Bleach Tie Dye – AKA Reverse Tie Dye

4 reverse tie dye t shirts with different patterns with the title "bleach tie dye"

Learn how to bleach tie dye (or reverse tie dye). It’s a super quick and easy way to tie dye colored shirts with bleach to create a unique reverse tie dye effect.

Table of Contents

This is a fantastic tie dye project if you have colored shirts you want to dye. Bleach tie dye, also known as “reverse tie dye,” removes the color from a shirt so you can still get a tie dye pattern on a colored shirt. It doesn’t even use dye! It only requires bleach and water so chances are you don’t even have to buy anything new!

I show you how to make 4 different bleach tie dye patterns using shirts and a tank top, but you can make them on whatever item you’d like!

And for a whole tie dye outfit, you can make tie dye shirtstie dye socks, a tie dye sweatshirt, and a pair of tie dye Crocs or tie dye shoes.

Note: Some links in this post may contain affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may earn a commission.

What is Bleach Tie Dye?

3 bleach tie dye t shirts and 1 bleach tie dye tank top

Bleach tie dye is a tie dyeing method in which you use bleach instead of dye. It’s one way to tie dye colored items.

Instead of adding color to an item, you remove the color. The bleach lifts some of the the color in the places it was added.

What is Reverse Tie Dye?

4 folded up reverse tie dye t shirts with different tie dye patterns

Reverse tie dye is simply another name for bleach tie dye.

It’s when you use bleach to tie dye instead of dye. Bleach tie dye is sometimes called reverse tie dye, since instead of adding color they remove the color. Therefore it’s like you’re dyeing, but in reverse.

long image of 4 different bleach tie dye shirts in a scrunch, spiral, target, and striped pattern with the title "reverse tie dye"

Materials to Bleach Tie Dye

Instructions for How to Bleach Tie Dye

Bleach tie dye (or reverse tie dye) is the same as regular tie dye, except instead of using dye to create a pattern, you use bleach.

Fold, scrunch, and twist the item you want to dye and wrap it with rubber bands.

Then pour a diluted bleach mixture on the fabric. Let it soak in for 5-20 minutes until the color starts to get removed.

Once it’s ready, rinse it thoroughly and wash it.

I go over the specific instructions for each shirt pattern below, with the step by step instructions for bleach tie dye for the scrunched pattern.

Scrunch Bleach Tie Dye

A simple and fun tie pattern is the “scrunch” pattern. It’s called this because you scrunch up the clothing. You don’t have to worry about making anything perfect because the fun is in the randomness!

I’ll use this one to show the specific steps for how to bleach tie dye.

blue and pink scrunch reverse tie dye t shirt with the title "scrunch bleach tie dye"

You first want to soak your item in water. Then ring it out so it’s wet, but not dripping.

This is because a wet shirt is easier to shape. It can be compressed more tightly and therefore creates more distinct patterns when bleach tie dyed.

dunking a blue Boston shirt into a tub of water

Now it’s time to scrunch it! There are no real rules. For this shirt, I started at the bottom and scrunched downwards in sections.

scrunching a navy boston shirt

Then wrap it up however you would like with rubber bands.

I happened to do diagonal rubber bands, but you can place them however you would like. The only rule is that you want it all secure.

holding a navy shirt bundled up and wrapped diagonally in rubber bands

Next you want to prepare the bleach solution. Make sure you’re in a well ventilated area once you start with the bleach.

I like to use a 1 part bleach to 3 parts water solution. You can always add more bleach if necessary, but I’ve found you have more control with this dilution.

Since I was dyeing multiple items, I therefore used 3 cups of water and 1 cup of bleach.

pouring bleach into a measuring cup containing water

After you have your bleach solution ready, place your shirt in a plastic tub. Then put on some gloves to protect your hands from the bleach.

Pour the bleach solution onto the shirt. Make sure to get all in the folds and that you fully saturate it. In theory, you could even submerge the shirt into the solution, but again, I like to have more control so I like to pour it on. This is also why I use an even smaller measuring cup to scoop the solution and pour it onto the shirt.

Tip: Squish the shirt and press it to make sure the bleach goes everywhere.

pouring bleach mixture from measuring cup onto a bundled up blue shirt, sitting a plastic tub

Let the bleach soak in for 5-20 minutes. Depending on the cloth, it may take shorter or longer. This shirt started to change colors almost instantly and bleed out the dye. Meanwhile the shirt I used for the target pattern barely changed colors after 20 minutes.

As a rule of thumb, if the shirt is changing colors, you don’t want to leave the bleach on for more than 15 minutes. This is because the bleach will burn through the cloth and create holes.

Tip: I recommend checking on it every 5 minutes to see how the color is changing. Add more as necessary.

a bundled shirt wrapped in rubber bands and sitting in a plastic tub changing color to orange with orange liquid seeping out

Once it’s ready, rinse it thoroughly under tap water. Keep wearing gloves for this and be careful not to let the water splash around. Remember, there’s still bleach on it so it will bleach whatever it touches.

Run it through the washer and dryer to make sure it’s completely clean. Then it’s ready to wear!

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a bleach tie dye navy boston t shirt with pink splotches from scrunching

I’d absolutely love to see how yours turn out! Tag me on Instagram @ab.crafty

Target Reverse Tie Dye

I absolutely love a target tie dye pattern and it completely changed this shirt for the better.

My boyfriend is a huge metal and Lamb of God fan so he has a few of their shirts. This shirt, specifically, is my least favorite. I have asked him repeatedly to get rid of it, but it keeps coming back. Thankfully though he offered it up to be reverse tie dyed and the outcome has us both extremely happy!

orange and black reverse tie dye t shirt in a target pattern with the title "target bleach tie dye"

The key to the target pattern is to create “spikes” and then wrap them in rubber bands.

I started with the bottom corner section and pinched a section of the shirt and lifted it upwards. Then I wrapped a rubber band a few inches below where I was holding. Then another a few inches below and then again.

Each rubber band you add will be a ring of the target.

a black t shirt with red and orange design with the bottom corner wrapped in three rubber bands

I repeated this on the top left corner of the shirt and then again with the side sections.

a black shirt with red and orange print wrapped on two sides with 3 rubber bands

When I used the bleach solution for this, however, it wasn’t taking. I was concerned it was a colorfast shirt that wouldn’t bleach or the label lied and it was actually made of nylon (nylon tends to not bleach). I therefore tried adding pure bleach to a section and thankfully after a minute or so, it started to change color.

using a measuring cup to pour bleach onto a black t shirt wrapped in rubber bands

After using pure bleach, it finally started changing colors. Since it was so much area that was getting bleached, the liquid was a very bright orange.

a t shirt wrapped in rubber bands changing color to orange, sitting in a plastic bin with orange liquid

After rinsing and washing the shirt, the results were phenomenal! Since the target pattern removes so much of the black, I can barely see the creepy logo on the front. Definitely a win-win!

Tip: If you want wider rings so that more of the original shirt color stays, add more rubber bands or use wider rubber bands. You can also place them right next to each other to form a wider section.

bleach tie dye lamb of god t shirt with a target tie dye pattern

Spiral Bleach Tie Dye

I simply love a classic tie dye spiral (like I did for the tie dye sweatshirt) so I of course had to make a reverse tie dye spiral. It’s even giving me some real spider web vibes so would go perfect with my other Halloween tie dye shirts.

black and orange spiral reverse tie dye t shirt with the title "bleach spiral tie dye"

To make the spiral pattern, pinch the center of the shirt and twist.

Continue twisting until the whole shirt is twisted up.

black lamb of god t shirt getting twisted from the middle

Then wrap it diagonally with a few rubber bands.

black t shirt bundled up and wrapped diagonally with rubber bands

When using the bleach solution, make sure to the in between the folds. This is important for this pattern to make sure it all shows up. Otherwise you’ll end up with a blank part of the shirt.

front and back of a reverse tie dye lamb of god t shirt in a spiral tie dye pattern

Reverse Tie Dye Striped Tank Top

I had an extra tank top I wasn’t wearing so tested it out this fun striped reverse tie dye pattern.

pink and blue reverse tie dye tank top with the title "bleach tie dye tank top"

Start by folding it all up accordion style. Each fold is roughly 2 inches wide.

folding a blue tank top accordion style from the middle

Fold one side to the middle.

a folded up blue tank top getting fold from the side

Then lift the middle up and tuck the other end under so that it’s folded into 4ths.

folding a folded blue tank top into thirds

Then wrap a few rubber bands around it.

a blue tank top folded up and wrapped with four rubber bands

When pouring on the bleach, be sure to get between the folds.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the the color this one turned! The pink/salmon color is just so pretty and if anything it looks like I dyed a pink tank top blue! 

finished front and back of the bleach tie dye tank top that has striped pattern of blue and pink

Frequently Asked Questions

What Color Will the Bleach Tie Dye Be?

3 bleach tie dye t shirts and 1 bleach tie dye tank top in different reverse tie dye patterns

There’s no guarantee to know which color your bleach tie dye item will be. This is because different dyes are used to make different colors of fabric. So even though you may have a black shirt, there may be more blue or yellow.

In general, however, since red tends to be more difficult to remove, the bleached item will likely have some red. Therefore you can typically expect some sort of shade of orange or pink.

In these for shirts, for example, you can see the blacks turned more orange and the blues turned more pink.

If you’re worried about the color, you can try testing a small corner of the fabric.

What Items are Best to Bleach Tie Dye?

The best items to bleach tie dye are colored fabrics that aren’t acrylic or nylon. Acrylic and nylon fabrics tend to resist bleach so this technique won’t work on them.

The darker the color, the more distinct the pattern (this is a great two pack of black and navy shirts if you don’t already have some). However, don’t let light colored shirts discourage you from trying this technique. The tank top I reverse tie dyed was relatively light colored and it came out great!

I also personally like to use shirts or clothing that aren’t getting worn. This is because if the pattern doesn’t turn out as I hope, it’s not a big deal since it wasn’t getting worn anyways. However, if it comes out nice, then I have revitalized a shirt and will now actually get worn!

More Tie Dye Projects

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long image of 4 different bleach tie dye shirts in a scrunch, spiral, target, and striped pattern with the title "reverse tie dye"

Bleach Tie Dye

Learn how to bleach tie dye (or reverse tie dye). It’s a super quick and easy way to tie dye colored shirts with bleach to create a unique reverse tie dye effect.
Yield 1 Bleach Tie Dye Shirt
Project Time 20 mins
Total Time 20 mins

Materials
  

  • 1 Colored Shirt
  • Water
  • Bleach
  • Rubber Bands

Equipment

  • Plastic Bin
  • Measuring Cup
  • Rubber Gloves

Instructions
 

  • Soak your item in water. Then ring it out so it’s wet, but not dripping.
    1 Colored Shirt, Water
    dunking a blue Boston shirt into a tub of water
  • Shape the cloth by scrunch, folding, and/or twisting it.
    scrunching a navy boston shirt
  • Wrap it with rubber bands so it's secure.
    Rubber Bands
    holding a navy shirt bundled up and wrapped diagonally in rubber bands
  • Make sure you’re in a well ventilated area. Then mix 1 part bleach to 3 parts water.
    Water, Bleach
    pouring bleach into a measuring cup containing water
  • Put on gloves. Then pour the bleach solution onto the shirt. Make sure to get all in the folds and that you fully saturate it.
    pouring bleach mixture from measuring cup onto a bundled up blue shirt, sitting a plastic tub
  • Let the bleach soak in for 5-20 minutes. Depending on the cloth, it may take shorter or longer.
    a bundled shirt wrapped in rubber bands and sitting in a plastic tub changing color to orange with orange liquid seeping out
  • Once it’s ready, rinse it thoroughly under tap water. Then run it through the washer and dryer to make sure it’s completely clean. Then it’s ready to wear!
    a bleach tie dye navy boston t shirt with pink splotches from scrunching
Keyword Bleach, Bleach Tie Dye, Clothing, Dyeing Fabric, Reverse Tie Dye, Shirt, Tie Dye

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