How to Bleach Your Clothes

Bleaching is a really fast and easy way to embellish a piece of clothing. Jeans, t-shirts, etc.

They make these nifty bleach pens, but you can also use regular liquid bleach OR that sink/countertop gel cleaner. Just make sure it says it has bleach!

When I’m using liquid bleach, I like to dilute it with water… I put full-strength bleach on a shirt once and it ate holes right through the fabric. I usually do a tablespoon of bleach and a tablespoon of water. You can eyeball it. You really don’t need a lot of it.

You can use full strength bleach as long as you’re vigilant. It needs to be rinsed out pretty quickly. Leaving it for any length of time will result in disaster. As soon as you’ve got the amount of bleaching that you want, rinse.Don’t go leaving it overnight or you’ll have more holes than bleaching.

How do you get your design onto the garment? You can stencil with bleach, screenprint, or freehand it. You could draw a design in chalk before you bleach, or just freeball it. The skeleton dress and top shown were both handpainted after sketching the design on with chalk.

You can also drip, spray, splash, or dip. Experiment!

You can try bleaching a design onto a piece of black clothing and then dyeing it a cool color. I keep meaning to try this, but haven’t so far.

You can use an old marker or a paintbrush to apply the bleach if you’re not using a bleach pen. If you use a paintbrush, make sure it’s synthetic, because the bleach eats through real hair. I learned that the hard way.

You can accelerate the bleaching process by using a hairdryer to heat the design. You can also put on multiple layers of bleach- more layers means a lighter color.

If you make small mistakes, you can correct it with a black sharpie (assuming you’re working on black fabric). You can also add details after bleaching the same way.

Things to consider when working with bleach:

  • Bleaching should be done in an area with little potential for damage (a bathub or garage would be ideal).
  • You also need to be in a well-ventilated area, bleach fumes are nasty.
  • Wear gloves! Bleach is not kind to the skin and some people are very sensitive to it. Bleach burns are not fun.
  • Don’t wear your favorite shirt when you’re bleaching. It’s a Law of Crafts that you’ll spill some on yourself.
  • The fabric needs to have some cotton in it in order for the bleach to have any effect. Most t-shirt material will work, as will cotton broadcloth, twill, etc. If your fabric isn’t bleaching, it probably has no (or very little) cotton content.
  • Most blacks seem to turn orange when bleached, some will turn grey or even white. You will be surprised at what different results you get from different fabrics/colors, so test a little spot, first.
  • You can stop the bleaching action with peroxide. You can also stop it with vinegar, but it creates toxic fumes. My unprofessional opinion is that the small amount of bleach on whatever your bleaching would not be significant enough to create any amount of dangerous fumes, but I’m not going to make that decision for you. I generally just throw my bleached item in the washing machine and let it do the rinsing work for me.

More bleach fun!


Tentacle of DOOM Black Jersey Dress
Tentacle of DOOM Black Jersey Dress by raygunrobyn




The Crafty Skirt
The Crafty Skirt by Indiscretion


Bleach stencil stripes with duct tape tutorial

Bleach stenciling with doilies

Multi-layer bleach design

6 thoughts on “How to Bleach Your Clothes

  1. Ok, I NEED to know, where did you get that skeleton stencil, the full one? I very much have to do that on my clothing.

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