Make Your Own Bleach Spray Shirt In Just 10 Minutes!

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!

DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil

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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)

Tools

Materials

Instructions

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!

DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil

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.)

DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl 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!

DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil

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.

DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil

By the time the bleach had completely finished working, the bleached areas were a nice light tan color!

DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil

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.

DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil

Make Your Own Bleach Spray Shirt In Just 10 Minutes!

5 from 1 vote
Have you seen people wearing those fun bleached t-shirts? They are super simple to make; you can make them in under 10 minutes and all you need is a shirt, bleach, water, a spray bottle, and a stencil!
Active Time 7 mins
Waiting Time 3 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Yield 1 shirt
Cost $5

Equipment

Materials

Instructions
 

  • 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!
    DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil
  • 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.
    DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl 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.
    DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil
  • 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.
    DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil
  • 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.
    DIY bleach spray shirt with an adhesive owl stencil

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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Jessi signature

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to β€œdo it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. peggy richardson says

    12 months ago

    can you put 2 or 3 items that been bleach together in the washing machineand the owl is 2 cute

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      12 months ago

      Yeah, if you make a couple of shirts (or whatever) at the same time, you should be able to do that first wash in the washing machine with all the items at once.

  2. Katriina says

    3 years ago

    Wow, you are a genius!!!! Also the owl pattern itself is Super cute! <3

    Do you think you could replace stencil and adhensive with a contact paper or masking tape?

  3. Michelle says

    4 years ago

    Just discovered this tutorial and it’s great! Curious if the same thing could be done with a basic sweatshirt/hoodie?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      Yep, the bleach spray will work on any type of shirt! You can do it on pants too; anything made out of fabric should work!

  4. CORNELIA says

    4 years ago

    THIS IS SO AWESOME I CANT WAIT TO TRY IT. IS THERE A WAY TO CHANGE THE COLOUR OF THE BLEACH? WILL COLOURING WORK?
    I WANT TO HAVE DIFFRENT COLOURS. PLS LET ME KNOW. THANK YOU

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      4 years ago

      There isn’t really a way to change the color when you bleach something. Bleach just removes the color of whatever you’re bleaching. You can get a little bit different “shades” by putting more or less bleach in an area.

  5. April says

    5 years ago

    Found this while looking for a way for my Art Club students to make t-shirts. I have a silhouette. Do you think this film would be reusable on multiple shirts? If not, do you know something that would be or how to reactivate the stickiness?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      5 years ago

      The film should have enough “stick” to reuse it a couple of times. But if you’re making more than five or six shirts, you could try cutting it out of the Silhouette stencil material (the non-adhesive kind) http://www.silhouetteamerica.com/shop/specialty-media/MEDIA-STENCIL-3T and then using spray adhesive on the back to make it sticky. That way you could just re-spray the back and you can reuse it as many times as you want! My only tip for using spray adhesive is to do a really really light coat, and then have some scrap fabric to stick it to first. That way if any spray adhesive is going to stick to the fabric and leave a residue, it sticks to your scrap fabric. Every time you spray a new coat, just spray it really lightly and stick and unstick on your scrap fabric a few times, then put it on your shirts. The spray adhesive should last three to four shirts per spray, and then just reapply as needed!

  6. Erika says

    6 years ago

    this is just amazing!!! I saw this idea this morning somewhere on Facebook. And I have to try it out right now – the result is just great! Thanks a lot for sharing this great idea!

  7. Emma says

    6 years ago

    Amazing idea! I’ll definitely try this one. But I have a question: Is there anything I can do if we don’t have a dryer in our household? Is there anyway how to do it without it?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      6 years ago

      Definitely Emma! The dryer is just the best way to get an crystalized bleach off of the shirt without reactivating the bleach, but it isn’t necessary if you’re careful and don’t spray too much bleach. And if you do accidentally get too much bleach on the shirt and it crystallizes, you can just shake the shirt out by hand and maybe thump it in the air with your hands a bit to knock the crystallized bleach off of the shirt. Just make sure not to get the shirt wet if there are bleach crystals on it. Once there are no more bleach crystals, you can rinse the shirt and hang it to air dry.

  8. Chanesia says

    7 years ago

    Hi, I was wondering if I don’t have the silouhette or vinyl
    could I still make this project work?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      Certainly! You can pick out any stencil from a craft store and use that instead! Just make sure to get spray adhesive (you can usually also find that in a craft store) to make sure the stencil sticks well to the shirt, then just spray the bleach the same way I did in the tutorial and it should work great!

  9. Laurie says

    7 years ago

    Quick question: I had to do more than “lightly spray” the spray adhesive onto my stencil because there were a few tiny pieces that I didn’t want to fly away… what if some of the spray adhesive leaves a residue on the shirt? How do I get that off?

    Thanks, L.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      Good question Laurie! My favorite way to get spray adhesive off of fabric is by using scotch tape or masking tape. Put down a piece of tape over the residue and press the tape down firmly. The adhesive on the tape is stronger than the spray adhesive, so when you peel up the tape it should pull up the extra spray adhesive residue as well! It may take a couple of passes, but you should be able to get the residue up this way. If there is still a little bit left on the shirt, just rub at it vigorously with your finger and it should come up. But make sure your finger is clean first, otherwise you’ll make a dirty smudge on the shirt! Good luck, let me know if that works for you!

  10. Susan Brown says

    7 years ago

    This is perfect. One day when I was cleaning with bleach I got some on a shirt that I love so I have been wearing as an indoors only clothing. Now if I put a design on it in bleach it will look as if it was all done on purpose with a purpose and look nice too.

  11. Nadzie says

    7 years ago

    Thank-you, just brilliant! My daughters first birthday party outfit is now complete she has 2 custom Babushka bleach spray t-shirts for her themed celebrations next weekend. It matches the invitation, bunting, cupcake and cake design that I made. Will be doing this again and recommending you to my friends! πŸ˜€

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      So glad to hear it worked for you! Thanks so much for letting me know, this totally made my day!

  12. Melissa says

    7 years ago

    Such a cool project. I had fun with this one. I do caution people to wash their new t-shirts before bleaching because I didn’t do that, and even though I let it air dry first, now the inside of my dryer is green. Now I’m off to research how to clean dryer stains.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      Oh no! Bummer! Maybe try wiping down the inside of the dryer with a rag soaked in a vinegar/water solution? Or maybe some mild soap, like baby shampoo?

  13. Joanna L Nagle says

    7 years ago

    Love, love, love this idea! Using it for the craft portion of my daughter’s 10th Birthday party! It’ll make a great souvenir! Thank you!

  14. Jeanne says

    7 years ago

    When you put the shirt in dryer to get the bleach residue off is it safe to put more than one shirt in at a time? I am planning as sleap over party for 10 yr olds to do this project…..want to set the shirt and get it washed so they can take it home with them. Any suggestions?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      What a fun idea! Yep, you can definitely throw all the shirts in the dryer to get rid of any crystalized bleach, but make sure not to get them wet first! Just spray the bleach, peel off your stencil, and then wait for the shirts to air dry. Once they are totally dry to the touch you can toss them all into the dryer for half an hour, but you want to make sure the shirts are totally air dried first so the bleach doesn’t “leak”. After the half hour, rinse them all in cold water to make sure the bleach is deactivated and there are no bleach crystals left on the surface of the shirt. Then you can let them air dry again and then wash and dry and wear them just like normal!

      The whole drying process takes a little while the first time around since you need to let them air dry twice, but if you start early in the evening they would definitely be ready to take home the next morning, or maybe even later that night if they aren’t staying the whole night. Good luck with them!

  15. Janice Fowler says

    7 years ago

    Love this bleached t shirt. I done mine other day but it did not turned out the way I want. It changed to dark instead bleached. It may issue with fabric? Mine is 56% cotton, 38% polyester, 6% elastane. Ummmm

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      What color was your original shirt? I’ve never heard of bleach making something darker!!!

  16. Sandi says

    7 years ago

    Does the spray adhesive wash out just in the washer?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      7 years ago

      The spray adhesive doesn’t really transfer to the shirt at all. Spray adhesive is nice like that; it just makes a “tacky” surface on whatever you spray it on (the stencil), and then when you stick the stencil to the shirt it holds well, but it’s just a tacky hold, not like actual glue or stickers which leave a residue. But if you do find some comes off onto the shirt, it will definitely come out in the washer!

  17. ripizzo says

    7 years ago

    Excellent, love this idea. Thanks for sharing

  18. Amy | Canary Street Crafts says

    7 years ago

    Such a cute idea Jessi! Just found this via Pinterest, can’t wait to try it! πŸ™‚

  19. Alice says

    8 years ago

    I took a fabric and textiles class in college and you should always deactivate the bleach so it doesn’t create holes later. Hydrogen peroxide is an easy makeshift solution for deactivating bleach and it only takes a quick rinse to ensure a few years from now that it doesn’t fall apart.

      • Nichole says

        7 years ago

        Do you wait for the bleached shirt to dry before rinsing in the hydrogen peroxide? Do you dilute the peroxide at all?

        • Jessi Wohlwend says

          7 years ago

          I’ve heard that a 1:10 ratio of hydrogen peroxide to water will work. Haven’t tried it, but I would definitely dilute the hydrogen peroxide!

          • bob says

            7 years ago

            Vinegar and water should work too yeah?? to deactivate the bleach?

  20. Val S says

    8 years ago

    Hi Cute idea. I’d bet that using peroxide and laying it out in the sun should work too if anyone is allergic to bleach like me!

  21. Joleen Allison says

    8 years ago

    I saw this on Pinterest yesterday. I got so excited, I stayed up until midnight making mine. They turned out so cute. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I used contact paper to make my stencil. All my friends tell me that I need to make more and sell them at the Saturday market.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      Yay, I’m so glad they turned out great! And glad to hear contact paper worked too!

  22. oana says

    8 years ago

    hi. where can you buy those stencils… i can’t find anything online…

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      I made this stencil myself with my Silhouette Cameo, so I don’t know where you can find this exact stencil. Sorry! But I did provide the jpeg of the image I used if you want to make your own stencil by cutting it out of some vinyl or freezer paper.

  23. LydiaF says

    8 years ago

    What a cute project idea. I can easily see this as a team/group project. Pinning for posterity πŸ™‚

  24. Kirsty says

    8 years ago

    You might want to test what will happen to the colour somewhere it wont be visible (e.g. on the inside of a seam). I did it with a greenish khaki T-shirt, and it turned a very odd pinky-copper colour! Love this one – I might try it again.

  25. Shelby says

    8 years ago

    Can you post the owl picture you used please?! Thank you!

  26. Kristy gd says

    8 years ago

    I’ve gotta say, this is one of my favorite bleach t-shirts to date. The colors are really quite stunning! And that owl is just too cute. πŸ™‚

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      Aww thanks Kristy, I’m super thrilled with how it turned out!

  27. Betsy @ Romance on a Dime says

    8 years ago

    Such a cute idea and this turned out really well!! love it. Thanks for linking up!!
    ~ Betsy @ Romance on a dime

  28. Jillian @ Hi! It's Jilly says

    8 years ago

    That shirt is so cute and you make it sound so easy!

    Thanks for linking up with Take it on Tuesday!

  29. Kat Ryan says

    8 years ago

    WOW this is awesome!!! Thank you posting! I cannot wait to try it out

  30. Meredith @ unOriginalMom says

    8 years ago

    This is SO neat! What a great tutorial on a really unique concept…and I love the owl design, too! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  31. Karen says

    8 years ago

    I was wondered of a freezer paper stencil would work?

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      Yep, freezer paper should work too! The trick is to make sure you use the tiniest amount of bleach, so that no matter what you use for your stencil, the bleach doesn’t bleed underneath and ruin the design!

  32. Stacy Risenmay says

    8 years ago

    This is adorable! My niece is crazy for owls and I bet she would love to make this. How fun! Thanks for linking up! I am off to pin πŸ™‚

  33. Marni @ Haberdashery Fun says

    8 years ago

    Found you on Pinterest. This is really great, super easy to read and follow your directions. I just got a cameo and am looking for a project.. Perfect inspiration.

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      Ooh how exciting! I remember when I first got my Cameo; you’re going to have so much fun! And thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it!

  34. kukafera says

    8 years ago

    Wow!! Thanks for sharing this!!

  35. Julia says

    8 years ago

    I love how your shirt turned out! I’m always looking for simple projects to make plain t-shirts awesome πŸ™‚

  36. Bethany says

    8 years ago

    This turned out so cute! Great idea!

  37. Tori says

    8 years ago

    How fun Jessi! I have been wanting to try a bleach shirt! They look so neat! Yours turned out great!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      Thanks Tori, I’m just so thrilled with how this one turned out!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      They’re on sale right now through Valentine’s Day if you’re ready to take the plunge!

  38. Gina says

    8 years ago

    I just ADORE this project. I inherited a cutting machine from my mom- I guess I need to take it out of the box & learn how to use it. Super cute!

  39. Joyce Fisher says

    8 years ago

    Hi Jessi,

    This is sooooo cute!!! I’ve never seen this technique done and it is just too cool. I want to try!!! Thanks for the step-by-step and the important tips. I would have washed it immediately and ruined the shirt if you hadn’t explained it so well.

    I’m so glad that the FB Silhouette Challenge group did fabric this month. I’m going to pin this to my Silhouette board.

    Peace, Love and Joy,
    Joyce

  40. Tanya says

    8 years ago

    Okay you totally rock! I want to make one! I L O V E it!

  41. Glenna Anderson says

    8 years ago

    Love your shirt! I’ve never seen this technique done with a design. Great idea!

  42. Vanessa says

    8 years ago

    That came out super cute! Thanks for the hint on tumbling the crystals off. I totally would have thrown in in the wash!

    • Jessi Wohlwend says

      8 years ago

      Yeah, that bleach gets real tricky in it’s hiding places, and it would totally suck if you went through the whole process only to ruin it by washing it!

  43. Pam - GetSilvered says

    8 years ago

    This is fabulous – what a fun project. And a great tip about the bleach crystals too!

  44. Kelly of Simply Kelly Designs says

    8 years ago

    I have a top that has a spray design on it and now I know how to make one myself! Thank you for sharing! I am pinning this for future reference.

  45. colette says

    8 years ago

    That is so cool! You are so creative.

  46. Gwen says

    8 years ago

    That is seriously SO cute! I love the bleach technique!

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