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You've heard of Tie Dyeing but what is REVERSE Tie Dyeing?

Author: Annette Browning
by Annette Browning
Posted: Jan 28, 2020
tie dye

Have you heard? Tie Dyeing is cool again! No, it's not just for granola eating, tree hugging hippies anymore. Everybody and anybody from your boss to your Grandmother has at least one tie dyed tee shirt in their closet, don't they? I happen to also have tie dyed long johns, socks, bedsheets and a hoodie!

Traditional tie dyeing is related to the ancient Shibori Dyeing techniques. Those involve not only various fabric tying methods but also tying and stitching to achieve different patterns.

With the traditional tie dye or shibori dyeing technique, fabric dyes (usually liquid) are applied to a folded and tied fabric (such as a t shirt or tapestry) to create unique colors and patterns. We've all seen the classic "Swirl" Tie Dye pattern, right? Other common tie dye patterns include the Bullseye, Accordion Fold, Shaped and Crumpled.

Well, have you heard of Reverse Tie Dyeing?

The difference between regular Tie Dye and Reverse Tie Dye is that instead of applying or adding color, you take the color away. In this case, we remove the existing dye color with a mixture of bleach and water.

Both methods begin the same way: First, you fold your fabric/tee shirt in the desired method - I used the spiral pattern. Now, you add the bleach and water to a spray bottle and then you spray the top of the folded shirt with the bleach water solution. Next, you just have to wait.... somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes (depends on your fabric).

You can watch the fabric slowly turning lighter (or changing color) as the fabric absorbs the bleach. How long it takes depends on several different factors from the original dyes to the weight of the fabric. Perhaps, the weather and humidity have an impact on the process as well, I'm not sure about that though.

Finally, once you're happy with the dye, you have to thoroughly rinse the fabric and then run it through a washing machine cycle to remove all of the bleach. Don't wait to do this! Any bleach left in the fabric will continue to eat through it and you may end up with holes in your shirt.

Now, you would think that all bleached fabrics turn white, right? But, surprisingly, that is not always the case. For instance, many black and blue dyed fabrics will turn red or brown with bleach applied. But, you don't really know what color will show up until you try it. This makes it a super fun experiment!

Now, of course, you don't want to try bleach dyeing with your all time, favorite t shirt, right? That would be dumb lol. Instead, why not head to your nearest Goodwill or thrift shop. Grab a selection of many different colored tees so you can get an idea of the different ways they bleach. Keep in mind, however, that not all blue fabric will bleach the same way. It all depends on what type of dye was used on them in the first place as well as what the shirt is made of.

Also, another consideration is to make sure that your shirt is made with mostly cotton fiber. A little bit of another fiber is probably fine but I'm not sure how well a 100% Polyester shirt will bleach dye. (That may be a good experiment for me!)

Important Safely Note: Bleach Dyeing is also a lot of fun for kids but make sure and supervise them as bleach is very caustic. Also, this project should be done outdoors to avoid breathing the fumes.


Annette -

You can also make more detailed designs in the fabric by Reverse Dyeing with a Bleach Pen

About the Author

Hey, I'm Annette, check out for lots more crafting tutorials

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Author: Annette Browning

Annette Browning

Member since: Jan 23, 2020
Published articles: 8

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