There are a couple of different ways to bleach a t-shirt. A few things first, though:
- Do not attempt to bleach anything made of wool or silk; the bleach will totally destroy the fabric.
- Some dyes are permanent and will not bleach regardless of what color remover you try.
- If you try more than one or two types of color remover on a cotton garment, it can destroy the fabric.
You may want to try bleaching an edge of the garment first, to see how it behaves.
Once you know your garment will bleach safely, you have several methods for bleaching.
- Tie-dyeing is probably one of the easier methods, but you will need to rinse the bleach out thoroughly before removing your rubber bands.
- Batik will also work as a resist bleaching technique (paint melted wax into the areas you want to keep the garment’s original color), then iron it out afterwards. Wash the garment before continuing with your next design step.
- Other methods I’ve used include loosely pleat the garment to create a softer resist, putting the garment over a t-shirt board covered with wax paper (so I wouldn’t bleach the back of the shirt), and pinning the t-shirt over a cut-and-press board (again, with wax paper between the shirt and the board).
- If you want the bleached area to fade (unfade, graduate) into the unbleached area, you don’t want to use a resist method that will completely stop the bleach from seeping into the surrounding fabric. I’ll often either rinse the garment in plain water first (and wring it out well), or I’ll use a sprayer to dampen the edges of where I want the bleach to be.
Now that you’ve figured out how to separate the part of your garment you want bleached from the part you want to leave as-is, it’s time to apply the bleaching solution.
Most of the time, I like applying bleach from a small sprayer bottle. (To prevent rust, I empty and wash out the sprayer bottle when I’m done.) This gives me control over where the bleach goes and allows me to make some places brighter (more bleached) than others.
Other options for applying bleach include dipping the area of the fabric in a mild bleach solution, or painting it on with a synthetic paintbrush.
Let the garment lie flat while the bleach works (usually a couple of hours). If you hang up the garment or set it on a slant, the bleach will seep into the area that is closer to the floor.
Check the garment from time to time, and when it gets to the amount of bleaching you want, rinse it thoroughly, several times, in cold water and let it dry.
You may want to run the garment through the washing machine and dryer (no fabric softener!) before applying HTV to make sure the last traces of bleach have been washed out.
Hope this helps!