Saturday, May 26, 2012

Adventures in Bleach Pen Clothing

Last night I began an experiment with a Clorox Bleach Pen.  I had no idea such a thing even existed until yesterday.  I was inspired by a post I saw on Show Tell Share. What you are about to see here is the result of about a day's worth of trial and error... and just a little bit of stubbornness on my part.


My first attempt involved a very cheap t-shirt that I made into a dress.  It did not work out so well.  The bleach that is.  The dress itself was cute (I thought).  But... maybe I should have tried the bleaching FIRST before beginning a sewing project.  Oh well, lesson learned. 

I do think that the cheap-ness of the shirt may have had something to do with my failure.  However, my biggest mistake was that I left the bleach on WAAAAY too long.

So, here is the initial dress and the bleach design that I drew.  Not too shabby.  I free-handed the design.  I put a piece of cardboard underneath the top layer of the dress to prevent the bleach from bleeding to the back of the dress.

Aaaaanndd... Here is where I should have realized that I left the bleach on waaay too long.  Actually, I should have realized it before... sigh...

So, I rinsed the dress in my sink.  After I rinsed it I could immediately tell that the lines had bled too far and the design did not come out right.  But, I had hoped that maybe through some magical force of the wash machine that it would look better after washing.  (Clearly I don't have a lot of experience with bleach, much less bleach pens.)

And there you have it folks.  Not much suspense here.  I did try again with this dress.  I guess I felt somewhat attached to the whole concept and did not want to admit defeat so readily.  I tried to trace over the original lines with the bleach pen thinking that they might turn out with a white line inside the pink blur.  Not so much.  

I guess If I really wanted to save it I could bleach the whole thing.  Or perhaps use fabric paint to spruce it up. 

At least this pink shirt was not a total loss.  I made my daughter (what was supposed to be a matching) headband that did turn out pretty nice.  She is very pleased with this.  You know what they say:  You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.

I was not ready to give up on this technique yet. There are so many images on the web that I loved.  But I was not ready to drive all the way into town to get a new t-shirt either.  Then I remembered that I have these old tank tops that I never wear because the straps are way too long and, well, they're tank tops and I'm middle aged.

I'm glad I tried again.  The first one I did was this dark gray one.  I free-handed the design.  It's kind of the same as what I doodle when I am talking to someone on the phone.  My apologies if you are someone I talk to on the phone; I probably don't mean you ;)

This time I watched closely while the bleach dried.  As soon as I saw the color change I looked for any sign on bleeding.  It only took a few minutes.  Then I rinsed all the bleach off in the sink.  I really like how you can see variations in the color on that dark gray one.  

I was not sure how the light grey would come out, if at all.  I was pleasantly surprised that the bleached areas turned pink.  I drew the design of that one along the side of the shirt instead of the front.  Unfortunately my bleach pen ran out too soon and the drawing looks kind of icky.  As the pen started to run out, air bubbles started to come out of the pen and they were not good to work with.  I may get another pen and add to the design. 

I think the purple came out great and my daughter helped me with that design.  It actually fits her as a dress just by cutting the straps and tying them at the shoulder.  They weren't quite long enough to make bows, but I might sew them into mock-blows once she takes it off :)

This was a fun quick projectIf you try this remember to wear some old clothes just in case you get some on your pants (I'm not mentioning any names here).  Also, after you rinse the garments you still have to wash them with detergent before you can wear them.



  1. You are so crafty! And such a good sewer!! I am a bit jealous!

    1. Thanks! No need to be jealous; we can have a craft-a-thon :)

  2. Bleach in a pen? That opens up a lot of possibilities. Love what you did, and the dress is lovely.

    1. Thanks so much! This is totally a fun project :)

  3. I live in the Philippines where they unfortunately don't sell bleach pens. I have tried this with paint brushes as well as Q-tips. This gives much less control and i usually have too much bleeding. I've found though, that I can improve any design which bled too much by adding in lines and design details using fabric markers, embroidery stitches etc! I find however that bleach weakens the fibres and the fabric deteriorates along the bleached portions much faster than anywhere else. so after a year o so of wear, you develop little holes along the bleached lines.

    1. Thanks for the insight :)
      I guess it is probably better for kids clothes if it breaks down quicker. Thanks for stopping by!!

  4. I have been experimenting also. Check out my different version at
    I'm a follower of yours now also!


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