Short-Cut Tie Dye

If you follow me on Instagram, you most likely saw me post about this a couple of weeks ago.  It got a huge response over there, and lots of people were asking questions and thinking it was cool, so I thought I’d write up a little tutorial here.  It all started when one of my boys wanted to surprise me by cleaning his bathroom.  I knew he was up to something the moment he ran through the kitchen because I noticed a bleach spot on his shirt.

toilet bowl cleaner

He sheepishly admitted to getting into the bleach-based cleaners I keep put away from kiddo’s reach and was positive he was getting in big trouble when I told him to immediately remove his shirt and go get the cleaning products he was using.  I actually wasn’t mad at all.  Props to a kid taking initiative to clean his bathroom.  Instead I had a better idea.  The shirt was already kind of ruined, and the little spot looked like tie-dye, so we headed out to the back yard where I let him douse the rest of his shirt to match.

tye dye with bleach

The end result was pretty awesome.  His younger brothers thought it was SO cool and then everyone wanted to ruin a shirt.  So we did.   Now, before I go any further, let me get a few things out of the way.

1. I like bleach.  I use it to clean my house.  I think they should make scented candles that disperse scents of Clorox.

2.  I don’t need to buy any natural cleaning products from anyone who would really like to propose I buy some.  Or essential oils.  Or a lecture about how lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar are better cleaning tools than anything you can buy at the store.  Also, that’s a lie.  Bleach is way better.

3.  This was a supervised activity in which my kids did indeed spray bleach based cleaning products and they know they were only using them for this purpose, and because I was there.

Okie dokie.  Now that we got all of that out of the way….

This is a fun little project you can do like, right now.  Today.  Practice on a junk shirt.  Let your kids play with a PJ shirt, doodle on one of your workout shirts.  Everyone will have fun.  We used 2 products I have in my cleaning closet, Clorox Spray and Clorox Toilet Bowl Gel Cleaner.

clorox products

Now, a few people on Instagram warned putting bleach on your clothes will eventually eat through it and make holes.  Maybe that’s true if you soak fabric in straight-up bleach, but you shouldn’t have a problem here.  These are diluted products and you’re just using a little.  I have a shirt that got bleached this way back in college (10 years ago) and it’s perfectly fine.

We used both of those products on the Hurley shirt.  You can see the big circles are spray and the splatters, drips, and lines are the gel.  We kind of soaked it, so after several hours it lightened much more than what was in that photo above.  So next up, I let my younger boys grab an old shirt.  As a side note, at least 1 of every 10 photos on my camera looks like this:

belly shirt

That’s not a lunar eclipse there at the bottom, it’s my belly.  Anyway.  For these next two shirts, I just used the spray.  I suggest starting very lightly.  It’s interesting to see the colors that come out- my son was somewhat appalled at first that his was tuning pink.

bleach shirt sleeve

You can spray straight on for circles, or easily make stripes and lines.

bleach shirt 1

Just use light, even sprays.  You can always go back and add more.

spray bleach

Within a few minutes it will start to change colors around the edges, but it takes a full hour or so to really go as far as it will.

Bleach Starting to turn

I sprayed some of my spots heavier than others to seep through to the back.  Do you spy that tiny heart on the blue shirt?  My 4 year old loves that part.

Back of shirts

This seriously takes like 2 minutes to do, plus a little waiting time.

backs of bleach shirts

Then just wash them in cool water in the washer (without mixing with other clothes, remember there’s a bunch of bleach in there) and you’re good to go.

Bleach Dyed Shirts from Our Best Bites

After that they can be washed as normal.  These are my kids’ favorite shirts these days and they tell everyone they MADE them.  Another fun thing to do is use a bleach pen:


Bleach Pen DesignI actually did a really cute design on one of my maternity shirts and I honestly have no idea where it went.  Who just loses clothes from one day to the next?  Oh wait.  Me.  I do. If you ask my husband, he would probably say he’s not surprised, and that it’s most likely in my closet which currently looks like it could be on an episode of TLC’s Extreme Hoarders.  But I digress.  You can look up some cool examples on google, like this shirt to the left, which was made by Kristen from The Next Bird.  How cute is that?  I’ve seen people make polka-dot jeans, and write words on their shirts…the possibilities are pretty endless with that.  If you’re a doodler, it’s right up your alley so definitely check that out.

Hopefully that’s a fun little project that some of you can enjoy!  Remember you can hover your mouse over any of our images to Pin them!



Brilliant tip for tie dying from Our Best Bites


And speaking of fun- LOVING the fun entries in our current giveaway!  See this post for all of the details.  Snap a pic and win $100!




  1. Love this! I’ve been thinking about doing this since you posted it on IG. I also love good old bleach!!!! ( except for when I ruined my beautiful bath mat last week…. Wish that could be ” fixed” with more bleach. Ugh! Never even thought of using a bleach pen!!! Now to find some shirts to ” wreck”.

  2. We love bleach, too! I have all those bleach products. We even take “contraband” bleach cleaners to the church when it’s our turn to clean. (Don’t tell!)

  3. I think my favorite part of this post (besides the cool shirts) was the disclaimer at the beginning…I agree there should totally be a Bleach candle! Come on Yankee Candle, hop on that bandwagon! 🙂

  4. Your disclaimers make me laugh hard every time! 🙂 I love the “lunar eclipse,” picture. I probably will have a few of those too by the time I have this baby. Your boys shirts turned out really cool looking! That maternity shirt is super cute, I may have to find one to do this too.

  5. Very cool. However, the bleach will keep degrading the fabric and holes will develop in a short time. After using bleach to discharge dye (wow, I sound so technical! not really, just a quilter here) There are commercial products you can toss in the wash with the shirts or some people have good luck with hydrogen peroxide. Might be worth if it your kids want to wear their shirts beyond summer.

  6. My sister made customized beach towels for each of my kids for Christmas one year with a bleach pen. My kids love them and they’ve held up great! She worried that they would fall apart fast, but it’s been 3 years and they’re still fine.

  7. first off, I almost spit out my breakfast this post was so hilarious. I use those “natural” cleaners you talk about because I like to and they really do work but we definitely use bleach in our toilets – it’s the best for rings.

    This looks super fun and easy to do – I’m going to give the idea to our kids co program (big kids daycare during the summer). They do regular tie/dye today but this would be so awesome and easy for them!

    Thanks for all you do and your belly bell was super cutes!

  8. I love it! My daughter will want to give this a try. I also feel the same way about bleach. I do all white bedding on my bed so I can bleach the crap out of it and my husband giggles at how happy the smell makes me. Another vote for the bleach candle.

  9. Hi Sara! Thanks for the fun post. I have one question to clarify. After putting the bleach on the shirts, can you put ALL the shirts in the washing machine together? No need to was them them individually at first? My favorite picture of the post is the one of your three boys with their arms around each other. So cute!!

    1. Yep, I just toss them all in the wash together. I just meant, not with like- a load of jeans or something, haha. After they’ve been washed once, you can wash them like normal with other clothes.

  10. My first thought after reading this post is that you are a good mom! My first inclination would have been to be annoyed and upset if one of my kids bleached a shirt. You handled it much better and got a cool result! Those shirts are awesome and such a great idea for kids! I wish I had known about this when I was last pregnant and ruined one of my only fitting maternity shirts when I picked up a broken bottle of drain cleaner at Wal Mart. Instead, I threw it away and cried.

    And I agree with you on using the hard stuff. I heard a comedian talking about it once, I wish I could remember who, and he was saying that when he’s cleaning throw up off the floor he doesn’t want something that smells like oranges. He wants the bleach! I couldn’t agree more.

    The candle idea is excellent! My mom always cleaned with bleach and I have memories of sitting on her lap and smelling the bleach smell on her hands. To this day, the smell of bleach is comforting to me.

  11. So cute! I think I’m going to go through my boys drawers today and find some ruined shirts.
    I have 4 boys and the only thing that will get that smell (you know the one that comes from forgetting where to aim) out is bleach. I’ve tried everything, bleach is the only thing.

    1. I love bleach too, but even better for the “forgetting to aim smell” is a product called Kids & Pets. It’s miraculous for my boys’ bathroom!! You can buy it anywhere in the cleaning supplies–even the grocery stores carry it.

  12. We did this for a girls’ camp craft. The girls made their own stencils from contact paper, stick them to the shirt, and then sprayed around them with bleach. Soooo fun! We had the best luck with shirts that were 100% cotton.

  13. I think it would be hard for me not to get mad at first, love how you reacted to the situation! It’s a good reminder that things like that really don’t matter when your kids are trying to do the good/helpful thing. Also, your disclaimers are the best ever! Particularly number 2, I think I may need to put something like that as my facebook status. A lot of my in laws are into that kind of thing and I may be the farthest thing from it, to see others feel similarly, makes my day! Thanks!

  14. This is too funny! I actually laughed out loud reading this as well as a post or two! I wish I would of known this years ago! Yup! I also LOVE the smell of bleach, candle would be a perfect idea! I get into very heated conversations at certain parties that are for All Natural Cleaning Products! Your idea is perfect! Love the pictures of your 3 boys with arms around each other! Too cute!!

  15. LOVE your disclaimers, I bet you’re still going to get a couple emails on at least two of the three of them, though. 😉 It shocks me every time you guys reference the emails y’all get about people complaining or trying to “educate” you on something. I’m just thrilled anytime you guys post! Even if it’s a recipe or craft that might not be a fit for my family specifically, y’all’s commentary in your posts always makes me laugh!

  16. At first I thought you were going to repair the shirt with a marker…like what you ended up creating.
    Moderation in all things. I use a splash of bleach to clean my bird bath since the bleach disappates into the air. I was born in the 50’s and we survived using bleach. Naturatl is better but not the only way. Chuckled about your disclaimers.

  17. You are one amazing mom, honestly. Instead of yelling and screaming over a silly little bleach spot on a shirt, you made a fun lesson out of it, one your kids will remember for years to come. What a fun and exciting thing for them, and you were right there with them, watching over them like a great mom would do. What an example you are to them and to others. Thanks for a really neat reading and a “new” way to design new shirts out of old. Your kiddos are very lucky indeed.

  18. First, I LOVE bleach.
    Second, we made shirts at Girl’s Camp using leaves and flowers as stencils, then sprayed the shirts with diluted bleach. It is still one of my daughter’s favorite shirts. It works best on shirts that are all or mostly cotton. Daughter tried it on a 50/50 shirt and it didn’t bleach much.

  19. I think you could make some good money if you figured out how to make bleach scented candles…. People would think your house was clean all the time!

  20. Love those disclaimers!!! I udo se some essential oils, but I won’t ever believe that a bit of tea tree oil will kill the bacteria from the raw chicken juice that got on my counter while chopping up chicken for dinner!! I say bring on the clorox wipes!!! And bleach for toilet stink, too:)

  21. I love bleach too. It’s also the only thing that instantly kills gastroenteritis (the stomach flu) germs. So I love it even more when that’s going around the schools. Thanks for the awesome shirt idea!

  22. Kudos, Mom! You took something that might have made you angry and turned it into something fun and productive. Maybe I should head out to the backyard with the bleach-stained skirt I’m wearing today…

  23. So smart! I have a shirt that had the same run-in with bathroom cleaner. Going to try this trick out on that one!

  24. Love the disclaimers! That whole section made me think of my mom. She used Clorox religiously when I was growing up to clean our white counters in our kitchen. Not as much now that she has granite, but it’s a must in the laundry. Love it! I might try this with my boys.

  25. What a cool idea! I’m totally with you on the bleach. I cloth diaper my kids, and I totally thought I had to use all-natural detergents only on them or they’d be ruined, and things got scary after awhile. Bleach and Tide saved my cloth-diapering life. Bleach has to be used with care of course, but there’s nothing like it for beating stenches! Nothing cleans my tub like Comet with Bleach!

  26. OMG, if you could somehow convince someone to make and sell that bleach scented candle, I would totally burn it here too! I am a lover of bleach and no amount of vinegar, lemon juice, or whatever can replace it.

  27. Thanks for sharing! We have used crafting letter stamps dipped in bleach to make shirts in the past. At the end of summer, the kids take an old shirt and think of a place we went that they didn’t get a souvenir from. Then they can stamp the name of the place on their shirt. It turns out to be a fun reminder of their trip. One summer a few years ago, we lived on Fidalgo Island. It is right at the San Juan Islands in Washington State. We did so many amazing things just nearby, but also had taken a trip to California to see family where I am from. My youngest son picked IN N OUT Burger to write on his shirt. We suggested all the other cool ideas, but IN N OUT was what he wanted to remember. Kids are so easy to please with fun ideas like this. Thanks again!

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