Bleach Pen Designs

My husband is a great carpenter. At our previous home, he finished a family room in the basement and built a garage. At our current home, he built our patio and trellis, a gardening shed, and a 40′ x 40′ shop. He has also remodeled our front entry, remodeled the ceiling in our kitchen, and is working on replacing the kitchen counter top.

He uses his power tools on these projects — Shopsmith, power saws, power drills, power sanders.

Years ago after a mishap with bleach, my children teased me that bleach was my power tool. Yay! Go bleach!

The other day, I noticed a grease spot on one of my favorite red shirts. I was dismayed. I didn’t want to relegate it to the wear-while-doing-yard-work status just yet. So, I decided to turn to my power tool to rectify the situation. I decided to bleach a design on my shirt to camouflage the stain.

Here are the things that you need for this project:

1 shirt (must be 100% cotton because if it has polyester or a synthetic fabric the bleach won’t work)
1 bleach pen
(I printed a pattern to follow using Photoshop. Do you recognize it? It’s similar to one of the bookmarks I made for Valentine’s Day.)

bleached shirt

Put the cardboard inside the shirt so that the bleach won’t go through onto the backside of your shirt. You might want to cover the cardboard with aluminum foil so that the bleach won’t soak into the cardboard.

bleached shirt


Shake your bleach pen really good.  Voice of experience here. At first, I didn’t and it gave me grief. While I was bellyaching commenting on how the bleach wasn’t coming out smoothly, my husband asked if I needed to shake the pen. After reading the directions, I discovered that yes, indeedy, I should have. What a smart husband! No wonder he is so good with power tools . . .

bleached shirt

When you are satisfied with your design, set your timer.

bleached shirt

If you have a light colored shirt, set your timer for 10-15 minutes. That should be enough time for the bleach to do its work. For darker colored shirts like my red one, set the timer for longer. (At first, I set the timer for 20 minutes. I set it for 10 more minutes so the bleach was on for a total of 30 minutes.)

When you’ve decided the bleach has been on long enough, rinse it off under running water.

bleached shirtbleached

Here’s what the finished shirt looked like.

bleached shirt

Do I like this bleached shirt better than than a the one with a stain? You bet! And I had so much fun, my mind started spinning and spinning thinking of different designs I could do. Now, I have to rummage through my closet to see what other shirts I can bleach.

Things I learned:

  • Shake, shake, shake that silly ol’ bleach pen really good before your start.
  • Do a few test squeezes on a paper towel to get out the bubbles.
  • If the knit of the t-shirt is big, the bleach will bleed. (The bleach bled on my shirt a bit . . .) If you don’t want the bleach to bleed, make sure your shirt has a tight weave.
  • You could trace your design on your t-shirt with chalk if the shirt’s weave is tight.
  • Because the bleach will bleed outward somewhat, small intricate details are hard to do.
  • If you have a Cricut or a Silhouette machine you could cut out your design on contact paper and use it as a pattern.
  • If you have a design that you ‘fill in’ thick like I did with the big heart, the bleach will go through to the cardboard. Be very careful removing the cardboard from your shirt.
  • The bleach dries a bit and will come off in clumps. Be careful when washing off the bleach that those little clumps don’t get on the shirt because they will bleach it.

Now, my design is definitely ‘girlie.’ A grandson might not be too thrilled to wear a shirt with hearts on it. But, he could draw a sun, stars, a smilie face, or the outline of a Jeep or a car, or the words ‘POW” or “BAM’ or his name. Spend a few minutes brainstorming ideas with your grandchildren before you put bleach pen to fabric.

Your grandchild could do the design on just one sleeve or just the back. She could do a design on the side of the shirt so part of it was on the front of the shirt and part was on the back of the shirt. Be clever. Be creative.

If you decide to bleach a shirt, let me know how it turned out! Even send me a picture.

(Pssst. This was the post that I was writing when Studio 5 filmed me. If you could read the words on the screen in the video clip that they made, you might notice that this post is rather different from what I originally wrote . . . )

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