How to bleach fabric white

Updated April 17, 2017

Over time, many white articles of clothing become discoloured or stained and need to be bleached to restore their crisp, clean appearance. When dealing with coloured clothing or fabric, removing all colour from the article allows you to use it in its white state or redye it using a different colour of your choice. You can also use bleach to remove colour from specific spots of the clothing or fabric to create intricate designs and patterns.

Select an appropriate work area. When working with a large quantity of bleach, you must choose an area that is well ventilated and where the possibility of damage from an accidental bleach spill is minimal. Cover any nearby items that are susceptible to bleach damage with protective plastic.

Fill a five gallon bucket, sink or washing machine with enough bleach and water mixture to cover the fabric completely. Use the ratio of one part bleach to four parts water.

Place your fabric in the bleach mixture and leave it until the colour is gone. If your fabric doesn't turn white, add more bleach to the mixture until you achieve the desired results.

Rinse the bleach from the fabric. If using a sink, drain the bleach water and run fresh water over fabric. If using a washing machine, use the rinse cycle. If using a bucket, wring the excess bleach mixture from the fabric and move it to a sink or washing machine for rinsing. Take care to not drip bleach along the way.

Wash your bleached fabric prior to use to ensure the bleach is thoroughly rinsed out.


Use only natural fabrics when removing colour completely. Non-natural fabrics, such as polyester, are colour-fast and will not discharge their colours. Wear old clothing and gloves to protect your hands while bleaching.


You may see a wide range of colours during the bleaching process, especially with dark fabrics. Do not panic, these colours were part of the dying process and will discharge if given enough time.

Things You'll Need

  • Bleach
  • 2 five gallon buckets
  • Old clothing
  • Protective plastic
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About the Author

Based just outside Eugene, Ore., Danielle Gream began writing professionally in 2010 for various websites. Gream is the co-owner of a business consulting firm that specializes in leadership training and effective communication. She holds a Bachelor of Science in communication from the University of Phoenix.