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How to Make Bleach Spray Shirts

As a mother of two, Kathy loves trying new crafts with her kids.

Bleach-sprayed t-shirts are so easy to make!

Bleach-sprayed t-shirts are so easy to make!

How to Spray Bleach a Shirt

Looking for an inexpensive way to personalize a t-shirt? Want to express yourself through your clothing but can’t find anything that matches your energy at the store? Look no further: bleach-sprayed t-shirts are a simple way to make a design that you like and put it on a shirt.

We used a 50/50 bleach-water solution in our spray bottle. After doing some research, it seems you could use a stronger or weaker solution. I chose a 50/50 solution because I didn’t want the bleach to eat through the t-shirt, and I didn’t want to take the chance that the solution wouldn’t bleach the shirts. So, it was my preference, and it seemed to work. One more thing about the bleach water: make sure the spray bottle is set to mist!

It's so easy to bleach spray a t-shirt.

It's so easy to bleach spray a t-shirt.

Supplies Needed

  • Cotton t-shirt
  • Bleach
  • Freezer paper
  • Spray bottle
  • Cardboard box

Step 1: Buy Shirts

First things first; you need a t-shirt. You can head on over to your local craft store and buy a plain t-shirt. We got ours at Michael’s. Two of them were $3, and the other two were on clearance for $1.79. What a deal for personalized shirts.

Bleach spraying a t-shirt is also the perfect way to repurpose any old shirt you have laying around the house that may have a few stains on it. No matter how you chose to procure your shirt, just make sure it’s cotton so it will take the bleach.

If you go with a new t-shirt, you’ll need to wash it before spraying it. If your shirt needs ironing, do so. A flat, wrinkle-free surface is needed for this to work properly.

Oops!  The design bled a little on to the symbol.  Keep it simple when it comes to picking a template to use.

Oops! The design bled a little on to the symbol. Keep it simple when it comes to picking a template to use.

Step 2: Pick a Design

Once you have your shirt, you need to decide what image you want to put on it. The key here is to know that it needs to be a simple design.

The more detailed your image, the greater the chance that the bleach will bleed through on the design. That means the lines won’t be as clear.

As you can see from our Sith symbol, the bleach bled through a little, so the lines aren’t as clear. Now, truth be told, it’s still a cool shirt. It’s the old Sith symbol, and looking weathered and old goes along with the symbol’s theme. But I like the look of the clean lines better.

How to Find Designs

We found all of our images using Google. Some words you may want to use to help you in your search for that perfect image are stencil, logo, outline, and symbol.

Once you find that perfect image, copy and paste it into a word processing document. Stretch the image so that it’s the largest size that will fit on a single page. If you are making a t-shirt for a baby, you may not want it to fit the whole page. Their shirt will be smaller, so will need a smaller symbol.

Cut the symbol out of the freezer paper to make the perfect template for your shirt.

Cut the symbol out of the freezer paper to make the perfect template for your shirt.

Step 3: Print Design on Freezer Paper

Now you will need to print your image directly onto freezer paper. It’s easier than it sounds.

Just cut out freezer paper into the same size as regular copy paper. Then throw it into the printer. Make sure your image prints onto the paper side of the freezer paper. If it prints on the shiny side, you’ll have a mess.

Once your image is printed, cut it out. This cut-out is your reverse stencil made out of freezer paper.

This shirt is ready to spray with bleach

This shirt is ready to spray with bleach

Step 4: Place Cardboard Inside Shirt

You are going to need a piece of cardboard to place inside the t-shirt. This will keep the t-shirt flat and prevent the bleach from bleeding through to the back of the shirt. You can just take a cardboard box and cut it to size. Then put it inside the t-shirt.

After there is cardboard in the shirt, place the stencil onto your t-shirt. You will need to put the shiny plastic side down. Position and center it exactly where you want the image on the shirt. Then gently iron over the freezer paper.

This will cause the plastic on the freezer paper to melt and adhere to the t-shirt. Don’t worry; it will peel right off the shirt later.

Stand directly above the shirt and mist the bleach down on it.

Stand directly above the shirt and mist the bleach down on it.

Step 5: Bleach the Shirt

To bleach the shirt, you want to stand above your shirt and spray downward. This brings a slow mist onto the shirt.

It will hit the shirt but not saturate the stencil. If the stencil gets saturated with bleach, the design will bleed.

Spray a little bleach down onto the shirt and wait. Our black shirts took about 10 seconds for the bleach to take hold, while the others took a bit longer.

The key here is NOT to over-bleach. It doesn’t take much bleach for the design to start showing. Suppose it doesn’t start showing after a minute or two; spray a bit more bleach downward onto the shirt. Again, don’t over-saturate with bleach.

Once you have the look you want, take the shirt inside and run cold water over it to stop the bleaching process. The stencil will rub right off at this point.

All that’s left is to rewash the shirts and enjoy your custom-made bleach-sprayed t-shirt.

Questions & Answers

Question: Do you think you could add vinyl over the bleach design when making a bleach spray t-shirt?

Answer: You could add vinyl over the design once it has been bleached. The fabric only changes colors from the bleach. So it still has the same integrity.


R on May 07, 2019:

We use sticky backed shelf paper from the dollar store

Gabrielle on March 25, 2018:

This seems really cool but what would be a good thing to use instead of freezer paper?

Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on December 09, 2014:

I do think it would work on an all cotton sweatshirt. Although I don't have proof, my guess would be that it would soak up the bleach pretty quickly so I'd make sure to start by spraying only a little. See if it takes, you can always add more.

Madalym on December 08, 2014:

Do you think this method would work on a thicker cotton like a sweatshirt?

Alexander Gibb from UK on November 08, 2014:

Now that's really clever!

Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on October 30, 2014:

I'm so glad Laura. I try to make sure all my instructions are easy to follow. A lot of times even I have to go back and use I gosh darn better be able to understand them. lol

I'm sure your Halloween shirts will be a huge hit!

Laura L. on October 29, 2014:

Your instructions by far was the best for bleached t-shirts. Clear simple instructions. I made 12 shirts for co-worker for Halloween in a snap! Thank you!

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on August 29, 2014:

Great holiday activity for when grandchildren are visiting. Thanks for sharing.

Nick Deal from Earth on August 29, 2014:

Good hub with nice graphics! Thanks for sharing.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 29, 2014:

Very cool craft idea. Voted up and pinning. Thanks for sharing with us.

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on August 29, 2014:

Very cute and fun idea, thanks for sharing this with us. I'm definitely pinning this on Pinterest.

Claudia Porter on August 29, 2014:

Very cool! I will definitely be trying this in the near future. Might even be fun with my daughter and some friends before it gets too cold outside to do it. Saved for future reference!

Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on July 31, 2014:

Oh you could totally make little pilgrim hats!!

RTalloni on July 31, 2014:

Thanks for this look at your method for I'm looking for a different way to decorate Thanksgiving tees this year.