Before chlorine was discovered in the late 1700s, people were using sunlight as their main method of bleaching fabrics and other materials. Luckily, in today's crafty world, we've got something that works instantly to remove color from clothing.
Traditionally, bleach has always been used to remove stains from white clothing. If you ever get it on your colored clothes, they're ruined instantly.
But what if you used that bleaching power in a controlled way? If you've got the right preparation and tools, you can actually use bleach to create custom designs on blank shirts.
While there are endless ways to get creative with this idea, we've got a few projects for inspiration. Read on for our complete guide on using bleach to make your own designs on blank shirts.
Supplies and Getting Started
For this simple project, you'll only need a few things to get started.
Here's what you'll need to start your bleaching project:
- Blank colored shirts for bleaching
- Spray Bottle
- Cardboard or wood to place inside the shirt
- A well-ventilated working area
- Plastic drop cloth to protect working area
- Gloves and other protective gear
- Various tools depending on your desired project, such as painter's tape, rubber bands, etc.
Before you begin bleaching, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Place cardboard or a thin piece of wood inside the shirt while you're working. This will prevent the design from bleeding through to the other side. As an added bonus, it will help keep your working area nice and straight.
- Wear old clothes and protect your working area. Even when you're careful, ammonia and bleach can splatter onto other surfaces while you're working. Try using a plastic drop cloth, working in a big sink, or taking the project outside to avoid any accidents.
- Wear protective gear when working with ammonia and bleach. Gloves are a must since these chemicals can be irritating on the skin. If you're working outside, you should wear protective goggles as well.
- Make sure you're in a well-ventilated area. Bleach can quickly emit high amounts of harmful gases in enclosed spaces, so you'll need to work in a large, well-ventilated space.
- Rinse the shirt immediately afterward. This will prevent the bleach from continuing to work on the fabric, which could cause the design to blur, bleed, or become distorted.
Once you've got all this prepared, you're ready to make your bleach mixture and start bleaching!
Making Your Bleach Mixture
For this project, be sure to dilute the bleach before applying it to your T-shirt. You'll also need a container, such as a spray bottle, to use during application.
You will need:
- Plastic spray bottle
Here's how you prepare the bleach mixture:
- Fill the plastic spray bottle about halfway with bleach.
- Fill the rest of the spray bottle with water.
- Replace the cap tightly and shake to mix up the ingredients.
If you're looking for more intense bleaching results, you can experiment with different ratios of bleach and water. For example, you could prepare a mixture that's roughly 70% bleach and 30% water for extremely high-contrast designs.
Project Ideas for Bleaching Blank Shirts
The great part about this project is that it allows you endless ways to experiment and get creative with designs. Once you've got your bleach/water mixture ready in your spray bottle, you can start coming up with your own custom shirts!
Again, be sure to place cardboard or a thin piece of wood inside of the shirt to prevent bleeding.
Here are some of our project ideas to get you started!
Patterns Using Bleach and Painter's Tape
Painter's tape is a great tool to have at your disposal when you're using bleach to create designs on blank T-shirts. Since it's designed for painting, you can achieve some pretty crisp edges when you use it to cover up spots on your shirt that you don't want to bleach.
For example, you can try using painter's tape to create horizontal or vertical stripes on your shirt! Here's how to do that:
- Starting at the front of the shirt, place stripes of painter's tape either horizontally or vertically, making sure they reach the edges of the shirt. You can use a ruler to keep things straight, if desired.
- Flip your shirt over and add stripes of tape to the opposite side, overlapping to meet the strips on the front of the shirt.
- Saturate the shirt with the bleach mixture.
- Wait around 10 minute to let the bleach do its work.
- Remove the tape and rinse the shirt immediate in water.
You can use painter's tape in pretty much any way you could imagine to create a crisp, reductive design on your blank T-shirt. Keep in mind that you'll be bleaching around where you place the tape, so only spray where you would like to see splashes of the lighter color.
Another way to bleach a custom design into a blank shirt is by creating tie-dye patterns with rubber bands, much liked you'd do for traditional tie-dying with dye.
Here's a quick how-to:
- Secure the shirt with rubber bands in your desired design
- Spray the shirt lightly with your bleach/water mixture, taking care not to over-saturate.
- Remove the bands and rinse.
Try experimenting with different designs and saturations to get your perfect look!
Using stencils, you can add a number of designs to blank shirts using the bleach method. The best way to do this is by bleaching the negative space around the stencil: you'll apply the stencil and bleach around it rather than bleaching the stencil design into the shirt.
Here's how to bleach with a stencil:
- Find a store-bought stencil, or make your own by cutting your design into freezer paper or contact paper. You can use cardboard as an alternative, but take care not to get it too wet with the bleach mixture, as it could leak through and bleed.
- If using freezer paper, iron the stencil down to the shirt with the shiny side facing down.
- If using contact paper, peel off the backing and stick the stencil to the shirt.
- If using cardboard, place the stencil directly down on the shirt.
- Spray the stencil with the bleach mixture, focusing near the edges of the design.
- Wait between 5-20 min for the bleach to work.
- Peel off the stencil and rinse.
Use stencils to bleach your favorite logo, character, or design into your blank shirt. The possibilities are endless!
Create Custom Shirts Today
With a blank shirt, bleach, and a few inexpensive supplies, you can create a ton of custom designs. Now that you've got some ideas to get started, plan your bleaching project today!
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