Bleach Tie-Dye Instructions

Updated February 21, 2017

Making tie-dye shirts and banners will keep a group of kids busy for hours. Arranging rubber bands to achieve a variety of results invites endless experimentation. While the tying part of the project is fairly straightforward and is suitable for children of most ages, to imbue the fabric with bright and permanent dye can be a bit complicated. An economical solution is to create "reverse" tie-dyes using bleach. Instead of adding colour to white fabric with dye, a colourful piece of fabric or a T-shirt is dipped in bleach to remove colour from all areas except those tied with rubber bands. Less messy than regular tie-dyes, this process still requires adult supervision.

Arrange rubber bands on the fabric. Make sure the rubber bands are wrapped tight, or bleach will seep underneath. Experiment with different patterns. Use small rubber bands to make tiny, pale circles, and big rubber bands to create large, wide shapes. Tie up most of the fabric for a dramatic effect. Gently tug on the rubber bands to make sure they are tight.

Pour water into a laundry tub. Make sure there is enough water to completely cover your fabric. Add approximately 1 cup bleach for every 4 cups of water. Using a more concentrated mixture will result in a faster process, but is not recommended, because bleach can eat through fabrics.

Check the fabric every few minutes. Use a pair of gloves to remove the fabric when the desired effect has been achieved. Soak the fabric in several changes of warm water.

Remove your fabric from the water once you have washed all of the bleach away. Unwrap the rubber bands. If you have access to a washing machine, run your reverse tie-dye fabric through a rinse cycle to ensure that all traces of residual bleach are gone. Allow your fabric to air-dry or use a clothes dryer.


Some fabric has been dyed with non-bleachable dyes, so you should do a small test before you tie up the fabric.


Children should never use bleach without adult supervision. Protect your hands while using bleach by wearing rubber gloves. Be careful when pouring bleach to avoid splashing it in your eyes.

Things You'll Need

  • Colourful fabric or T-shirt
  • Rubber bands of different widths and sizes
  • Bleach
  • Laundry tub
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About the Author

Fiona Fearey has an undergraduate degree from Temple University and a master's degree from New York University. She has been a freelance writer and editor for over five years. She has written for Pluck on Demand and various other websites. Other professional experience includes education, the arts and decorative painting.