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How to Reverse Tie Dye with Bleach

A few years ago, I shared a technique for transforming old linens with bleach and I thought it was time to try this project again.
This time though, I tested out making patterns, using a simple shibori technique that is typically reserved for dyeing. And surprisingly, the bleach worked like a charm! So I'm sharing the tutorial today.
To mimic this look at home, you'll just need a solid color fabric (cotton), some bleach, and a couple of other things you probably already have at home. So easy!
Total Time30 mins
Keyword: bleach, diy, dyeing, fabric crafts, hair bandana, napkins, shibori
Cost: $0-10


  • medium size container (I used a plastic desk trash can)
  • tongs and gloves (for handling the bleached fabric afterward) 


  • household bleach* Disclosure: When using household bleach you should ALWAYS wear gloves and work in a well ventilated area - like the outdoors. If desired, you can also wear a mask / respirator. If you feel uncomfortable working with household bleach, do not recreate this project.
  • cotton solid color napkins / textiles mine are from World Market
  • small pieces of cardboard, rubber bands, metal clips, etc


  • First, working in a well ventilated area, submerge the fabric in water. I used my kitchen sink. Wring out the excess water and fold into different designs - you can fold the fabric into squares, triangles, rectangles, etc.
  • Then use cardboard pieces on the front AND back of the folded fabric pieces and use large clips to keep everything in place.
  • Next, put on gloves and pour bleach directly into a container and make sure there's enough bleach in the container to fully submerged the fabric. You shouldn't need more than a gallon (probably much less depending on how much fabric you're submerging).
  • Then add the folded fabric pieces from steps 1 and 2 into the bleach and make sure they are fully submerged. Set a timer for anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. The amount of time the bleach needs to soak into the fabric will vary based on the fabric you're using. But you should be able to see visual change in the fabric color before you remove it from the bleach.
  • With your gloves still on, remove the fabric from the bleach once you're happy with it and rinse it in the sink for several minutes to remove all of the bleach, along with the clips and cardboard pieces. The color will continue to change until the fabric is washed, etc - so keep that in mind.
  • Wash in the washing machine (no soap needed), then run the fabric through the dryer to heat set before using. And that's it!
  • The finished patterns are organic and unique.
  • Definitely a great way to add some personality to a $10 set of napkins or anything else you can get your hands on...an old cotton shirt, a throw blanket, etc.


For all three reverse tie dye techniques, please reference blog post. DIY card is for submerging technique only.