Removing Color From Fabric

As hard as I work sometimes to add color to fabric, I also enjoy removing it. I have most often used household bleach, but have also used Jacquard deColourant and bleach pens.

Since this process takes away color, it makes sense that it works best on darker fabrics. I don’t think I’ve ever tried it really light cloth, but I haven’t been limited to black and brown. Try dark reds, pinks, oranges, greens, blues. Not every fabric changes with bleach or decolorant. I’ve read that it has something to do with the colors used to dye the fabric, but the only way I’ve found to find out if it works is to try it.

My process is not very sophisticated but it goes like this: I spread several sheets of newspaper on the kitchen floor. I choose up to 30 pieces of fabric I want to test, and cut a piece about 3″ by 6″ long. I used to do 3″ by 3″ but I discovered the bleach often covered the whole piece and then I couldn’t tell which original piece it came from. Once everything is down, I fill a spray bottle with about half Clorox bleach and half water – maybe a little more water. Then I spray about two times on the end of each piece of fabric, and wait. My temptation is to spray more, but this often completely wipes out color and the result is dingy. You’ll start to see as the results are produced that maybe you want to spray just a little more on some of the pieces.

I better talk about safety. The books that give instructions say to use a face mask while doing this. I don’t but I’m sure it’s a good idea. I do this rarely, and leave the door open and so far I’m fine. But it’s better to use the mask.

After about five minutes, look at the pieces and see what you’ve got. I always like some of them and am indifferent to many. One or two I actually love. Black usually produces a dark red/brown that is very attractive, and the same black can turn to an attractive tan with another squirt or two. You can get a small range of differences on one piece of fabric.

You can eliminate fabrics where you didn’t like the change, or where there was none. I throw away the 3″ by 6″ pieces I don’t like. The others I wash out and let dry, and store them with the original fabric. I’ll talk about some projects next.

There are other instructions the books will give you about what to do with the fabric after it’s been bleached, so the bleaching stops where you want it to. I sometimes do this but usually just run through water, and I’ve never had a problem with the color changing, even after years on a wall. But it’s better to at least know the correct procedure. Once I find the book with the information, I’ll add it here.