Ever want a custom shirt, bag, jacket, etc, but don't want to pay to get it made by a printing company? Don't have the time or supplies to do your own silk screening? Fret no more! Bleach stenciling is the way to go, it's pretty cheap, easy, and you only need stuff that you can find at home. Plus, the results are pretty freakin' sweet.
- Transparent/Clear Contact Paper
- Permanent Marker
- Craft knife/ X-Acto Knife or Scissors
- Mini Spray Bottle (the kind that look like they're for body spray, NOT the kind with a trigger, ala Windex)
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Colored Garment/Fabric (Cotton and natural fibers work best, cotton/poly blends can also work very well, Synthetics will NOT work!)
- Plastic Grocery Bag
- Plastic Hanger
- Rubber Gloves
- Paper Towel
- Masking Tape
- Plastic Wrap/Plastic Sheets
DRESS IN OLD CLOTHES!
Don't accidentally bleach your favorite outfit!
- Transfer your Design to the contact paper using the permanent marker. I've use computer print outs and traced them with a light box or just free-handed it. Do whatever you like best. Alternately, you can go with a graphic design like I did and then you will only need a scissors OR scrunch up the shirt and do a "reverse tie-dye" look.
- Cut it out with the knife, being careful to save any "inside" pieces, ex. the inner "o" of an "O", you'll need them later. Hint: Mark which way is up on these pieces since it can be hard to remember.
- You should have something that looks like a stencil now, you can either use the positive image or the negative depending on what look you're going for. A positive image will have a bleach halo all around it while the design remains the color of the shirt, making it look more hazy and edgy, possibly drippy if you want that. A negative image will look more crisp and screen printed since the bleaching only happens within the boundaries of the stencil, your preference.
- Peel off the backing and stick to the fabric, placing it where you want it to appear and being careful to avoid wrinkles. Add in the inside bits. Make sure it's really stuck on!
- If you're doing a garment, poke a hole in the bottom of the plastic grocery bag and thread the hook of the clothes hanger through it, now put your shirt/hoodie/etc. over it. You should now have the plastic sandwiched inside the shirt to protect the other side from bleach soaking through. If you're doing fabric you may or may not need to do this step, it depends on how large it is and whether the fabric needs to be folded or not.
- Put on your rubber gloves.
- Unscrew the sprayer part of the spray bottle and fill with undiluted bleach. If you are looking to slow down the chemical reaction you can dilute this, but the wetter you get the fabric and the longer it's wet with bleach, the bigger risk you have of it bleeding. Note: You're using a small sprayer because it has a finer, more even spray. If you're looking to have something that looks more grunge/edgy you can use a trigger spray bottle that has a coarser spray and get some neat splotches and drips, but keep in mind your image will not look as crisp. I intentionally made this one a little streaky and drippy.
- Prepare your work station, I recommend the bathtub. Lay the garment/plastic bag sandwich in the tub with the stencil facing up. Place your paper towels and hydrogen peroxide off to the side. Place your bleach spray bottle on the other side. Turn on the bathroom exhaust fan (fumes = bad news).
- Now is the time you can optionally mask off the parts of the shirt that might get over-spray on it with the tape and plastic wrap. If you're super careful you might not need to, or if you don't care if you get over spray. If it's really going to bug you if you get some errant splotches on your finished project, MASK IT because you won't be able to un-do the bleach.
- Using even strokes, spray across your stencil with the bleach from top to bottom. Respray any parts that you may have missed. The fabric DOES NOT need to be soaked by the bleach, just moisten the top surface of the fabric. Dab off any big drips or excess on the top of the stencil with the paper towel.
- The fabric should start changing color almost instantly. Watch it carefully. Some fabrics will change cool, unexpected colors, some can be brought up to full white. Just keep in mind that bleach not only destroys the dye in the fabric, it will also destroy and weaken the fibers if left on too long creating holes! As a general guideline, bleaching about 1 minute or so should do it. Feel free to experiment though.
- When your preferred level of bleaching has occurred, dampen the entire stencil with hydrogen peroxide. This neutralizes the bleaching action. (For you chem-buffs the reaction is: NaClO + H2O2 = NaCl + H2O + O2, this means that the reaction between Hydrogen Peroxide and Household Bleach yields saltwater and oxygen, pretty harmless. DO NOT neutralize the bleach with an acid because this can release its chlorine as a gas rather than bonding it in a harmless salt. Be warned.)
- Once the reaction has been stopped, turn on the faucet and rinse out your fabric a few times, peel off the stencil, and remove the plastic bag and hanger. Don't freak out if your design "disappears" when it gets wet, it will reappear once the fabric is dry.
- After you have thoroughly rinsed out any residue, wash and dry as usual before wearing. If you don't wash it out enough it might continue bleaching in spots you don't want, or even bleach other clothes in the wash!
- Enjoy your fantastic one of a kind piece of clothing!