How to Transform Old Linens with this DIY Bleaching Technique

Give old linen napkins new life with this DIY bleaching technique.

You know how, sometimes, you’ll be working through a DIY and then suddenly realize that it’s totally not going to work out and you just have to abandon it? It happens to me at least a couple of times a month. And most recently, it happened with some DIY bleached aprons that I wanted to try out.

Unfortunately, I bought the wrong kind of aprons (aka super cheap ones that were one step above a paper towel, yet they did not absorb liquid?!), and the bleach didn’t work at all.

SO…instead of throwing in the towel on the idea, I switched to napkins and had much better results. In fact, it worked like a charm with the colorful linen napkins I had leftover from the workshop I did with Ash earlier this year. So, I put a quick tutorial together in case you want to make your own.

How to use bleach to create a subtle acid wash pattern with your linens

The results of this process are a little different than your typical bleached textile DIY. It’s a little more understated and more toward the acid wash side of things, which, as it turns out, is my jam right now for some reason.

So, let’s get to it…


– colorful napkins (or another textile)
– bleach
– spray bottle

How To:

This one is super easy. All you need to do is pour a little bit of bleach into a spray bottle. Then, put on some gloves and spray the bleach directly onto the surface of a colorful napkin. You should start to see the color lifting right away (within 10-15 seconds).

How to use bleach to create a subtle acid wash pattern with your linens

How to use bleach to create a subtle acid wash pattern with your linens

Then, run the entire napkin under water thoroughly for at least 60 seconds to rinse the bleach away. Wring out the water from the napkin as best you can, then pop it in the dryer, iron it, and it’s ready to use.

Totally doable, right?

Here’s what the napkins looked like after they had all been bleached and washed, but not dried yet. The color looked much more saturated while the linens were still wet.

Bleached Linen Napkins DIY

Bleached Linen Napkins DIY

Bleached Linen Napkins DIY

Bleached Linen Napkins DIY

After the napkins were rinsed and run through a cycle in the dryer (photo below), I could see the color changes a lot more clearly than when they were still wet (above photos).

The mint linens turned white and off white, depending on how long the bleach was left on. And there are some soft greens and blues that pop through in certain areas, mainly at the edges.

The terra cotta red napkins turned a really pretty pale pink, with a subtle acid wash pattern.

How to Create a Subtle Acid Wash Pattern on Linens with Bleach

And here’s what they looked like after I ironed them…BIG difference…

Try this subtle DIY bleaching technique for old linen napkins.

Give old linen napkins new life with this DIY bleaching technique.

Give old linen napkins new life with this DIY bleaching technique.

Photography and styling by Brittni Mehlhoff

So what do you think? Do you like the way the napkins looked before the bleach, where the color is flat and saturated? Or do you prefer the more organic / muted after version?

21 comments | Click here to reply

Girl, these are GORGEOUS. Seriously. Beautiful!


Thanks so much, Cyd! I really appreciate that.


I love the look! But I hate to use bleach since it is so bad for the environment. Is there an alternative to the bleach that I could use? I have some old napkins that have a few stains and I would love to revive them using this technique.



Hi Susan. That’s a good question. I found this natural bleach alternative that you can make at home but I’m not sure it will react to the fabric the same way, since I’ve never tried it. If you give it a try with this natural option, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear if it works.


I’ve accidentally bleached dyed clothes before, when cleaning the bathroom 😉 but never on purpose! Love the gorgeous pink colour that the napkins have turned!


Haha. Yeah, that’s happened to me before too, Hayley. But now that I’ve tried it in a more intentional way, I’m completely addicted to this process. So easy!


These linens came out so cute! I also love that this would be an awesome way to cover up some stains that are lingering on old ones!



Thanks Paige! Glad you like ’em.


I really like this look and it seems so easy!

xoxoBella |

Bella B

It’s SUPER easy, Bella! Let me know if you end up giving this technique a try.


Looks super easy and love the effect. But you really should rinse with vinegar to neutralize the chlorine (if you use chlorine bleach) or it will continue to degrade your fabric.

Mary Behrens

I hadn’t heard that Mary. Thanks so much for the tip. I’ll be sure to try that.


I love how they look after the bleach – it adds such a great texture to the color!

Kevin | Thou Swell

I love the final muted tones and how subtle the acid wash is – really nice change from most bleaching projects. Hannah x


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The napkins turned out awesome , love the washed out look so much better.


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Hi! Love this idea, I was wondering on where you bought your napkins from and how big were they? Trying to do tea towels, not to sure on where to buy material


Hi Emilie. The napkins are from West Elm (leftover from a workshop I did). They don’t have the same coloaways anymore, but I’m pretty sire this is the same napkin (with different color options): And the dimensions were 20 inch squares.

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