How to Bleach Clothing to White From Black

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You can give your old black tshirts a second life by bleaching them.
Image Credit: serezniy/iStock/GettyImages

The black T-shirts in your drawer have faded and lack the crispness of their original color, or a black shirt, skirt or anything with black as the base color needs refreshing, and your goal is a new wardrobe of sparkling white. Before you trash the clothing, consider bleaching them. Just gather a few components for your magic mixture, don some heavy rubber gloves and you're in business, with your bleached black shirt becoming the new star of your wardrobe.


What You Need

A few household items are the only tools you'll need to turn a black shirt white:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Two plastic buckets
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Stainless steel implement for stirring solution

Cottons Yes, Synthetics No

Check the label of your clothing. Cotton is the easiest fabric to bleach, while success with synthetics depends on the type of coloring used to create the original color. A dye stripper is advised before attempting to bleach colored items white if they are synthetic. Wash all items prior to bleaching.


Preparing Your Work Station

As ventilation is important, turn on room fans and open windows. Wear clothing that won't suffer discoloration if it comes into contact with the bleach and put on rubber gloves. Place both buckets adjacent to each other on a counter near the water faucet.

Mixing the Chemicals

For the actual bleaching solution, mix one part bleach with four parts cold water in the first bucket. In the second bucket, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with one part water to sufficiently cover the item when submerged. Do not do this in the sink, as you'll need to rinse your clothing in the sink after bleaching has been completed.


Testing a Bleached Black Shirt

After submerging the shirt into the bleach solution, mix it thoroughly through the bleach with a stainless steel implement. Don't use a wooden spoon since the wood absorbs the liquid and may release it when you are using the spoon for other kitchen jobs.

The amount of time needed to bleach the black out of a shirt depends on the quality of the original dye job. Watch and stir for at least 10 minutes or until the shirt appears to have lost its original color. This can take up to one hour.


Stopping the Bleaching Process

Once your shirt has achieved the whiteness you want, remove it from the bleaching bucket and twist it until all the bleaching solution is removed. Twist into the bleaching bucket, not the sink. Rinse it thoroughly in the sink using cold water and then wring it well.

Neutralizing the Bleach

Any leftover bleach must be neutralized. Plunge the item into the bucket of hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Stir to be sure all parts of the shirt are totally submerged. This prevents the bleach from continuing its actions and sets the final shade of white.


Remove it from the neutralizer, rinse, wring and then wash with cold water in the washing machine. Do not use detergent.

Bleached Black Shirt Cautions

If the cotton shirt you are bleaching has buttons, they are most likely sewn on with synthetic thread. The thread may not bleach to white, and you may have to resew them with cotton thread. Also, depending on the original black dye, your shirt may not turn out sparkling white but instead cream or ivory.