How to Fade Cotton With Bleach

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Bleach strips a fabric of color.
Bleach strips a fabric of color. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

When someone alters the color of fabric with bleach, they usually do it by accident. However, if you want to lighten cotton, bleaching the material is the most effective way to accomplish your goal. It is one of the methods clothing manufacturers use to fade the color of a recently dyed garment. The way you apply a bleach treatment to cotton dictates how much the color fades. Unless you want to entirely strip the fabric of color, applying multiple treatments will likely serve you best.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton
  • Washing machine
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Tongs

Fading in a Washing Machine

Place the fabric in a washing machine. Wash the cotton without any other fabric. Fabric color often fades with routine washing. This method produces minimal results, which keeps you from fading the fabric too much.

Fill the bleach bottle cap with bleach. Pour it into the machine's bleach reservoir so that the machine can automatically add the chemical to the water at the appropriate time in the wash cycle. Be sure not to pour the bleach directly onto the fabric, as bleach can eat away at a fabric, causing holes.

Set the machine to complete a standard wash cycle as you would for a full load of laundry. Wait until the cycle is complete before evaluating the fabric's color.

Repeat the process, if you want to reduce pigmentation further.

Direct Application of a Bleach Solution

Pour bleach into a bucket. Dilute the bleach with an equal amount of water. The amount of fabric you are fading dictates the amount of bleach and water you should use. Four cups of each liquid is enough for an article of clothing like denim pants or a T-shirt. Be sure not to pour the bleach solution directly onto the fabric, as bleach can eat at a fabric, causing holes.

Place the cotton in the bucket. Submerge and move the material with tongs. Allow the solution to saturate all of the fabric. Watch the cotton as it changes color so that you can stop the process if it reaches the desired shade.

Remove the cotton from the bucket with tongs after 30 minutes, whether it has reached the desired hue or not. Place the material in a sink.

Rinse it by holding it under cool, running water until you can no longer smell bleach on the fabric. Discard the bleach solution by pouring it down a sink drain.

Direct Application of Pure Bleach

Pour bleach into a bucket. Do not add water to the bleach. Eight cups of bleach is enough for an article of clothing.

Place the cotton in the bucket. Submerge and move the material with tongs. Allow the solution to saturate all of the fabric. Watch the cotton as it changes color so that you can stop the process if it reaches the desired shade. Be sure not to let the fabric directly touch the direct bleach for too long, as the bleach might bleach too much or it might eat holes into the fabric.

Remove the cotton from the bucket with tongs when it reaches the desired hue. Place the material in a sink.

Rinse it by holding it under cool, running water until you can no longer smell bleach on the fabric. Discard the bleach by pouring it down a sink drain.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear gloves and protective eye wear if you work with bleach in a bucket. It is safe to dispose of bleach in a sink.

References

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