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Ask Dr. Laundry

Holes in Cotton with Bleach

By Dr. Laundry May 19, 2011

Holes in Cotton with Bleach

Q:  I am trying to make holes in cotton with bleach.  I applied non-diluted bleach to the fabric directly, let it sit for a minute or two, and then washed the fabric multiple times until the holes start to appear. It usually takes quite a number of washes before the holes start to form, and I was wondering if there was any way to expedite the process?  What would be the best amount of time to leave the bleach on the fabric, and best water temperatures to use when washing?

A:  I spend so much time instructing people to never apply full strength bleach to any fabric or hard surface that it is difficult to switch gears for your question!  I wish I knew the purpose of creating the holes – my best guess would be for fashion or art.  I am also not surprised to hear that it is taking longer than expected for the holes to develop.  After 50 cycles, under normal use, we see no significant difference in fabric damage between detergent and detergent plus bleach.  Therefore, if you want holes to develop faster with fewer treatments, increase the time that the undiluted bleach contacts the fabric.  You can also try applying bleach multiple times without washing, making certain you are re-applying the bleach to the same area by marking the spots with an X.