This bleached tie dye technique is a fun process for kids and adults to do together. The result is a bold and graphic tie dye pattern that kids of all ages will be excited to wear!
What is bleached tie dye?
Bleached tie dye works in exactly the opposite way of traditional tie dye. While traditional tie dye processes involve depositing colored dye on a light colored fabric this bleach tie dye process uses a bleach solution to subtract color the color from a dark fabric.
One thing I love about bleach tie dye is the immediate gratification. While colored dye may need to sit on fabric for 6 hours the bleach in this process takes action almost immediately. Within 10 minutes your fabric is ready to rinse and dry. If you’re working with a group bleach tie dye garments can be ready to send home that day!
Safety concerns and precautions for bleaching…
Any fabric dying process requires adult supervision and this bleach tie dye process is no different. I’ll outline the tools and processes we used to make this tie dye experience as safe and as hands on as possible for your kids.
Bleach should be handled only by adults. You know your kids and what they can handle safely. If you feel uncomfortable using bleach this is not the process for you. Check out this washable marker and coffee filter tie dye for a completely toxic super fun alternative.
Use bleach in a well ventilated area, preferably outside. This is a great way to spend a shady afternoon getting creative outside!
Supplies needed for bleach tie dye….
- spray bottle
- kitchen tongs
- dark color cotton shirts
- bleach diluted 50/50 with water
- hose or other water source
- rubber bands/ office clips/ twine
- scrap cardboard or newspaper to protect surfaces
- well ventilated or outdoor work area
Preparing to bleach tie dye….
You’re all set up outside. You’ve got your diluted bleach in a spray bottle, some rubber bands or clips, and some old cardboard or newspaper to protect your lawn.
Tie dye bleach can be done on either dry or damp fabric. We tried both with similar results. Damp fabric possibly resulted in a less defined tie dye pattern. If your shirts are new I do recommend washing prior to dying to remove any sizing from the fabric.
Cover any work surface, even grass, with newspaper or old cardboard to protect it from the bleach solution. Using a box for a spraying area works perfectly to contain any overspray!
Folding and tying methods for bleached tie dye….
There are some basic configurations for producing different designs but tie dye is an unpredictable process. You can attempt to the same thing over and over and each time the end product will be slightly different. Relax and enjoy the process.
The numbered pictures above will give you some inspiration to fold your bleach tie dye shirts!
Number one– Lay your t shirt flat. Fold in half top to bottom and then again before clipping or using a rubber band to hold the fold. Apply bleach only to the fold area resulting in horizontal “stripes” of bleach.
Number two-Lay your t-shirt flat. Fold in half from top to bottom. Gather the folded, creased area in a rubber band. Apply bleach only to the ball of fabric that has been pulled through the rubber band. This will result in a single wide horizontal stripe of bleach design.
Number three– Lay your t shirt flat. Starting in the middle with a pinch of fabric begin to create a spiral shape. Wrap edges around inner spiral to continue forming the shirt into a circle. Fasten with rubber bands. This creates the classic tie dye spiral look.
Number four– Lay your t shirt flat and then fold it up any which way and fasten with rubber bands. Bleach tie dye designs are unpredictable anyways so embrace the unknown. Some of our favorite designs came from this haphazard method of folding and tying! There is no wrong way!
Applying the bleach to your tie dye….
There are many ways to apply the bleach to your shirt, including dipping your shirt into a bleach solution. A spray bottle of diluted bleach and water (50/50) is much easier to control. This method uses less bleach and leaves less leftover bleach to dispose of when you’re done!
Spray the areas of your shirt you’d like to bleach the color out of. Depending on your design that may be a small portion of fabric or all of the fabric that’s left showing after folding. Spray enough bleach solution that the fabric in that areas can be become saturated.
Most 100% cotton fabrics will begin to change color immediately. Wait and watch a few minutes before deciding if you’d like to spray another round of bleach.
Washing and setting your bleached tie dye….
When the color has bleached to your liking use tongs to move your shirt to an area with a a hose or a faucet. We used a nearby hose to rinse the shirt before removing any bands or ties, then did a final rinse.
After the bleach has been rinsed from the fabric completely the shirts may be laundered as normal.
Bleach tie dying fabrics that are not 100% cotton…
The shirts we chose for tie dying were a result of a quick trip to Goodwill. While shopping the 99 cent section I came home with a few shirts that were a 50/50 cotton polyester mix. Polyester is not known for being a good candidate for tie dying but I decided to see what the results were of bleach tie dying anyways!
Here’s what I learned! When bleaching a non cotton fabric the color doesn’t change instantly like it does with 100% cotton. It’s a more gradual and subtle change. I like the look very much but it is a much less graphic look than traditional bleach tie dye. You can see my results with the black and green shirts in the pics above.