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April 26, 2016

DIY Bleach Tie Dyeing Fabric


The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

When I was in art school, I used to cherish my time in the photo lab. Many years later, I found that bleaching/dyeing fabric gives me that same sense of excitement I had while watching photos develop in a developer bath in the darkroom. Maybe that’s why I’ve been on a tie dying/ bleaching kick these days?  I think it’s also that I love breathing new life into things I already have.  Let me show you what I’ve been up to!

First things first. Let’s talk about what’s involved. It’s not much. It’s actually really simple!

What I use for bleach tie-dying fabric:

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

The first step in this process is to make sure your fabric is washed.

One of the reasons why I use Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent is that it’s fragrance free. Most of the towels/napkins that I’ve been dyeing are used at the dinner table and I find it super annoying to wipe my face while I’m eating and smell overly perfumed fabric. I think it messes with how you taste/experience food.  I find this super important when I’m wrapping hot tortillas up in a dish towel for taco night.  It’s those little things that make a big difference.

When I’m washing our clothes, I use the Seventh Generation Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender Laundry Detergent because it smells good and it’s free of dyes & synthetic fragrances.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

For any type of bleach dye job, you should experiment with the color first.

I recommend taking a little bit of bleach and dabbing it on your fabric to seee how the color develops. The bleach will essentially lift the color up and reveal a new color.

Alternately, you can dip the eraser end of a pencil into bleach and create polka dots on your fabric. I plan on doing that next!

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

I have a set of navy napkins that I wanted to bleach tie-dye.

Let me walk you through the steps. But first, let’s look at the before.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Here’s what a little bleach action can do.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Fun, right?  I love how it made the blue reddish/pink.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Here’s a nice layer of bleach applied with a squirt bottle.

I like to make squiggles. It’s a little nod to Jackson Pollock 😉

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

And here’s what it looks like after about a minute. I love watching that happens on the edges.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

I should mention that I do this all in the bath tub (with the window open) because helps contain the mess AND it cleans the bathtub in the process. Win win.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Here’s what we have going for us after about 5 minutes.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Pretty, right?

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

When I feel like the bleach has lifted enough from the fabric, I rinse off the bleach in the tub.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

I squeeze the water out of the fabric and put everything in a big tupperware so I can start another batch in the tub.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

When we’re done, we wash the fabric.

shutterbeanbleach-21

I’ve found that if you don’t do the pre- rinse before you put the fabric in the wash, the washing machine (at least my front loader) will continue to bleach your fabric while it’s washing. Rinse then wash!

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Hanging up to dry. You can put it in the dryer if you want.

I just took a picture on a drying rack for effect 😉

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Let’s look at my other experiments.

Here’s a dish towel that I dyed blue last year. I think over the year I did a bleach treatment to it—making stripes and now I’m ready to take it to another level. Experimenting is fun.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

For this one, you can see that the overall fabric is lighter. When I did this one in the tub, the tub was a little wet with water and so it got all of the fabric a little wet. When you bleach fabric that’s wet/damp, you get more of watercolor look. It’s not as concentrated, so you can see here that it made some really pretty textures in the fabric.

I’ve had this dishtowel for 3 years and this is its third incarnation!

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Here’s another one of my projects.

Can you believe this dish towel was originally white?  I like to dye my dish towels because they get stained so easily. When you tie dye/bleach them it’s harder to see the stains.

Here’s the before:

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

During!  Isn’t it pretty??!

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

After— This totally looks like something that they would sell at Anthropologie.

It would actually make a beautiful pillow!

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

And FINALLY—-

I have a few Black Maxi Dresses from Old Navy  (hello, closet staple!) and I love how they fit so I turned one of them into a tie-dye dress.

This is actually my favorite piece I’ve worked on so far. I’m actually wearing this dress right now.

BEFORE:

shutterbeanbleach-5

I put a layer of the bleach down with a squeeze bottle. You know…my signature squiggle moves.

shutterbeanbleach-16

Then I take bleach and mix it with water about a 1:1 ratio and then pour it over the dress- making sure to leave a few parts black.

shutterbeanbleach-17

After 5 minutes the colors develop into this. The longer you go, the more color comes out.  The cool part is that the black turned to gray!

shutterbeanbleach-20

Now I have a cool looking dress I plan on wearing year round. Real talk: I sometimes wear it as pajamas.

shutterbeanbleach2-1

Closeup!  The black came up and turned grey in the parts that had full bleach coverage and the other parts that didn’t get as much bleach turned into a beautiful rust color.

shutterbeanbleach2-2

I LOOOOOOOOVE how this turned out and the best part is that it cost next to nothing to enhance it.  You can see that I left the bottom part fully black.

The easiest/most inexpensive way to tie-dye is with bleach! Check out this Tie Dying with Bleach Tutorial on Shutterbean.com!

Kinda feels like my summer capsule wardrobe might channel my modern hippie vibe with this dress!

Hope this inspires you to do some experiments of your own!  The more confident you feel, the bigger the risk you can take. Like….who knows? Maybe you have something in your closet that will look STUNNING with a little Bleach Tie-Dying Session?!! You never know unless you try.

This DIY  Bleach Tie Dyeing Fabric post was produced in partnership with Seventh Generation.  As always, all opinions are my own.

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  • Jenn G

    I’ve wanted to go in the opposite direction from you. I have so many items that are perfectly good BUT faded or slightly dingey. I just need to get a black bottle of RIT dye and refresh the whole dang lot to a nice crisp solid black.

    • Amelia K

      @Jenn G – a little white vinegar in the wash with your clothes while they’re still crisp black will help keep them that way!

    • Tracy

      I use RIT dye in our front loader! I put it in in the beginning of the wash (usually the powdered one) and wash the clothes with some salt. Makes my black pants black again!

      • Ronni

        Tracy, do you put the dye directly in the washer with the clothes? And do you use the entire packet? I tried this recently (only used half the packet) and I didn’t see a big difference. I think I’ll have to try again!

  • Cat

    What a fun idea! Love what you’ve created, and your dress is great.Can’t wait to try this out. Thanks!

  • Kari

    This is a really fun summer project. So great for all of those festivals!
    Kari
    http://www.sweetteasweetie.com

  • Libby

    This is awesome. I tried to do this a few summers ago with my jean shorts. But this was at a time when I didn’t have a washing machine and didn’t realize that you can’t just rinse bleach out… and my shorts just fell all the way apart. But this is how we learn life lessons. Your dress looks incredible. I love it.

  • kaydee

    I LOVE the dress now!

    Also, kind of off tropic, do you get your dish towels in bulk? And if so, where from? My husband is our cook and our dishtowels constantly look pretty gross because he’s more used to a very large arsenal of restaurant towels.

    • Victoria

      There MUST be a way to keep them looking, feeling, and smellling CLEAN! I hope Tracy has tips. :) I’m reallllly curious too!

  • Adie

    That dress is perfect! And what a great way to turn something very common and “mass market” into something perfectly original and unique! I like that no one will have the exact same dress as you. I think this project would bring me back to my camp counselor days 😉

  • Jillian

    That dress is so good it’s silly. Old Navy is now officially jealous.

  • Victoria

    I love these projects!!! I really want to play with the dye side of things!

    Tell me more about how you wash your kitchen linens, especially the dishtowels. You use them for EVERYTHING and they are always touching your food, so I know they really hold up! What wash cycle/water temp do you use? Do you only use the free and clear laundry soap or do you add something else to aid it? What about for towels that are white?

    I know these are basic questions, but keeping towels, whites, and kitchen linens CLEAN and soft are things I need help and tips with! I’ve tried vingar as a rinse agent and even Lemon EO, but I am not quite satisfied yet.

    • Tracy

      Cycle = warm/hot
      For towels that are white, I use bleach in addition to the Free & Clear. No fabric softener as it’s usually super perfumey. I just find the more I wash the towels, the softer they get. Obviously I wash them a lot because I use them a lot :)

      • Victoria

        Thanks for the tips!!! I was afraid to use bleach because I didn’t know if it woukd be too harsh on the towels, but I’ll try it! How much(ish) do you add to each load?

  • Kat

    Love the dress, Tracy! Where’s it originally from?

  • rachel

    oooh love this. Am thinking bleach in spray bottle might give a night sky/ galaxy effect……gonna dig out some old leggings and give it a whirl

  • stacy

    LOVE how that dress turned out!!!!

  • Patti

    I love the dress. I love this whole concept…yet, I am so uncoordinated when it comes to DIY.

  • Erin

    Your dress is so BEAUTIFUL! I love it! I’ve wanted to try indigo dyeing for a while, but now I’m inspired to try this variation too!

  • Danica

    LOVE the dress. Question: You say you “squiggled” some full-strength bleach on the dress first, and then you poured the watered-down bleach also? Just trying to get it right!! Thanks!

    • Tracy

      Yeah. It’s not an exact science. Just pretend like you’re painting but on clothes!

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