Ice dyeing with bleach. Who knew?! The idea occurred to me after stumbling upon a bottle of bleach crystals a few weeks ago. Again, who knew that such a thing existed and for what use I wondered?! I had been wanting to DIY an acid-wash effect sweatshirt and bleach crystals ended up being the perfect agent to help me achieve that marbled tie-dye effect. I should preface this tutorial by saying that it not a fool-proof method. I can't guarantee you'll get the same outcome as me for one reason: all sweatshirts are not created equal - even by the same manufacturer! My best advice is to test a tiny part of the fabric before going all in. I would recommend dipping a Q-tip into liquid bleach and spot testing a tiny part of inside of the cuff or hem. See what color you end up with after lifting the original color. If you like it, go for it!
- cotton sweatshirt (must be 100% cotton or at least 75% cotton)
- Clorox bleach crystals
- cooling rack or foil
- 5-8lbs of ice
I recommend doing this over a sink in a room with good airflow. You're not actually using that much bleach so the fumes aren't that bad. Just be sure you can leave it where it is for at least 10-12 hours, preferably with a window cracked! I like to put down a cooling rack so the water/bleach can drain and not pool underneath the sweatshirt. You can also crumple up some foil instead. Unlike dyeing with dyes, you should start with a dry sweatshirt. I found that starting with a wet sweatshirt made the bleach bleed too much without giving it enough contrast and definition. Lay the sweatshirt over the rack or foil - twist it and crumple it up. You can even twist it up in rubber bands. Just don't leave it flat!
Cover the sweatshirt with a layer of ice. I prefer the larger cubes because they melt slower, letting the colors lift slower and create more marbling. You want enough ice to not be able to see the fabric through it.
Shake the bleach crystals onto the ice. And like ice dyeing, you want to deposit bleach only in a few areas in order to get nice contrast. The more bleach you pour over, the more color will be lifted. I would say at most, I put about 1 heaping tablespoon in one area at a time and at the very least, I applied a very light sprinkling in areas in between. Regardless, you should definitely have some areas without any bleach at all! Remember, you can always go back and add more. And now, you just let the magic happen . . .
After about 5-6 hours, most of the ice will have melted. I will admit that at first, I was disappointed with the colors. The bleached areas looked more brown than I was hoping. But after letting it cure and sit for a few more hours, more of the color was lifted. If you like the color as it is, then at this point you can just rinse it with water and wash it alone in the washing machine. If you want it to lighten up a bit more, let it sit for as long as you can before washing.
**If the bleach hasn't bleed through the back, you can turn it over and repeat the process on the backside.
And this is the result! In the lower right photo, you'll see a lighter sweatshirt. This was my first attempt where not only was I a little heavy handed with the bleach, I had started the process with a wet sweatshirt. Less is more, friends!
images and tutorial by HonestlyWTF
I cannot say just how much this post is saving my sanity. Our province is under Code Red which has been extended until early January and all non essential items are not allowed to be sold in-store. My teenage daughters have been looking for something to do with all the restrictions and this will be perfect! Thank you!
I’m so glad this could be a good distraction. Hang in there and stay safe! xx
Dying to try this. Would a 50/50 sweatshirt work?
I don’t think so. I tried on a 60 poly/40 cotton blend and the bleach didn’t life the color at all.
Ah I recently spilled a bit of bleach on my a brand new sweatshirt, so I have been looking for ideas of how to disguise the stain. I will be trying this. Love all the diy projects you share!
Perfect reason to do this!! xx
This process is called reverse dyeing and is quite popular with the tie dyeing community. There are numerous ways to do it but one rule in working with bleach products is to neutralize afterwards. Bleach is hard on fabrics and unless neutralized will continue to deteriorate resulting in holes. After the desired result is achieved, soak the garment for 20 minutes in regular tap water and hydrogen peroxide at a ratio of 9:1. There are dedicated groups on Facebook for this specific process that can provide all the information you need on how to do it and recommended safety measures.
Thanks for the recommendation, Marsha!
Wtf you, this is not something new….
Although it brings sweet memories from back in the 80s when our moms went crazy dying gauze skirts, I haven’t tried it myself. The sweater looks cool!
I’ve been doing this for probably 30 years or more but I understand it was the regular bleach and tied up with the rubber bands and then whenever I got done I rinsed it with vinegar and water to make sure that the bleach stopped eating because bleach will eat your clothes Plum up I guess it’s been longer nap probably 45 years cuz my kids are grown now but I did the blue jeans and all that stuff in their coats what was popular but I rinse with vinegar and water to cold vinegar and water to prevent from eating a hole but that’s cool I guess what goes around comes around
Wow these look incredible!
This sweater looks so pretty, i am not a huge fan of tie die effect but this is very modern and would wear it! I would love to try it out, just need to see if we have a similar bleach product in Germany, i have never seen this before! Do you know if this would work with ice and normal bleach?
the only bleach I could find was DanKlorix, no Clorox or other bleach crystals. it didn’t really work out for me and I might have to repeat the bleaching cycle. or I colour it with another colour, since after 9 hours, the sweater I used has only turned brownish and orange…
I can’t find bleach crystals anywhere. Can you use tablets instead? Or squirt gel bleach over the ice?
I haven’t tried tablets or squirt gel. I would test squirt gel as it’s probably less messy than dealing with breaking up tablets. Just don’t overdo it with the gel! A little goes a long way!
fantastyczny pomysł .
Hi! Love this bleach dye effect! Can you post the link for where you found the sweatshirt? I am having a hard time finding a high cotton %. Thank you!
Bleach crystals have been discontinued 🙁 I can’t find them anywhere and am not sure what to use as an alternative. Any ideas?
If you’re gonna use bleach like that, you’re gonna want to neutralize the clothing in hydrogen peroxide afterwards, or the bleach will continue to eat at the fibres, eventually making holes.
You should never bleach a more than 50% cotton. It will thin with each wash and leave holes. I bleach 65% poly all the time. The key is to find the right steward. It must have a white base.
Also bleaching indoors. That’s so unsafe. The sweater looks cool but this method is not something I would be recommending to people.
Love this technique I live in Canada…..where can I find bleach crystals.. Shirts turned out amazing love it….
I am so excited to do this! I’m a teacher and we have been asked to wear orange as a response to gun violence in upcoming days. Problem: ALL of the orange shirts manufactured are a garish Construction Cone Clementine (I’m trademarking this alliterative color Crayola), which looks good on basically nobody. I have high hopes that by ice bleaching my Glidden ETSY shirt the spectrum will be toned down and I will have reinvented a shirt that will be wearably unique, or uniquely wearable, whatever. Fingers crossed – that’s tomorrow’s experiment with my daughter.
“But after letting it cure and sit for a few more hours…”
What’s the max time that I should leave the shirt to sit in the ice/dye?