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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Making Designs With Bleach

By Dr. Laundry January 20, 2009

Q. I saw a show on HGTV where they used bleach to make a design on denim. On the show, they used a solution of equal parts water and bleach, sprayed it over a metal trivet, removed the trivet and then stopped the bleaching action. However, they didn’t say how to stop the bleaching action. How can I use this method without ruining or weakening the material?

A. I haven’t seen the HGTV show that you mentioned, so I am not familiar with the process they used/recommended.

Here’s part of a response that I wrote for using liquid bleach to make “designer jeans,” which should be similar to the process you are attempting:

If you want to lighten certain areas only, then use Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel. The fine-point tip and scrubber tip offer two different applicators for designs and coverage.

  • Put some newspapers on the floor and start drawing your favorite designs.
  • Let them dry 20-30 minutes, then use a wet paper towel to remove any excess bleach gel.
  • Rinse the bleached areas well in the sink to remove any excess bleach. (If you want to stop the reaction, you could add a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to the area before rinsing. The reaction forms oxygen and should negate both products. Do a couple of rinses to be sure it’s stopped.)
  • Dry and repeat on the backside of the jeans.

I would be also be careful using a metal trivet, as these can react with the bleach and deposit some unwanted colors.