DIY Bleach Art Tank Top

It used to be that household bleach was reserved for white laundry and cleaning up after grimy children or pets. Clorox was one of those things I’d never dare touch, off limits like matches, the hacksaw and my brothers’ Halloween candy (except for the Kit-Kats, I ate those).

The noxious liquid is now a favorite embellishment of fashion designers and crafty DIY-ers all over. The bleached trend has made a comeback in mainstream fashion and even in high end labels. In September 2011, Henry Holland sent bleached pastel denim looks down the runway in his House of Holland Spring 2012 RTW show.

The look, which echoes 80’s and 90’s grunge fashion, got a distinctly bohemian makeover in 2012 and was no doubt a popular trend among music festival goers. White spotted high-waist denim cut-offs and bleach-dipped tank tops were unavoidable this summer. Yes, these do resemble something like an amateur laundress’ mistake, but I dig it. And considering the fact that this is bound to be but a fleeting fad in fashion history, I am prepared to fully embrace the Clorox.

After fruitlessly scoping out the perfect graphic tank I threw in the towel and I decided to pull out the bleach and a plain black t-shirt and DIM (do it myself). Read on to see the steps I took to craft this beauty so you can DIY (do it yourself)!

You’ll need a plain t-shirt or tank top, a little bit of bleach, a large piece of cardboard or a magazine you’re done with, cotton swabs, and rubber bands.

Start by laying out your tee on your working surface. I used my dad’s carpet, but that is highly NOT reccommended. I’m just really risky.

Slip your cardboard or retired magazine into the shirt where you want to put your design and secure it with the rubber bands. This will hold the material taut as well as keep the bleach from soaking through the shirt.


Next, go to town with the bleach! I freehanded my text, but if you’re more careful than I am or have a more intricate design in mind sketch on the shirt with chalk. It’ll wash right out when you’re done.

Apply the bleach a little bit at a time with the cotton swabs. Be patient. The bleach will appear magically as it’s absorbed. How fun!


When you get the bleach looking the way you want it let it set in the light. The design will become more and more apparent. Hand wash the shirt in cold water when it’s all dry and after that it’s good to enjoy like any other shirt.

I finished mine up by cutting off the sleeves and removing the crew neck and hem from the bottom to make it into a comfy tank top.


The quality and material of shirt as well as the type of bleach you use all play a factor in the final look of the bleach “painting”. The color can range any where from orange to white white. You can’t really be certain what you’ll end up with, sort of like those black wax covered rainbow etching paper from Lisa Frank.

There are really no limitations with this project. I’m definitely going to give it another few goes with different colored shirts and different application techniques. I’m thinking stamped polka dots or tie-dye. If you give it a shot, share your results with me! I’d love to see how other crafty folks are using bleach to amp up their clothing.


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