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I have actually played around with bleaching shirts several times so I wanted to do a comparison of different methods for you. I am using sublimation, HTV, and even some masking techniques so that literally ANYONE can have a bleached shirt in their life! Grab your bleach bottle and get started creating unique shirts that are perfect for you and to give as gifts.
Looking for a different look? Try making a tie dye shirt with sublimation instead!
Table of Contents
Want to get started with bleaching shirts? The easiest way to do that is to watch the video below. Just click play and everything you ever wanted to know about the bleaching process is included. You may also hear this process referred to as reverse tie dye. You will definitely learn about doing that process in the video below as well!
Can’t watch the video or missed some of the steps? You can also follow along below as I walk you through everything you need to know.
- Gildan Softstyle (Heather colors ONLY for sublimation) (fits small so size up) (Try getting them here or here or here.)
- Bella Canvas 3001CVC (for HTV/vinyl ONLY) (Heather colors ONLY but sunset did NOT bleach.) (Try getting them here or here.)
- Bleach (I like Clorox Splashless because of the consistency.)
- Spray bottle
- Paper towels
- Sublimation prints or printer (see more about the printer I use here)
- Sublimation paper
- Transfer Tape
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Heat Press
- Protective gloves
- Cold water
Designs or SVG Files I used:
- Good vibes only
- Harry Potter inspired design
- Messy crafters
- Beach sunset
- Crafters gonna craft
- Living that crafter life
Ways to Bleach a Shirt
There are several ways to make bleach spray shirts. I am going to cover a few of the methods and then which are my favorites as well. Please note the shirt brand options that I mention in the supply list. I am not sure if other brands will work as well.
First, let’s talk about some safety tips since you are working with bleach and chemicals. Always work outdoors and wear gloves to protect your hands. I also have recommendations for stopping the bleaching process below. Please be sure to follow these instructions and wash your shirts after the process a few times to remove any excess chemicals.
You will also want to wear clothes and shoes during the process to protect your skin. I like to wear old clothes so I am not worried about getting any bleach on them. Even a little bleach can ruin your clothing!
Preparing Your Shirt
You will want to prep your blank shirt with some cardboard or even a plastic garbage bag on the inside. You don’t want your bleached area to appear on the back of your shirt as well. I like to use scrap cardboard boxes but anything you have on hand that is disposable will work for this. Otherwise, the only other preparation would be if you are going to add a mask or sublimation before bleaching. You can read more about that below.
Bleaching with a Spray Bottle
First, let’s spray a shirt with just a regular spray bottle filled with non-diluted bleach. Spray an area on the front for your design that you will add later or over the top of an existing design. Use the design as a guide for how big you would like the bleached area to be. I also like to spritz the bottle a bit all over the shirt as well during this time.
Take paper towels once your shirt has been sprayed and lightly dab the large front area just to get any excess bleach off. Once the front has sat for a few minutes, be sure to flip the shirt over and spritz the back a little too so it will match. I like to do the back of the shirt as well as the front.
Bleaching with a Paintbrush
Instead of using a spray bottle, you may find you have more control with a paintbrush. Put your bleach in a container and just paint it on with the brush. I find that I like to spritz the edges with the spray bottle as well just so they are not so perfect. Take paper towels once your shirt has been sprayed and lightly dab the large front area just to get any excess bleach off.
Also, after sitting for a while, you may find you need to go over the area again if you didn’t get a good coat on it. Plus, you will want to spritz the entire shirt with the spray bottle as well to get a few spots all over the shirt on the front and back.
Using a Cardboard Mask
You can also use the spray bottle method with a cardboard mask. Here I cut my circle out of an old cardboard box and just laid it on top of the shirt. The spray the circle well. Remove your mask and spritz around the outer edge of the circle as well as all over the shirt so you get a more imperfect look. Remember to take paper towels once your shirt has been sprayed and lightly dab the large front area just to get any excess bleach off.
Applying to a Sublimation Design
You can use any of the methods above to apply bleach to a shirt that already has a sublimation design applied. I generally like to use my design as a guide when applying my bleach. The same notes above on methods apply as you can use any of them on your sublimation shirts.
Bleaching Over a Mask
You can also add a variety of masks to your shirt and apply bleach right on the top of those. Here I used adhesive vinyl cut on my Cricut machine as a mask and applied bleach with a spray bottle over the top.
How to Stop the Bleaching Process
Once you have applied your bleach, allow your items to sit in the sun and work their magic. You should see your shirts starting to change color. With the help of the sun, the bleaching process will be quicker. You can actually stop the bleaching process at any point. So, you can let the spots get white or stop when they are any other color that you love. To stop the bleaching process, mix up 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 water in a container. Dip your shirt in and rinse really well. Then wash your shirt twice in the washing machine by itself to remove any residue.
When bleaching shirts, you may have a variety of questions about the process or issues that you have encountered. Here are a few of those questions answered but you can also ask any other questions you have in the comment section below.
What shirts are best for bleaching?
You do need a shirt with at least some polyester as cotton shirts can develop holes. For sublimation, I’m using a Gildan soft style. It is 65% polyester, 35% cotton. The ones where I use HTV are a Bella+Canvas shirt but it is 52% cotton, 48% polyester. For longevity’s sake, I would use at least a partial polyester shirt. Please note that some colors/brands/types just will not bleach. I am linking to the ones that I use above and I know those will work. However, if you are planning on buying a lot of shirts, I would test each one before ordering in bulk.
Can you bleach a cotton shirt?
It is NOT recommended as they can get holes really quickly and usually do not hold up. Please see the question above for my recommendations.
Should you bleach before or after sublimation?
You can do both! I do feel like the bleaching after sublimation results in a more “worn” look. In other words, if you bleach before you sublimation, the colors will be more vibrant. You can see a bit of that in the image below. The shirts on the top were bleached then sublimated while the ones on the bottom were sublimated then bleached. You can get a different look by just changing up the process a little.
Can you use adhesive vinyl as a mask?
Definitely! It gives a really rustic and worn look but, if you love that, then I say go for it! If you want a distressed shirt look, this is the option you want to go with!
Can you apply HTV to a bleached shirt?
Yes! Just apply the HTV after the shirt is bleached. I use the size of the design to approximate my bleached area.
How long will the bleaching process take?
That totally depends on the shirt and the color that you are trying to get it to. I would say anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour on average, however.
Why didn’t my shirt turn white?
Some shirts just WILL NOT turn white. Others will need several applications of bleach before you get to something that even is close to white. It all depends on the shirt and the color that it starts out as. You may be trying for a pure white or you can stop the bleaching process at any time if you just really love the color that your shirt turns out to be.
Why did my shirt scorch when pressing?
Sometimes when adding sublimation or even HTV after bleaching, your shirt can scorch. This is where you can see a faint brown mark where you pressed. Don’t worry! You can get rid of this! Spray your shirt with some hydrogen peroxide and put it under the heat press just to get warm (do not press again) and the marks should disappear.
My Favorite Method for Bleaching Shirts
So, now that we have looked at a bunch of ways to bleach shirts, which do I love? Which will I use over and over again? I must say that I really love the method where I sublimate before bleaching then used a paintbrush over my sublimation design. I did have to go over the middle twice in this case but the results are stunning!
For me personally, I actually like that the sublimation ink fades a bit as it adds to the rustic nature of the process. Also, it took me a while to get the hang of spritzing the shirt all over with the spray bottle but I really think I mastered that in this case as well. This is a great way to sublimation on a dark colored shirt.
My other shirt where I sublimated before bleaching also looked good but I probably went a bit overboard with the bleach at least for my taste. But this does go to show you that you can get whatever look you love after you master the technique.
Sublimation after bleaching is a great option but I do find it harder to control where the design is and how large your bleached areas gets.
Plus, there is the scorching issue that we discussed above. You can use peroxide to eliminate that but you run the risk of that being on your shirt when sublimating after the bleaching process.
My second favorite method for bleaching shirts is to add HTV to the top. I love how this one turned out and I definitely think the use of the cardboard mask in this case helped me to locate and size my bleached area.
And then if you are looking for something more rustic, I would try adding adhesive vinyl as a mask. This shirt looks well worn and loved and it is brand new!
I would love to hear from you though. Which of these shirts did you like best? Which method will you be trying for yourself? Will you be making your own bleach spray shirt?
I will be rocking my new bleached t-shirts and thinking up ways to make even more designs. What should I make next? I am literally full of ideas for this method.
Bleaching shirts is fun and actually quite easy once you get the hang of it so be sure to try it for yourself. I really think you will love the results!
Can you bleach a shirt with HTV vinyl on it? ›
This You Had Me At Tacos design from So Fontsy was perfect. WARNING: Do not use HTV when making bleach shirts with vinyl if you want to be able to remove the vinyl after you spray on the bleach. Once the vinyl is weeded cover it with transfer tape.Do you put HTV on before or after bleach? ›
Just apply the HTV after the shirt is bleached.Can I bleach a shirt then sublimate it? ›
Sublimation design – Put on before or after bleaching? If you want to retain a brighter design, I recommend putting your sublimation design onto a shirt that is already bleached. You can really do it either way and the process will work flawlessly.Can you bleach 60% cotton 40% polyester? ›
A 40% cotton/60% polyester blend is going to give you some the best results because bleach only works on cotton (and it changes the makeup of the cotton fibers and lightens them), while the polyester helps keep the integrity of the shirt so the bleach doesn't eat away at it.What happens if you put bleach on vinyl? ›
Avoid cleaning a vinyl floor with bleach: It's a harsh cleaner that can lead to corrosion or damage to the vinyl finish. To that end, skip the ammonia and “mop and shine” products, too.How long should you let bleach sit on a shirt? ›
Keep an eye on your shirt to monitor the amount of color removal. This can take anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on how dense the fabric is. Be careful not to leave the bleach solution on for too long, as it may damage the fabric.Do you wet a shirt before bleach dyeing? ›
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.Can you bleach 50 cotton 50 polyester for sublimation? ›
of it, an artistic effect can be achieved. What you'll need You'll need a shirt that's a 50/50 polyester and cotton blend, bleach, water and a small spray bottle. Some use a 50/50 bleach/water mix, but undiluted bleach can also be used.Do you dilute bleach for sublimation? ›
Pour the bleach into a spray bottle and don't dilute it at all with water. You'll also need hydrogen peroxide to stop the bleaching process so make sure you have that on hand too. Place a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to protect the back of the shirt from bleach going through.Do you dilute bleach when bleaching shirts? ›
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.
Do you wash bleached shirt before sublimating? ›
Soak the shirt in water and hydrogen peroxide to prevent the bleach from spreading. Then, wash and dry the shirt normally. Put butcher paper into the shirt and press it. Place your image face down where you want it and use the heat press to sublimate your shirt.Do you use peroxide after bleaching shirts? ›
Step 6: Neutralize and Rinse
Mix 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide with a gallon of water. Place t-shirt in this mixture to neutralize bleach. Let sit for 10 minutes. Then rinse again in warm water 3-4 more times.
Sublimation inks work best on 100% polyester, but polyester doesn't bleach well. In order to bleach shirts for sublimation, you're going to need a shirt that is mixed with cotton and polyester. Additionally, you'll want the polyester to be a higher count than the cotton or it will have a very faded look to it.Does Gildan 50 50 bleach? ›
These are perfect for bleaching with the 50/50 fabric blend. The cotton will do great and changing colors while the poly holds strong and will keep it looking great wash after wash, no holes or unraveling unlike 100% cotton.What bleaches better cotton or polyester? ›
When bleach dyeing, it's important to make sure your clothing is primarily made of cotton. Bleach doesn't react well with polyester and rayon blends, but it will significantly lighten them.Will bleach degrade vinyl? ›
Cleaning a vinyl fence with bleach can dry out and degrade vinyl, in addition to harming surrounding plants, patios and other surfaces. You should also never use any type of abrasive cleaner, melamine or scouring pad on vinyl fencing. Abrasives can scratch and dull the glossy sheen of vinyl.Will bleach take the color out of vinyl? ›
Great question! Here's some good news: vinyl fabrics (even colored ones) can generally be safely treated with a Clorox® Regular Bleach2 and water solution, so you have a pretty good chance of success. Even so, you should still test the item for colorfastness to bleach just to make sure.Does bleach fade vinyl? ›
Clorox bleach will not harm vinyl siding as long as it is properly diluted and thoroughly rinsed from the surface.Is it better to bleach shirts wet or dry? ›
Bleach Tie Dye: Prepping Your Shirt
For other methods of tie dying, it helps if the t-shirt is wet, but for bleach tie dye, it's much better to start with a dry shirt. You'll want to prepare your shirt for whatever pattern you'd like to see on your final product.
For an entire garment, make a weak solution of bleach and water and soak your items overnight. Wash as usual the next day, adding 1/2 cup vinegar to the load for extra color brightening power.
What happens if you leave bleach on a shirt too long? ›
Don't leave the garment in the bleach solution longer than 5 minutes. Prolonged contact can cause yellowing. You can always repeat the recommended treatment to remove additional color.Do you need sunlight to bleach a shirt? ›
The bleach shirt should be exposed in the sun and almost immediately it will begin to change colors. you'll be able to see if you missed any spots and where you might want to give another quick spray.Do I bleach my white T shirts in cold or hot water? ›
Choose a hot wash temperature on your machine. The higher the wash temperature, the better the cleaning.Do you let bleach dry before washing? ›
After applying bleach, let the area sit for about 10 minutes, then wipe it with clean water.What color does GREY turn bleached? ›
Most black shirts will turn orange or red. Gray and brown will usually turn pink. White will turn... white.Can you bleach 100% polyester shirts? ›
Answer. To restore shirts if they are dingy, there are a few things you could try. For 100% polyester white shirts, they actually can be washed with Clorox(r) Regular-Bleach, and you can start with a presoak. Add 3 Tablespoons Clorox Regular Bleach2 to 1 gallon cool water and stir.Can sublimation be done on black shirts? ›
Yes, you can sublimate on a dark shirt by using a white heat transfer vinyl as base layer and sublimate on top of it. Press the HTV first, then sublimate over it.Can you sublimate 65 polyester 35 cotton? ›
Polyester blend fabrics, such as our 65% Polyester / 35% Cotton Blend; can also be used but will result in a retro/vintage look. Only the percent of polyester used in this synthetic material will capture the image being transferred. Here are a few examples of sublimation printing on white t-shirts.Which Gildan shirt is best for sublimation? ›
SUBSTRATE: Only 100% polyester garments such as the GILDAN PERFORMANCE® 42000 and 42400 T-shirt families are suitable for dye sublimation. White or very light coloured garments are also essential, since any background colour will affect the appearance of the Image.Why did my white shirt turn yellow after heat press? ›
Scorched Garments And Using Scorch Out. Sometimes garments that get to much heat in the oven will become yellow, brown or "scorch". This means that the fabric will turn yellow slightly. It is especially true of 100% cotton, white fabrics.
What color mode is best for sublimation? ›
CMYK is used in most printing processes such as dye sublimation, paper printing, screen printing etc.Do you spray sublimation with peroxide? ›
When sublimating on top of bleach the spot can turn yellow, spray the area with peroxide and hover the heat press over top of it for a few seconds. It should turn back to white. Hang to dry the rest of the peroxide.When bleaching clothes do you add water? ›
Bleach should always be diluted with water before it contacts fabric. Bleach dispensers do this automatically; you can do this yourself by adding the bleach to the water in a standard washer as it's filling, before you add the clothes.How much bleach does it take to whiten one shirt? ›
You can check the directions on your bottle of bleach to know how much is needed for your clothes. As a general rule of thumb, about a ¼ cup of bleach is perfect for a gallon of water. Few tablespoons of bleach are recommended for a single cloth, and about 1 cup should do if you soak more than one white cloth.Does vinegar stop bleaching process? ›
Never use vinegar to neutralize chlorine bleach. The same goes for any acidic solution. The mixture of chlorine bleach and acidic substances can cause dangerous chemical reactions.What to put between shirts when sublimating? ›
The easiest way to protect sublimation ink from bleeding through shirts (and other thin sublimation fabrics) is to always use a piece of parchment paper (or butcher paper) - not wax paper - when pressing sublimation transfers. Before pressing, place a piece of parchment paper over the bottom platen of your heat press.Can you bleach a shirt with HTV on it? ›
This You Had Me At Tacos design from So Fontsy was perfect. WARNING: Do not use HTV when making bleach shirts with vinyl if you want to be able to remove the vinyl after you spray on the bleach. Once the vinyl is weeded cover it with transfer tape.How long do you leave bleach on a shirt for sublimation? ›
How long will the bleaching process take? That totally depends on the shirt and the color that you are trying to get it to. I would say anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour on average, however.Does peroxide stop the bleaching process? ›
How do you get the bleach to stop working? Prepare a neutralizing solution that stops the bleaching action when you reach the desired color. The neutralizing solution is made by mixing one part hydrogen peroxide with 10 parts water. Mix this up before you begin your bleaching project so it is ready to use.Is it better to bleach before or after sublimation? ›
Sublimation design – Put on before or after bleaching? If you want to retain a brighter design, I recommend putting your sublimation design onto a shirt that is already bleached. You can really do it either way and the process will work flawlessly.
What shirts are best to bleach for sublimation? ›
- Best Sublimation Shirts for Bleaching Video.
- Gildan G640 Soft Style.
- Gildan G800.
- Jerzees 29M.
- Bella Canvas 3001CVC.
- George (Walmart Brand)
- Next Level 6010.
- Bella Canvas 3413C.
Can I tie dye a shirt with vinyl on it? It is best to put the HTV after the tie dye process. Remember you would have to fold, band, and/or twist the shirt and it will most likely ruin the vinyl. Some dyes may also leave discolorations on your HTV.Can you use Clorox bleach on vinyl? ›
I do know that vinyl flooring can be safely disinfected with a solution of ¾ cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 per gallon of water that is applied for 5 minutes, rinsed, and allowed to air dry. However, we never recommend applying full strength bleach to any surface – it should always be diluted first.What is dye sublimation HTV? ›
Sublimation Fabric HTV lets you use dye sublimation colors and designs to be pressed onto this material and then transferred onto garments. It is basically white fabric HTV that is able to be dye sublimated onto. It has semi-gloss and smooth texture.How do you prepare a shirt for HTV? ›
Prepping for iron-on (HTV)
For apparel blanks like t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, or anything else you will likely machine wash in the future, we recommend pre-washing the blank without fabric softener to pre-shrink the garment and remove chemicals that may prohibit strong adhesion.
Bleach is a natural whitener and can sometimes remove the yellowing. Mix 1 part bleach with 2 parts water. Apply with a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow to dry.Does vinegar discolor vinyl? ›
Distilled white vinegar is a natural degreaser, disinfectant, and cleaner that is safe to use on all kinds of surfaces, including vinyl floors. The acidic compounds in white vinegar break down buildup and remove dirt without harming your floor's finish.Can you clean vinyl with Clorox wipes? ›
Disinfecting Wipes including Clorox, Green Works, PDI Sani-Cloth HB Wipes, Lysol, Oxivir, Virox, and CaviWipes. Note: Disinfecting wipes that contain bleach are acceptable on vinyl. 7.5 to 9 is the recommended pH for bleach.What is the use of bleaching powder? ›
Uses of Bleaching Powder
It is used for bleaching dirty clothes in the laundry and as a bleaching agent for cotton and linen in the textile industry. It is a strong oxidizing agent, hence used as an oxidizer in many industries. It is used as a disinfectant which is used for disinfecting water to make potable water.
To clean your vinyl records, grab a microfiber cleaning cloth to remove the dust and static from the record. Next, dampen a clean microfiber cloth (preferably with distilled water) and lightly wipe the record surface in a circular motion — but steer clear of the middle of the record.
Can I bleach a shirt with a logo on it? ›
Screen printed logos are generally colorfast to bleach because they are made with insoluble pigment dyes that aren't discolored by bleach usage. Screen prints don't have hidden areas to test so don't work well with the bleachability test, but they can almost always be safely laundered with bleach.How much bleach does it take to lighten a shirt? ›
Create a solution of ¼ cup of Clorox® Regular-Bleach₂ with CLOROMAX® per gallon of cool water, and soak the item for 5–10 minutes. Follow up with a regular wash of detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach₂ with CLOROMAX®.What shirts to use for bleaching shirts? ›
Get the Best Shirts for Bleaching
You want to pay attention to the polyester count in the shirt and make sure there's at least a 65% blend of polyester. I used the Gildan brand Women's Softstyle cotton shirts in Dark Heather and the Augusta Sportswear Tri-blend in Navy Heather for bleaching.