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One of my favorite summer projects is tie dying t-shirts. It's a great project to do with a group of kids.
Using bleach on a colored shirt is a different take on the traditional tie dye project. You start with a colored t-shirt and use bleach to remove some of the color.
You can use rubber bands and create a more traditional tie dye look. But, we decided to go for a more splattered effect. We concentrated the bleach around the middle of the shirt to leave room to add a DIY screen printed design.
Supplies Needed for Bleach Tie Dye Shirts
How to Setup Your Shirts for Bleach Dying
This is definitely an outdoor project. The bleach smell is pretty strong.
We spread out large pieces of cardboard on the driveway. We also put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent the bleach from going through the back.
In a spray bottle, carefully pour your bleach. I know some crafters like to dilute with water, but I did not. The full strength worked really well.
Start spraying the bleach on your shirt. We adjusted the spray bottle nozzle for different effects. The tighter the nozzle, the more of a wide spray effect. The looser the nozzle, the more of a stream and you can get the larger splotches.
After spraying the front of the shirt, we flipped them over and sprayed a few spots the back.
It takes a few minutes for the bleach to really remove the color in the shirt. It's fun to watch as it changes colors.
After about 20-30 minutes in the sun, I washed the shirts on a regular cycle.
The clean shirts are ready to be screen printed. We left a nice white area in the middle of the shirt to add our designs.
Supplies Needed for Screen Printing with Vinyl
- Screen Printing Frame
- Fabric Screen Printing Ink (I mixed custom colors. Check out my ink recipe guides for more help with mixing inks)
- Oracal 651 Vinyl
- Cricut Maker
- My Favorite Transfer Tape
- Painter’s Tape
- Heat Gun or Flash Dryer (optional)
SVG Files Used in this Tutorial
Screen Printing with Cricut or Silhouette and Adhesive Vinyl
My absolute favorite way to personalize t-shirts is screen printing. I use my Cricut to cut a design on adhesive vinyl. If you are new to screen printing with your vinyl cutter, you can find all of the beginner tips for screen printing here.
I transfer the vinyl to my screen printing frame and squeegee ink over the design. For more step-by-step instructions on this screen printing process, check out my guide to screen printing with vinyl.
Mixing Speedball Fabric Inks
I wanted the design color to match the color of my shirts as closely as possible. One of the reasons I love screen printing, is I can create custom colors using the inks I have on hand. With iron-on vinyl, you are limited to the vinyl colors. With screen printing, you can make any color!
For more tips on mixing Speedball fabric inks, I have several ink recipe guides available to take the guesswork out of mixing. These guides work in proportions so you can mix a small amount for one or two shirts. Or, you can mix larger batches for big projects.
Tips for Bleach Dying Shirt
- The bleach will spread a little bit after you spray it on. We ended up with larger white areas because we really covered the middle area of our shirts. As it dried, it continued to spread out.
- Wear old clothes and shoes. The spray bottle technique kept the bleach pretty contained, but we did get a little bit on our gloves. Anything you touch with the bleach will turn white!
- You'll notice in the video, I tried using a washcloth to drip larger splotches. This worked pretty well, but the bleach ate through the Dollar Tree wash cloth pretty quickly!
Omgosh Jennifer… you’ve once again amazed me!!!! I’m adding this to my ToDo List to try!!!❤️❤️❤️
Oh I love this idea!!
Such an awesome idea. Going to remix it for my husband for Father’s Day!! Thank you!!
That will be a great gift! I hope it turned out great!
How do u make the spray white ?
It’s bleach. It does all the work, just spray it on and let it set in.
Do you have the svg? I love that one!
I found the pit bull SVG here: http://tidd.ly/4b74bca4
and the Stars and Stripes here: https://designsbywinther.com/free-stars-and-stripes-svg-dxf-png-jpeg/
Have you had any issue with the bleach eating thru the tshirt as it did with the washcloth?
I did have one shirt that didn’t work. It was a acid wash shirt so it was thin to begin with. I’d stick with 100% cotton or cotton/poly blends. Let it soak in for 20 minutes or so then wash it. Each shirt brand may work differently but so far most shirts I’ve tried worked great!
Are you using 100% cotton or a poly blend type shirt?
I’ve used both and they both worked great. With really thin shirts, you just want to be careful not to leave the bleach on too long or it can eat through the shirt.
How can I just make the big blotch in middle of shirt
I’ve tried bleaching 2 shades of pink, black, dark blue, and wine colored 100% Cotton shirts. The ONLY one that bleached was the wine colored one. It does not work on hardly any of the regular gildan shirts. Gildan softstyle heather shirts are what you need!
I tried to bleache a navy blue cotton shirt and it just made it red how do I get it white ? It’s been sitting for a while now
Do you wash with laundry detergent or just run in washer without?
I washed with detergent to make sure the bleach was completely removed.
Have you ever done the bleaching on a black shirt? If so, was it able to get to white or was it a brownish white? Love these!
I did a navy shirt and it did have a little yellowing around the edges where the bleach wasn’t as concentrated. I’ve gotten the best results on pastels and lighter colors.
What blend of shirt did you use? 100% cotton or more polyester? Just wondering if after washes the shirts get thin with the bleach.
I use Bella + Canvas shirts which are close to 50/50. They have worked great for me – no issues with the shirt getting too thin!
Mine are not turning white like yours show. Any tips?
Does this require sunlight to bleach it?? Its 11pm, I dont have allot of time during the day to do things like this but I love it!! Sprayed a Bella canvas shirt about 10 min ago and its literally done nothing at all! Lol help! Thanks in advance!
I think the sun did help it happen faster. I’m curious… did it lighten any overnight?
I am bleaching an orange gildan shirt from Michael’s. I sprayed the bleach on and let it sit for an hour in the garage because it’s been raining out for a few days. It has not don’t anything at all. What am I doing wrong?
A good item to note hydrogen peroxide stops the bleaching process. So you can keep that in hand to dip the shirt in when the desired effect is achieved.
I’m bleaching black cotton/poly shirts. The bleach literally removed the black and left the area grey. Any ideas on what I can do?
I’ve found that the bleach reacts differently on each color/brand of shirt. The lighter color shirts are easier to get a bright white. You might experiment with different types of shirts… they all come out a little differently!
How do you bleach in winter?
Do you have to wash the shirt before you put screen print on? I want to bleach for shirts I sell, but do not want to wash
Nope, no need to pre-wash before screen printing on them!
Should we wash the tees after the screen print?
I don’t want the shirt to bleed on to other clothes after the customer takes it home & washes it the first time?
I wouldn’t wash it before giving it to a customer, most people will want a new, unwashed shirt! As long as you allow it to dry completely and heat set appropriately, you don’t have to worry about any bleeding, fading or issues when washing! Here’s more details on heat setting: https://www.pigskinsandpigtails.com/2019/07/how-to-heat-set-your-screen-printed-shirt-with-cricut-easypress-2/
I used a robin egg blue and I let pure bleach sit on it for about an hour. But it only turned green. I’m not sure what I did wrong. It was sunny but cold, could that have messed it up?
Do you have to screen print? Can I just use HTV?
You can. I just love screen printing so much more than HTV. No issues with peeling and the final result feels so much smoother than HTV. 🙂
I tried bleaching shirts with vinyl. Bleached first and then but the vinyl on. But the vinyl peeled almost all the way of in the wash- what we are doing wrong. We dont have any problems with vinyl peeling on non bleached shirts
Hi! I noticed that in the tutorial you washed different color shirts together. Did you have any issues with color transfer during that part of the process?
Hi! I love bleaching t-shirts for my small business. However, I have ruined a few shirts using too much bleach 🙁
what do you say is the correct amount of bleach to use? Does a little spray go a long way?
Nice post! Got a lot of knowledge about the T shirts. Thanks for your post it’s really helpful.
Why are so many colors dingy when you bleach them? How do you get the spots more white?
I think it has to do with the way a shirt is made. I have had good results on Bella + Canvas shirts. I think the pastel and lighter colors look the best!
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Can you dye a white shirt any color then use the bleach on it?
Is it important to wash the shirt before doing the bleaching? I know this is important for tie dyeing, so I didn’t know if it was the same for bleach art.
Would using a hair dryer for heat work for winter months with the bleach processing?