Have you seen people wearing those fun bleached t-shirts? I love how they look, but I never realized how easy it is to make your own. Today I’m going to show you how to make your own bleach spray shirt in just 10 minutes!
This is a great way to upcycle an old shirt that maybe already has a few spots or stains on it so you can keep wearing it! If you love upcycled projects, check out these other fun upcycled projects you can make with your Cricut.
DIY Bleach Spray Shirt
- 7 minutes (time spent doing stuff)
- 3 minutes (time spent waiting around)
- 10 minutes (total project time)
- stencil (you can find a pre-made stencil or make your own with stencil vinyl and a Cricut cutting machine or a Silhouette Cameo; if you like the owl image I used, you can click here to see it, then right-click the image and choose Save As)
I wanted to make my own design, so I used my Cameo to create a cute little owl and cut it out of Silhouette’s stencil vinyl. But you can also use Cricut Design Space to design something to cut out with a Cricut machine, or if you have a pre-made stencil that you love, that will work great too! Either way, the first thing you need to do is make sure your shirt is clean and wrinkle-free.
To protect the back of the shirt from bleach, slide a piece of cardboard inside the shirt. Make sure the cardboard is big enough to protect the entire shirt from any bleach overspray!
Attach your stencil to the shirt. If you found a pre-made stencil, lightly spray the back of it with spray adhesive, place it on your shirt, and firmly press down all the edges. If you made your own stencil, make sure you cut it out of adhesive vinyl. My stencil had a few separate “loose” pieces, so I used transfer paper to transfer the stencil onto my shirt without losing any pieces.
Just press the transfer paper down on top of your stencil, then gently remove the stencil from the paper backing. The transfer paper will hold the stencil pieces in place. (It’s a little hard to see in the photo below; the clear transfer paper is on top of the clear stencil, but I haven’t yet peeled the paper backing off of the stencil.)
Place the stencil on your shirt and firmly press down all the edges. Then gently peel up the transfer paper, making sure the stencil stays attached to your shirt. Once the transfer paper is gone and the stencil is firmly stuck to your shirt, you’re ready to bleach!
Pour about a quarter cup of pure bleach into a spray bottle. You don’t need to dilute the bleach for this project. Set the spray nozzle to spray a super fine mist. Trust me, the tiniest bit of bleach will do the job! If you’re worried about how heavy your spray will be, practice spraying a piece of cardboard first. You want the bleach to just barely mist the surface of the cardboard, not soak it!
Start by gently spraying a very light coat of bleach onto your shirt all around the stencil; one or two trigger pulls will do it, you don’t need a lot of bleach. Immediately blot the whole area with a paper towel. You don’t want any giant puddles of bleach on your shirt or on your stencil!
Bleach works pretty quickly, but it can take up to two minutes for the bleach to pull all the color out. One or two sprays of bleach will eventually lighten the whole area; don’t get impatient and spray more bleach, just give it more time to start working. If it’s not bleached enough after a few minutes, do another gentle spray, blot it up, and wait again.
Also, don’t freak out when the shirt changes colors during the bleaching process! About fifteen seconds in, the bleached areas of my shirt turned green and I thought I had ruined the whole thing! That is just the color starting to come out of the shirt. About ten seconds later it had turned orange like in the picture below.
By the time the bleach had completely finished working, the bleached areas were a nice light tan color!
Don’t pick up the stencil until you’re sure your shirt is exactly how you want it! Then gently peel the stencil away, and you’re done! Hang the shirt and let it dry.
If you were a little heavy handed with the bleach, you may see some fine dusty powder on the shirt once it’s dry; that is just crystallized bleach. The best way to get rid of crystallized bleach is to throw the shirt in the dryer for half an hour. The tumble dry will knock the bleach powder loose without bleaching your shirt any further. DO NOT GET YOUR SHIRT WET if you see this powder! Water will reactivate the bleach and your bleach shirt design will be ruined!
Once the shirt is dry and there’s no crystallized bleach on it, rinse the entire shirt in cold water. Hang it up to dry, and then you can wash and dry the shirt as usual without fear of ruining the design. You may want to wash it by itself once, just to be sure you don’t accidentally bleach any other clothes.
Make Your Own Bleach Spray Shirt In Just 10 Minutes!
- stencil vinyl
- small spray bottle
- 1 plain t-shirt
- spray adhesive
- 1 piece cardboard
- Find a stencil, or make one with a Cricut or Silhouette machine and stencil vinyl.
- To protect the back of the shirt from bleach, slide a piece of cardboard inside the shirt. Make sure the cardboard is big enough to protect the entire shirt from any bleach overspray!
- If you found a pre-made stencil, lightly spray the back of it with spray adhesive, place it on your shirt, and firmly press down all the edges. If you made your own stencil, make sure you cut it out of adhesive vinyl so that it will stick to your shirt. You can use transfer paper to transfer the vinyl to your shirt.
- Place the stencil on your shirt and firmly press down all the edges. Then gently peel up the transfer paper, making sure the stencil stays attached to your shirt.
- Pour about a quarter cup of pure bleach into a spray bottle. You don’t need to dilute the bleach for this project.
- Spray a very light coat of bleach onto your shirt all around the stencil using a very fine mist setting on the nozzle; one or two trigger pulls will do it. Immediately blot the whole area with a paper towel.
- Wait three minutes while the bleach does its work. Don't get impatient and spray again; bleach can take a while to fully remove all of the color from the fabric. And don't worry if you start to see weird colors like green, orange, or purple at the beginning; just wait the full three minutes.
- If the shirt is still not light enough after the full three minutes, spray it again with a very light misting of bleach, immediately blot it up with a paper towel, and wait another three minutes.
- Gently peel the stencil away, and you’re done! Hang the shirt and let it dry.
If you see fine dusty powder on the shirt after it air dries
- If you see a fine dusty powder on your shirt after it has air-dried, that is just crystallized bleach. Just toss the shirt in the dryer for half an hour and let it tumble around to knock the powder loose. DO NOT GET IT WET or you will re-activate the bleach and ruin your design.
Laundering your bleach spray shirt
- Once your shirt air dries, if you don't see any crystallized bleach powder on your shirt, rinse the entire shirt in cold water. Then hang it to air dry again.
- Once the shirt has air-dried again, wash it by itself like normal in your washing machine, and dry it like normal. This will ensure there's no remaining bleach left to leach out into your other clothes.
- After the first initial rinse and first full wash and dry by itself, your new bleached shirt can be laundered like normal. The bleach won't affect the other clothes in the load of laundry, so wash and dry it however you normally would based on the material it's made of.
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