for longer than 10 minutes, or you may weaken the fabric of the t-shirt.

Step 5: Use the Vinegar Mixture to Stop the Bleaching Process

After 5 to 10 minutes have passed, cut the string (being careful not to cut your shirt!) and unwrap it. Dunk the shirt in the vinegar/water solution. Swish it all around and leave the shirt in the vinegar for about 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, rinse the shirt in plain water, and then run it through the wash like normal.

Step 6: Ta-daa!

And, like magic, your t-shirt is transformed into a unique work of art!

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    17 Discussions


    Question 12 months ago

    Good morning! Thank you for the tie-dying tips! I just tried to bleach tie-dye a brown-rust colored shirt and it has been over 30 minutes and I am not seeing any difference in the shirt at all. Any suggestions? Please and thank you!

    1 answer

    Answer 7 months ago

    By the time im answering this you probably already got this info, but it may still hope. I always learn new info through trial and error, then change or confirm based on many, many, MANY Google searches. Anyway, some fabrics will not dye or bleach. If you choose to leave that type of item in the bleach extremely long anyway, or raise the bleach and/lower the water ratio, it may, and in my experience actually has(4times), end up lightening ur item to either a lighter 'sun faded'color of the original color and/or 'eat parts of the fabric and thin it out paper thin(sometimes cause actual holes from eating through it). I did a sweatshirt that was cotton polyester blend and did all the items I stated above and actually caused all of the above... In different spots tho. So some was sun faded and some where thinned out and see-through in that area. Surprisingly this actually worked for me as I was going for an old distressed punk rock look. Also I found out that bed sheets, mine anyway, won't bleach or dye... Unless it's the way I explained here.


    4 years ago

    Great instructable! Very well explained and guided! You should do more of these e. You're very good at it and I'm gonna this asap!
    And btw, you are a stunningly beautiful young lady, and your hair is incredibly gorgeous. The color and the curl... Beautiful!!! Please don't flat iron it!!!

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Aww, thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked the project. You're way too kind. :)

    Thanks! I didn't mention it in the instructable itself, but I actually made the shirt, too. Any pre-made t-shirt would work though!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    You made that??!! Wow, you are talented!! I love the shirt before and after. :) Good job.