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How to Make a Bleach Tee

There’s really no way to come out and say this, but I’m a bit of an oddball. That’s really the only way I can describe myself and all my eccentricities. I like to have nice clothes, but I hate shopping. I love to try new things, but I hate failing. I love to have friends, but I’m shy. I like being crafty, but I often give up before finishing. I hate spending money, and I hate spending money. 😉

This little project is fast, so I finish it before I can even consider quitting. It’s cheap, so that fits my budget. It requires few supplies – most of which you probably have on hand already! That fits my “I hate shopping” personality trait.

What on earth am I talking about? I’m talking about bleach tees.

Race Day Bleach Tee

I’ve made a number of these shirts and I love the little detail it adds to a simple shirt. This particular one is near and dear to my heart. I recently ran in my first race. That in and of itself is pretty cool. But it was even more special because it was on my son’s special day.

My son was stillborn, and his twin sister survived. We celebrate his day separate from hers so that she can have her own special birthday not clouded by pain and loss.

So, for my special first race, I decorated my race shirt with hearts for all three of my little dears.

Bleach Tee, the finished product!

Here’s how it’s done.

How to Make a Bleach Tee

Supplies –

t-shirt (tighter weave means less bleach bleeding)
Bleach pen
Cardboard (cereal box works great)
Tin foil
Pen (make sure it’s one that will wash out of your fabric)

Supplies for a bleach tee

First, I like to sketch the design on a sheet of paper. Then I sketch the same pattern onto my shirt.

Design for the bleach tee

Wrap the cardboard in a layer of tinfoil. This keeps the bleach from bleeding through to the other side of the shirt.

Slide the tinfoil inside the shirt

Slide the sheet inside your shirt and smooth out the fabric. (I cheated here. This is straight up tinfoil, no cardboard. It worked fine, but the cardboard is sturdier and will give you a better surface to trace on.)

Tracing the design

Carefully trace the pattern with the bleach pen. Within a few minutes, you should see some color distortion. If you don’t, your bleach may not be potent enough. I’ve had this happen a few times with bleach pens. The older they are, the less likely they are to work. They don’t seem to store very well.

Watching the bleach fade the color of the shirt

Once your design is traced, let it sit for about 10 minutes. The longer it sits, the starker the design will be. If you want it more subtle, let the bleach sit for about 5 minutes.

Finished Design on Bleach Tee

Quickly rinse the bleach out using cold water. Really scrub it! If you do it quickly, the bleach won’t have a chance to discolor the rest of the shirt. Don’t be scared.

Rinsed bleach tee


You’ll notice there’s a hollow shape to my design. My bleach pen was a little older and so the bleach seemed to have separated from the gel.

Toss it in the washing machine and run it on a quick cycle. This is my girl waiting *patiently* for the bleach tee to be done.

Waiting for the bleach tee to be done

Dry according to the instructions, and you have yourself an awesome bleach tee!

Bleach tee on race day!

I loved my new race shirt, and it was great having my little ones with me on the special day.

Killed it. I had such a great time at my first race! @melaniejo0220 was so awesome. On the home stretch when I didn’t think I could make it, she turned to me and said, “For Eli!” It was just what I needed. Thanks, Mel! You’re so awesome! #wemadeit #running #raceday #10k #LoveforEli

A photo posted by Deborah Andreasen (@deborahandreasen) on

This is a great activity for a girls night, to do with a group of church youth, or to do at a family reunion. It’s best to do it in rounds if you have a big group. Four or five people at a time, hopefully timed so that you can all get your shirts in the washing machine at the same time.

Have you ever done a bleach tee? Do you have any shirts in your closet that could use a tiny face-lift?

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