I’m super excited about the possibilities that bleach tie-dyeing presents.  It’s a great way to update old items and it’s quite easy to do. For today’s reverse tie-dye tutorial, I’m using the sweater I made in my DIY Sweater Tutorial.

What is reverse tie-dyeing?

Reverse tie-dyeing, or bleach tie-dye, is creating the tie-dye look by removing color pigments with bleach. Traditional tie-dye involves color to being added to a canvas, instead of removed. Both methods produce the unique, cloudy pattern tie-dye is known for.

Sometimes people take reverse tie-dyeing to the next level by starting with a black canvas, removing color from it with bleach, then adding color back in using the traditional tie dye method. This creates a unique look, akin to someone painting black over random areas of a traditionally tie-dyed shirt.

For our purposes today, we are going to focus only on color pigment removal.

Which fabric is best for bleach tie-dyeing?

Generally speaking, cotton, rayon, and linen take bleach the best. I prefer to use heavy sweater knit fabric because of its durability. You can always run a patch test on an inconspicuous part of the item you are considering. Delicate fabrics like silk should not be bleached, as well as wool, and leather.

Infographic showing which fabrics are best for bleach tie-dye.

What materials are required for bleach tie-dyeing?

There are many ways to reverse tie-dye, but as a rule of thumb, you will need the following items:

  • Bleach (I prefer Clorox, like you would use for your laundry)
  • Item to be reverse tie-dyed (Cotton or cotton blend items are great)
  • Plastic Colander(or something to lift the item so that the excess bleach can pool below it without over-saturating it)
  • Condiment bottle or spray bottle (based on your preferred application method)
  • Sink or bucket to do the process in
Infographic showing the items needed for the bleach tie-dye process: bleach, sweater, rubber bands, plastic colander, condiment bottles, and a bucket.

Should I use wet or dry fabric when reverse tie-dying?

This is a great question! Wetting your fabric allows the bleach to saturate more thoroughly, and slows down how fast the bleach removes the color. It also waters down the bleach content, making it less damaging. But this isn’t a requirement. Bleach tie-dying on dry fabric produces different results, often creating harsher lines and lifting the color much faster. You may find you prefer this method. Both will work.

Two swatches of fabric have been bleach tie-dyed, one wet, and the other dry.  The difference is shown by comparison.

Which colors work best for bleach tie-dying?

Black is often used. The bleach will lift the black color to a cream/orange tint. I love experimenting to see how different colors will take the bleach. My current favorite is maroon, which lifts to a beatiful, bright pink. Obviously, white will not work, and darker colors will show the most contrast.

Swatches are shown depicting fabric of different colors before and after it is bleach tie-dyed.  Navy goes to light blue, hot pink to light pink, black to orange, and orange to peach.

For the full, step-by-step tutorial, please watch the video below on how to reverse tie-dye with bleach.

Here are the final results from my bleach tie-dye craft! I love how the maroon fabric pulled a beautiful, bright pink color. Shout out to my little sister for catching some sweet “action shots.” ;)