Continuation of Removing Color on Fabric with Bleach

First off, some details I should have mentioned last time. When using Clorox spray it’s a very good idea to wear a face mask. All the books suggest it and I figure it’s in the can’t hurt / may help category. I don’t think you have to worry about this with bleach pens or decolourant, because particulates aren’t in the air.

Also, I’ve come across two very good suggestions for after a piece is bleached. They are so that the bleach will set and stay the way you want it. I have to admit that I have some pieces I bleached about 15 years ago and did not follow these directions, and they haven’t changed at all. But another purpose of doing it is to soak the pieces as soon as they reach the level of color change that you want. And I have sometimes gone past a really good shade towards mud because I didn’t rinse the fabric.

The process is easy. Have two buckets of lukewarm water near where you are working. Add some soap detergent – I use Synthrapol – to one, and anti-Chlor to the other. The anti-Chlor container will have instructions on how much to use, and you can get both products from Dharma Trading Co. Once you have used the bleach and like what you see, and after you have removed the freezer paper, rinse the fabric by dunking and agitating it in soapy water. Then wring out and soak the fabric in the anti-Chlor solution for 15 minutes. Once you rinse out the fabric and let it dry, you can iron it at your leisure to set the pieces.

Chlorine products will work on cotton, linen or rayon. They don’t work on protein products like silk or wool. Sometimes I use predominantly cotton fabric and it doesn’t bleach – this is mostly a matter of trial and error. I have read that sometimes the way the fabric was dyed in the first place interferes with the bleach. I only know that sometimes I spray a fabric that seems to be cotton, and it doesn’t change color.

I want to show you pictures of the process of spraying bleach and using freezer paper as a resist. A resist is anything that will get in the way between the bleach and fabric. It can be a leaf, cheesecloth, gutta resist solvent. The latter is made to act as a block between paint and the surface. But most often I use freezer paper – it will stick to cloth when ironed shiny side down, and come up easily when you’re ready to remove it. And it’s easy to shape with scissors into whatever you want it to be. My examples here will be circles and birds, for no particular reason.

Below is an example of freezer paper with circles cut out of it before it is ironed onto fabric:

I apologize if this is all too self-evident, but sometimes it’s easier to understand pictures than text. Now it’s time to iron the paper shiny side down. In this case I’m using black fabric and a dry iron. I’m also ironing on the circles cut from a long, narrow piece of freezer paper. Leave at least several inches between freezer paper pieces.

Now it’s time to spray – I use a plastic bottle with a spray nozzle, with a mix of about 60% water and 40% bleach mixed inside. Just do a couple of quick squirts around the circles and within the open circles in the long piece of paper. Then wait. Within a few minutes you should notice a change in color. It’s better to walk away while this happens – I always find it too much of a temptation to squirt too much if I’m standing there watching. If you don’t notice a change, or you’d like more of a change, give a few more squirts. You don’t want the paper to get too wet because the bleach will work its way under the paper and you won’t end up with nice circle, bird or whatever shapes.

When I got to this point above in spraying, I didn’t think there was enough bleach, so I sprayed a little more:

I was happy with the above picture and with the color the fabric changed to, and hopefully your fabric will change to a color you like. When this happens, remove the freezer paper and dunk the fabric into the soapy water as mentioned above. And that is the process of using freezer paper as a resist on fabric. Below is a picture of the fabric after I removed the freezer paper.

You may want to do this with a project in mind. I’ll remember that I have this piece and wait until I think of something I want to add it too.

Let me know if you have questions or suggestions if you have better ideas on how to do this.