Does bleach scare you? It scares me!
Now that you were brave enough to get past the title of this post, I’m excited to tell you about my adventures dyeing fabric with bleach. The effect is similar to the Japanese shibori technique, where you dye white fabric with indigo dye, only in reverse. I haven’t tried shibori yet, because just as I was scared of making everything white with the bleach, I’m scared of making everything blue…
- Fabric: I used dark blue fabrics that I had in the house. Denim is great because it bleaches to a true white, and it is thick, so it absorbs the bleach without spreading too far. The other navy fabric that I used bleached to a pink color, and the bleach spread a lot, which made the designs look different. I think both effects are interesting, but the denim is definitely easier to control. If you use another type of fabric, I recommend testing a small area to see what color it bleaches to – hint, it might not be white!
- Bleach: I used both regular liquid bleach and also tried bleach gel pens.
- Tools for applying bleach: glass jars, “spouncer” (round sponge stamper), old pencil
- Hydrogen peroxide to neutralize bleach. I’m not sure this is totally necessary, but I read that other people used it, and I didn’t want to mess around with bleach (remember, I’m scared!)
I tried a few different ways of applying the bleach, and they all create unique effects.
- Large and small stamped spots
- Drawing with bleach gel pens
Large and small stamped spots: I made these with the spouncer and the back of an old pencil, dipped in a shallow bowl of bleach
Stamped rings: I made these using the rims of glass jars dipped in a shallow bowl of bleach. Once I got the hang of it, I worked with several jars at a time, so I could let each one sit for a a few seconds.
Drawing with bleach pens: I only tried a little of this. I was impressed with how clearly the designs came out, and I need to put some more thought into how to use this technique. I think it would be good on the non-denim fabrics, since those absorb so much bleach. Although it feels scary to use the pens (there I go again), because the bleach gel is very thick, it is definitely not as strong as the pure liquid bleach. I recommend letting it sit for several minutes before washing off with the hydrogen peroxide.
What am I going to do with all these new prints and designs? I am planning some throw cushions for our family room and my bedroom. I’d like to mix and match some of the patterns for a bohemian feel. I look forward to sharing them with you!
I love the look of the bleach on the dark blue fabric! I was wondering if you have tried bleach printing using a potato stamp? I’ve been wanting to do a potato stamping project and bleach printing so I thought maybe it could be the same project. But maybe the potato would absorb the bleach? What do you think? Thank you!
Hi! I haven’t tried it. My guess is that the design might not come out clearly, because bleach is very thin and drippy compared to the thicker paint and dye people use for potato stamping. And/or it might get absorbed, as you said. But I can’t say for sure. Please let me know if you try it!
How do you use the hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the bleach? In a bucket with water? How much of the HPdo you use
I put the fabric in a small bin and poured some hydrogen peroxide over it, just about an inch. Then I rinsed in larger amount of water. Good luck with your project!
Thank you. I have been wanting to do some circles on a denim/chambray dress that I made and I think I am brave enough to try your technique. Fun
That sounds like a great project!
Hello I want to know how to make the bleach. Which material I can use
Hi, bleach is available in the laundry section of a grocery store or drug store. Just be careful with the instructions, because it can be hazardous if not used properly.
I am working with denim and glass jars. I am using straight bleach. How long should it take to turn white? Should I be doing this in the sun. My fabric is not lifting.
So exciting. You might not see it lighten right away, but after you rinse, you should see the bleach worked. I didn’t do it in the sun. Good luck!
I find that just rinsing your fabric in water stops the bleach spreading.
Oh, thanks for the tip! Bleach makes me so nervous that I was really careful, but it’s good to know that the water will work!