Tie-dying a white t-shirt is all the hype these days, but have you ever tried tie-dying a black T-shirt? Black shirts have such a dark color that cloth dye can’t really grab onto them as much as other colors. However, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to tie-dye a black shirt.
So, can you tie-dye a black shirt? Yes, you can tie-dye a black shirt using bleach to lighten the fabric in your desired pattern. This process is usually called reverse tie-dying. This will create a burnt-orange color that can then be dyed with different colors.
If you have a black t-shirt that you want to upcycle using reverse tie-dyeing, read on to learn how.
Reverse Tie-Dyeing With Bleach
All you need is the magic ingredient: bleach! Beaching is a great method for creating a pattern using reverse tie-dyeing. With this method, instead of adding colors to the T-shirt, you will be removing the black color from the T-shirt using bleach.
Since you will be working with bleach to reverse tie-dye your clothes, you will first need to learn how to work with bleach safely and successfully. Bleach is a strong and hazardous chemical, so you will need to take proper precautions for your safety. Knowing how to work with bleach will increase your chance of success as well!
Make Sure Your T-Shirt Can Be Bleached
Not every type of fabric can be bleached. Bleach works best with cotton clothing, but it will destroy other types of sensitive fabrics, like spandex, rayon, silk, or wool.
If you are unsure about whether your T-shirt can be bleached, first check the garment label to see if bleaching is allowed for your type of garment.
When in doubt, you can always test the beach with a small swatch first. Using a cotton swab, you can apply the bleach to the fabric to see if it works correctly without damaging the fabric. If it is, then you can proceed.
Dilute The Bleach
Most types of bleach need to be diluted with water before it can be applied. Follow the instructions on the bottle to ensure that the correct dilution ratio is used. Most types of household bleach will recommend a 1:1 ratio when mixing bleach and water.
Bleach works best when it is diluted with hot water. However, keep in mind that the fabric may also react with the water temperature (cotton can shrink when washed with hot water, for example), so you will need to consider this before making your bleach mixture.
Working With Bleach
Bleach will stain everything that it touches, whether it is your clothing or working area. When working with bleach, it’s always recommended to wear clothing that you don’t mind ruining and covering your workstation with plastic to protect the area.
With reverse tie-dyeing, you don’t want the bleach to touch any area in the clothes that you don’t want to bleach. That means you shouldn’t leave your T-shirt in a pool of bleach because the bleach will soak through and affect how your tie-dye pattern will look.
Instead, leave your T-shirt on a rack when applying the bleach and let the excess bleach drain to the bottom; that way, the T-shirt doesn’t soak up any excess bleach that may affect the final look.
It’s always good to take proper safety precautions when working with bleach. Bleach can burn your skin, so always use rubber gloves, protective clothing, and safety glasses when working with bleach. It’s also recommended to work in a well-ventilated area so that the chemical fumes can dissipate.
If you are ready to tie-dye a black T-shirt, put on your gloves and safety glasses, let’s get started.
How To Tie-Dye A Black Shirt
What you will need:
- Black T-shirt
- Rubber bands
- Squeeze bottle
Tie The Shirt
Just like how you would tie-dye a regular T-shirt, you can use the rubber bands to secure the T-shirt. This step is probably the most important because it will decide how your tie-dye pattern will look later on. Twisting the T-shirt tightly will create a more intricate tie-dye pattern while using a loose hand will make the pattern look more abstract.
You should take time with this step, twisting and balling up your T-shirt to create the pattern that you want. Be as creative as you want, and remember to secure the T-shirt tightly with the rubber bands so that they don’t become undone when it’s time to bleach.
Make your bleach mixture using the recommended bleach to water ratio (usually, it’s 1:1 or 1:2). Then, pour the mixture into the squeeze bottle, which will allow you to apply the beach more evenly and precisely.
Then, you can apply the bleach in the pattern that you want around the T-shirt. Make sure to apply the bleach evenly on both sides of the T-shirt. If you have a T-shirt that has been balled up and twisted, creating even lines around the T-shirt will help you achieve the classic tie-dye look.
Leave the bleach to soak for about 10 minutes. Bleach works almost immediately after touching a surface, so you shouldn’t leave the bleach on your T-shirt for more than 15 minutes, or it will destroy the fibers.
Sometimes, if the T-shirt is too dark, you will get a brownish-red color after bleaching. If you want the color to be even lighter, you can apply another round of bleach on those same areas to get a grayish-yellow color.
Remove the rubber bands and rinse the T-shirt until the water runs clear. Then, you can wash the T-shirt as normal, and the result will be a cool reverse tie-dye effect on a black T-shirt!
How To Reverse Tie Dye With Color
Sometimes, if your T-shirt is too dark, the color after bleaching can be a brownish-orange color. If you are not happy with the tie-dye colors after bleaching, then you can do an extra step of applying colored dye in your desired color combination.
If you are doing this extra step, it’s important to make sure that all the bleach has been removed from your T-shirt so that the colors will show up properly. This can be done by washing the T-shirt with soap to remove all the bleach.
When your T-shirt is still damp, use fabric dyes to go over the bleached lines with the color(s). A damp T-shirt will allow the colors to spread better around the bleached lines. Don’t worry about going over the lines because the dye colors won’t show up very well on the black background.
You can use as many colors as you want in this step to create whimsical patterns or keep the color scheme simple with just one or two colors.
Leave the damp T-shirt in a plastic bag overnight to let the colors soak in. The plastic bag is employed so that the T-shirt is not completely dried out while the colors are activated. You can leave this to soak for up to 24 hours to get vibrant colors.
Remove the T-shirt from the plastic bag and rinse it until the water runs clear. Then, you can wash the T-shirt as normal. Make sure to wash it separately from your laundry so that the colors don’t bleed on your other clothes. Then, you should have a cool reverse tie-dye T-shirt that is completely yours!
Can You Reverse Tie Dye Color T-shirts?
In theory, you can reverse tie-dye any color T-shirt that you want. The bleach will still work to remove any colors from your T-shirt, and you will still get the reverse tie-dye effects no matter what color T-shirt you use.
Keep in mind that it will take less time to bleach a lighter color compared to a darker color. If you are bleaching a pastel color, for example, it will take only 5-10 minutes for the colors to be removed completely from the fabric.
If you are unsure about the colors, you can always test the bleach on a swatch first before going ahead with the reverse tie-dyeing process.
When applying more colors after bleaching the T-shirt, you should remember that the colors will show up differently depending on the color of your T-shirt. If you have lighter color T-shirts, for example, it’s going to be very easy for the colored dyes to bleed outside of the bleached lines and into the colors of the shirt.
In these cases, you can always twist and ball up the T-shirt again to fit with its original tie-dye patterns so that the fabric dyes can fit inside the lines that you have created with the bleach. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be exact with this process, but it will help you recreate the tie-dye effect without having to color inside the lines.
For darker color T-shirts, the process will be similar to tie-dyeing a black T-shirt. Depending on how dark the T-shirt is, the colored dye may or may not affect the colors of the T-shirt. When in doubt, you can test the colors first before deciding what to do.
Up Next: Can You Tie-Dye A Shirt Twice?