How To Stencil With Bleach

Can you sense the excitement in the air??? College football season is almost upon us and we are getting geared up to root for our fave teams!

For me and my boys…it’s my alma mater…BYU Cougars!  For my daughter Britta, it’s the Cougars’ ARCH RIVAL, the Utah Utes (booooooo! How could my daughter betray me like that and attend the university that is the “sworn enemy” of the university *I* attended??  Oh yeah…they gave her a full-ride scholarship. Never mind. lol).

For No. 1 Son it’s a LOT of teams…but if he were forced to choose it would probably be the South Carolina Gamecocks!

Anyway, you get the idea….we’re getting pumped for college football! Which got me thinking about a project I’ve been meaning to try…Bleach Stenciling. I was folding clothes this morning and came across this plain dark blue tee of my sons and decided it would be perfect for what I had in mind. (Good thing he was at school and couldn’t stop me!)

I got my inspiration from Cath at Dreamy Colours but next time I probably should actually READ the post and not just look at the pictures. :-)  I overdid it a little in the bleaching department because I neglected to read that most INTELLIGENT people dilute the bleach first. Oh well.

I actually am pretty happy with the way it turned out. And much to my surprise…No. 3 Son LOVED it! He immediately wanted to put it on and I actually talked him into posing for a pic! It was a rare and beautiful moment. :-)

bleach stencil tshirts

Here’s how I made my Bleach Stencil shirts (although I’m obviously not the expert on this subject!):

  • Get ahold of a t-shirt…preferably one no one is wearing at the time, and preferably when the owner of said t-shirt isn’t around to stop you!
  • Cut out letters (or pictures) you want to “stencil” on to the shirt. I just used plain printer paper…but as you can see in the pictures…it didn’t make for the cleanest edges…although I kind of like the imperfection of it all. I hear FREEZER PAPER is a good choice for this. Once again…note to self: read instructions, don’t just look at pretty pictures!
  • Place something between the layers of the shirt to keep the bleach from bleeding through to the back (or front) of the shirt. I used foil. It worked, but was tricky to position. Cardboard probably would have been easier to work with.

bleach stencil tshirts

  • Position letters on shirt and spray with bleach (or a solution of bleach AND water. The ratio of bleach and water is totally up to you and the “look” you’re going for.)
  • Place t-shirt in the sun until it reaches the desired color (I’m not sure this is absolutely necessary, it may be that it just speeds up the process a bit).

bleach stencil tshirts

bleach stencil tshirts

Like I said, it turned out a little “rougher” looking than I had PLANNED…but when all was said and done…I think I LIKE it that way!  The craft Gods were definitely smiling on me today (as opposed to their usual laughing and pointing fingers! haha)

Now grab your bottle of bleach and get out there and support your team!!


Update: Here is an important tip from Amber——   (Thanks Amber!)
I have done this many times and always ended up with the bleached areas getting holes in them after a few washes. I have since discovered through research on the web that you need to soak the item in peroxide when you have the desired bleached color to completely stop the action of the bleach. The peroxide chemicals alter the bleach and turns it into something else, I didn’t take chemistry in high school so I’m not sure what it turns into, but this step really works. I have done this twice now and no more holes.



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  1. says

    I’m a huge fan of your blog and it’s an honor that you used my tutorial :) Thank you so much!
    This kind of project is great to use in stained shirts, new shirt without stains!

  2. Misty says

    Love this idea! We are heading to Disney World in the fall and I’m thinking this will make awesome Mickey Mouse shirts (just the head, cut out three circles and you got it) that even my husband and 11yo son ( who will not get near anything babyish) will wear. I’m so excited I may have to try it today!

  3. Rita says

    I LOVE THIS! What a GREAT idea. I’m definitely going to try this. Thank You for the cool idea.

  4. Erin says

    I wonder how cereal bag liners would be as the paper…I’m always looking for ways to recycle those and you can often use it in place of freezer paper.

  5. Holly says

    I am going to try this with a horse-head stencil to give to my girlfriends that I board horses with!! I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. WendyB says

    I love this idea! The possibilities are endless. One thing to keep in mind: straight bleach will cause tiny holes to develop in the jersey fabric if too much is used. I used the bleach trick to make a “tie dyed” shirt after my hubby tried to get blood out of a tee using straight bleach. I used a spray bottle to blast soft-edged circles onto the tee. After a while, the places where the bleach was most concentrated developed holes. Still, this is a great way to get more use out of a tee that’s been stained or accidentally bleached, say on laundry day. I bet you could use contact paper to make your stencils. It would keep the edges “locked down”, and would be pretty easy to pull away from the fabric when you’re ready.


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