Home » Easy Craft Ideas » How To Reverse Tie Dye With Bleach (Easy DIY Guide)

How To Reverse Tie Dye With Bleach (Easy DIY Guide)

Do you love the look of traditional tie dye, but don’t want to buy all the colored dyes to work with? Consider ditching the plain white shirts the next time you want to tie dye. You can get the unique tie dye effect using bleach on colored shirts. Follow our step-by-step guide to make your own reverse tie dye project.

3 different reverse tie dye shirts on a table.

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What is reverse tie dye?

Reverse tie dye is a fun and creative way to make cool patterns on fabric. Instead of adding dye to the fabric, you remove the colors using bleach. This creates a different look for t-shirts, tank tops, or even blankets.

Recommended Supplies

  • Diluted Bleach: we used 1 part household bleach to 1 part water
  • Squeeze Bottle
  • Rubber bands
  • Latex or Rubber Gloves
  • Solid Colored Fabric made from Natural Fibers (ex: Cotton T-Shirt)
  • Bleach Neutralizer
  • Bucket With Water
  • Surface To Work On
colored t-shirts, bleach in bottles, white container with hydrogen peroxide.

Precautions To Take

Since you are working with diluted bleach, you want to make sure that you work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves when you reverse tie dye shirts. You also probably want to consider wearing old clothes so that you do not ruin nice ones.

You should also be careful not to get bleach on your skin or in your eyes. If you do accidentally get bleach on yourself, be sure to rinse it off with water right away.

Other Soaking Techniques

Instead of using squirt bottles as we did, you can put your bleach solution in a spray bottle or create a bath to dip your folded fabric into.

black shirt with gray long sleeves with rubber bands and text overlay "before".

How To Reverse Tie Dye

Before You Begin

  • Set up your work area. This may include a plastic tarp or cardboard work surface outside.
  • Mix your bleach solution in the bottles of your choice. We chose to do a 1:1 ratio of bleach to water.
  • Choose your design and materials. A Colored Cotton Shirt, Black T-Shirt, Bright Colors or Black Sweatshirt will work well to get different patterns when bleach tie-dyeing.
clear squeeze bottles and brown hydrogen peroxide bottle on concrete.

Step 1: Mix Your Hydrogen Peroxide Bath

Mix 1 cup hydrogen peroxide (3% or higher) with 1 gallon water in a bucket or plastic container. This bath will be used to stop the bleaching and will neutralize the bleaching process when you are satisfied with your design.

Step 2: Fold and Add Rubber Bands To Your Shirt

There are a variety of tie dye patterns you can try. You can wet the cotton t-shirt first and ring it out to make it easier to fold.

Our favorite is a large spiral pattern. Twist the fabric in the middle of the shirt and add rubber bands around it.

folded black shirt with spiral with rubber bands around it.

Step 3: Add Bleach Mixture To Your Fabric

Put your gloves on for this step. Generously add diluted bleach & water mixture to your shirt. Use the tip of the squirt bottle to add the bleach solution. You want to get the bleach solution down into the folds and use your hand to massage it into the fabric.

bottle tip with liquid in it on top of black rubberband shirt.

To make it easy, you can do both sides of the shirt.

Step 4: Wait For 5-20 Minutes

This is the trickiest part of this whole process is knowing how long to leave the solution on your shirt. The best advice is to watch your shirt and remove the rubberbands once you like the colors you are seeing.

rubberbanded fabric on cardboard with blue latex glove in the corner.
This shirt reacted pretty quickly. This was after 5 minutes.

Step 5: Remove The Rubber Bands

You can cut your rubber bands or pull them off. You want to still wear gloves for this.

hand removing rubberbands from wet brown and black t-shirt.

Step 6: Soak Your Shirt In The Peroxide Bath

Place your shirt in the bath to neutralize the bleach. It will fizz. Once it is done fizzing you can remove the shirt and ring it out.

hand wearing blue glove pushing fabric into clear liquid in white container with bubbles in the liquid.

Step 7: Rinse Your Shirt

Before placing a reverse tie dye fabric in your washing machine we recommended thoroughly rinsing it in a bucket or shop sink.

hand holding part of shirt being rinsed in water.

Step 8: Wash and Dry Shirt

We recommend washing your shirt with cold water and tumble drying on low.

brown, tan, orange & black reverse tie dyed shirt.

Tips

  • If you want your whites or lighter colors to become a little more apparent after you take the rubberbands off, place your shirt in the sun. The bleached areas will continue to lighten the tie dye pattern until you place the shirt in a peroxide fixative bath.
  • The longer you leave the bleach on the shirt, the lighter it will become in those areas.
  • Darker-colored fabrics such as a black shirt, will give you the most variation in color.
  • For your first wash, be sure to wash it separately from your other clothes to avoid any dye transfer.
  • There are different ways to neutralize bleach. You can also consider using a dilution of white vinegar or baking soda mixed with water.

How-To FAQs

Does your T-shirt need to be wet when folded?

You can fold and rubberband a shirt dry or wet, but a wet shirt will give you a softer design and a dry shirt will give you more sharp lines and shapes.

How do you know how long to leave the bleach on your shirt?

It is a personal preference based on the desired look you are going for an what colored shirt you are starting with. The maximum amount of time the bleach is left on the shirt should be 30 minutes so that the bleach doesn’t break down the fibers of your shirt.

What happens if you do not neutralize the bleach?

If you don’t neutralize the bleach in reverse tie dye, it can continue to eat away at your fabric even after you’ve rinsed it. This can cause the fabric to weaken and eventually fall apart. It’s important to make sure you neutralize the bleach a neutralizing agent to keep your fabric strong and healthy.

What fabrics can you bleach?

For best results use natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, and rayon because they absorb the bleach. It’s important to note that different fabrics may produce slightly different results, so it’s a good idea to experiment with different materials to find the best one for your project.

What fabrics should you not use to reverse tie dye?

Synthetic fabrics may or may not work well during a reverse tie-dye process. Avoid using polyester, nylon, and acrylic fabrics for reverse tie dye as they are made from materials that don’t absorb the bleach well.

Before and After Reverse Tie Dye Shirt

before black and gray shirt and after shirt after reverse tie dye process.

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How To Reverse Tie Dye

Learn how to reverse tie dye a t-shirt or other fabric for a fun effect.
Print Tutorial
brown, tan, orange & black reverse tie dyed shirt.
Prep:5 minutes
Creating:25 minutes
Total Time:30 minutes

Equipment

  • Bucket With Water
  • Surface To Work On

Supplies

  • Diluted Bleach we used 1 part household bleach to 1 part water
  • Squeeze Bottle
  • Rubber Bands
  • Latex or Rubber Gloves
  • Solid Colored Fabric made from Natural Fibers ex: 100% Cotton Black T-Shirt
  • Hydrogen Peroxide

Instructions

  • Set up your work area outside with a plastic tarp or cardboard.
  • Mix bleach solution (1:1 bleach to water) in bottles of your choice.
  • Mix 1 cup hydrogen peroxide with 1 gallon water in a bucket to make a neutralizing bath.
  • Choose a design for your shirt and fold it, securing it with rubberbands.
  • Apply bleach solution to the shirt, making sure to get it in the folds.
  • Leave bleach on for 5-20 minutes and remove rubberbands.
  • Soak shirt in peroxide bath until it stops fizzing.
  • Rinse the shirt before washing.
  • Wash the shirt with cold water and tumble dry on low.

Notes

  • Place your shirt in the sun if you want your whites or lighter colors to become a little more apparent after you take the rubberbands off.
  • The longer you leave the bleach on the shirt, the lighter it will become in those areas.
  • Darker-colored shirts will give you the most variation in color.
  • For your first wash, be sure to wash it separately from your other clothes to avoid any dye transfer.
  • You can also neutralize bleach with a dilution of white vinegar or baking soda mixed with water.
Author: Erin
Cost: under $5

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