How to Bleach Tie Dye
Channel your inner mad scientist this spooky season and step into the Tie Dye Lab to experiment with one of our favorite tie dye methods: bleach dye!
Bleach dyeing may sound like an intimidating endeavor — bleach is a toxic chemical, after all. But with the right safety precautions and a little expert guidance, we bet you’ll fall down the bleach dye rabbit hole just like we did!
Using bleach to reverse tie dye — as in removing rather than adding color — is just as simple as regular tie dye. What’s more satisfying about bleach tie dye is that it happens very quickly, so you can rock your bleached creations the same day that you make them!
There’s an added layer of mystery when it comes to bleach dyeing, as you never know which color will reveal itself when you apply bleach to your fabric. If you’re hoping for some Halloween vibes, we suggest bleaching something black — if you get lucky, you’ll reveal bright orange tie dye designs, like the Route 66 t-shirt pictured in this tutorial!
Whether you’re looking to bleach dye t-shirts, sweatshirts/sweatpants, jeans, trick-or-treat tote bags, or anything else you have in mind, this tutorial has you covered.
Let’s get dyeing, bleaches!
HOW TO BLEACH TIE DYE
- Dark- or brightly-colored 100% cotton items (or as close to 100% cotton as possible)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Rubber gloves
- Rubber bands
- Large squeeze bottle
- Tie dye rack
- Face mask
- Plastic table cloth
- Plastic bin or bucket
- Access to a sink or tub
The most important step when setting up for bleach dye is to set up in a well-ventilated area. Outdoors is the best option, but if you can’t set up outside, choose an area with lots of windows that you can open during and after you bleach dye to ensure all toxic fumes are aired out.
You’ll also want to protect yourself and your workspace. Always wear long rubber gloves when handling bleach. Wearing a mask to cover your face and nose is also highly recommended to prevent inhaling the strong fumes. As for your workspace, cover your surface with a plastic covering such a tablecloth or plastic trash bags. Bleach dyeing over a tie dye rack is another great way to help protect your work surface.
First you’ll want to make the neutralizing solution. Bleach works very quickly, so having the neutralizing solution ready ahead of time will make it easy to stop the bleaching process once the desired lightness is achieved. To make the neutralizing solution, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with ten parts water. The solution can be mixed in a plastic tub, bowl, or even directly in your sink. You’ll need to make enough solution to fully saturate your item.
Before you apply your bleach ‘dye’ you have two choices: leave your fabric dry, or dampen it with water. The choice depends on how thick your fabric is. For heavy items such as sweatshirts, sweatpants, and jeans, dampen your fabric first so that the bleach can flow easily. For soft, lightweight items such as cotton t-shirts, leaving them dry is a good choice for making sure the fabric doesn’t get too flooded with liquid, which can prevent your patterns from coming out to your liking.
Next, bind up your items into any tie dye pattern you like using rubber bands! You can find step-by-step instructions for a wide variety of tie dye patterns here in The Neon Tea Party’s Online Craft Studio.
Place your items to bleach dye onto a tie dye rack or directly on a plastic tablecloth. For heavy, pre-dampened items such as a sweatshirt, sweatpants or jeans, fill a large squeeze bottle with bleach, no water. For lighter weight items that you’re dyeing dry, create a 1:1 mixture of bleach and water, filling up your large squeeze bottle halfway with bleach then adding an equal amount of water.
As an alternative to a squeeze bottle, you can use a bucket filled with equal amounts of water and bleach and dunk your bound-up item for a quick and easy dye bath.
The bleach works its magic really quickly! If you’re dyeing something thin, like a t-shirt, it can happen in just minutes! Thicker / denser fabrics can take longer (up to two hours) for the bleach to eat away the color so just keep your eye on it until you’re happy with the look.
As soon as the color (or lack thereof!) is to your liking, immediately rinse your item in running water. Next, transfer it to the neutralizing solution, and make sure it’s completely submerged. Allow the item to sit in the solution for 15 minutes.
Once it’s done soaking, give it a thorough rinse before putting in the washing machine. Make sure nothing else but your bleach dyed items are in the wash cycle with them. Set load to large, water to cold or warm, and add a small amount of detergent. You can dry the item normally based on the garment tag’s suggestion.
Before you know it, you’ll be bleach dyeing items for the whole family! Shoutout to our dear friend and CommuniTEA member Candice for sharing her expert bleach dye tips with us, and for the sweet onesie she made for our baby daughter Sofie!
Speaking of CommuniTEA, bleach dye was all the rage with our adult campers at CAMP TNTP last October! Check out some of their creations:
Let us know if you try bleach dye! If you do, be sure to tag us on Instagram @theneonteaparty so we can check it out! Questions? Drop them in the comments below!
Peace, love & neon,