How to Bleach Tie Dye

Every few years or so, tie-dye becomes a huge fashion trend. But just because you’re seeing it on the catwalk and all over Instagram, that doesn’t mean tie-dyed clothes should be expensive. In fact, you can easily tie-dye clothes yourself.

Tie-dying is essentially the process of bleaching parts of clothes to make a certain pattern. Tie-dye doesn’t cause the fabric to become a different color. Instead, it reveals some other colors that are present within the fabric. 

So, how do you do this easy practice? Read on for some easy steps for tie-dying your clothes. But first, let’s go through some safety measures.

Safety Tips

We might all regularly use bleach to clean our homes but it’s important to remember that this is a corrosive chemical.

So here are the safety precautions you need to take when tie-dying your clothes.

  • Use gloves. This is really important. If you get bleach on your skin then you will get chemical burns. Even if it’s just a few drops, the bleach will irritate and damage your skin. When tie-dyeing, you’re going to be using quite a lot of bleach, so it’s important to wear protective gloves. Try to wear long rubber gloves rather than short latex gloves. But whichever you use, it’s a good idea to put hair ties or rubber bands around your wrists and over the openings of the gloves. This will stop any bleach from splashing inside.
  • Use a wooden spoon or stick. Even if you’re wearing gloves, it’s still not a good idea to touch the bleach with your hands. Even if you wear long rubber gloves, there’s a chance that the bleach can still get inside. There also might be small holes in the gloves that you’re unaware of. So always use a wooden spoon or a wooden stick to move the clothing around.

You Will Need…

Before we get onto the actual process, let’s go through the tools you’re going to need for your tie-dye.

  • Protective gloves
  • Standard household bleach
  • A bucket or spray bottle
  • A long wooden spoon/stick
  • An item of clothing
  • Rubber hands
  • Water
  • A drop cloth/old towels 
  • Mild laundry detergent

Step-by-Step

Okay, now we’ve got that out of the way, onto the actual tie-dye! Tie-dyeing is a super easy way of being creative but it will make you feel great once you see what you have made.

Here are the basic steps to tie-dyeing your clothes.

1. Find a well-ventilated area.

As you will likely know (or definitely know now after reading the safety instructions) bleach is a very corrosive chemical. The fumes from bleach are also very strong and are dangerous so should not be breathed in.

If you have space, you should really do this outside. But, if that isn’t an option for you, find the room in your home with the best windows and overall ventilation.

2. Put on gloves.

Put on your gloves straight away. You don’t want to risk forgetting them. It’s also a good idea to wear old clothes that you don’t mind if they get damaged.

Don’t be tempted to wear an apron unless it is one you specifically use for crafting. You don’t want to risk bleaching and damaging something that you using for cooking.

3. Choose your clothing.

You probably already have an item of clothing in mind. But it’s worth double-checking if it’s the right kind. It’s best to use something made from cotton. If you’re not sure what material your garment is made from, check the label.

If it is made from a synthetic material, such as polyester, it won’t work well. This is because synthetic fabrics are used so that the color will stay and not fade. So they won’t respond in the same way as cotton.

It’s also a good idea to check the washing instructions. If they tell you to put them on a delicate wash, as you would with something like silk, then you shouldn’t use this either. Delicate fabrics, as you might imagine, are too fragile for tie-dyeing. The bleach will damage the clothing too much. 

4. Make your pattern.

There are loads of different ways you can create a pattern with tie-dye. There are classic styles such as circles that look like a ripple on water. This is achieved by twisting the clothing item and applying rubber bands along the twist. 

Or you can create blotches by bunching up sections of the garment and tying rubber bands around the bunches. Or, you can just do whatever you want. This is the beauty of tie-dye: you don’t have to be able to create any kind of design.

You can just do whatever you want and see what happens!

5. Set up your workspace.

There are two different ways of tie-dyeing clothes with bleach. They will have similar results but not identical. Your choice of process depends on the pattern and style of tie-dye you want.

One way is to fill a bucket with water and bleach and place the clothing item in the mixture. Then, using a wooden spoon or stick, you can move the item to make sure it is completely covered with the solution.

The other option is to fill a spray bottle with 1 part water and 1 part bleach. Then, laying the clothing item on some towels, you can spray the solution over the item of clothing.

Your choice of method depends on how much you want to tie-dye, the kind of pattern you want, and how much space you have. 

There is a risk that the spray from the bottle will travel to other parts of the room. But the fumes from a bucket of bleach and water will be much stronger. 

6. Wash

After around 6-8 minutes (any longer and the bleach will damage your clothes) you need to wash your garment with a mild detergent. Then, leave it to dry. And you’re done!

Tie-dying with bleach can be a bit of a hazardous process. But it’s great fun and you will find yourself wanting to dye your whole wardrobe!

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