Acid Washed Tees

A while ago I accidentally got bleach on my favorite T-shirt.
And some of you recommended that I bleach it out.
So I finally did.
And I love it!
And I love the 80s.
And the 80s are back.
So I made some for the kids too.
And now everything is totally rad and awesome over here.

This is super easy to do.
It’s the inverse of tie-dyeing.

The details….

• This isn’t truly “acid” washed; just laundry bleach.   Acid sounds cooler though, right?
• Don’t dilute the bleach.  Pour it into a spray bottle and label the bottle so no one mistakes it for water.
• I highly recommend goggles, gloves, working in a ventilated area (open a door or window), and taking a break periodically for a breath of fresh air in the other room.  The fumes are strong and can make your eyes burn a bit without goggles.  I bleached my first shirt with bare hands, eyes, and mouth.  And had a headache for the next 1/2 hour.   Then I covered up and it was a big improvement.  Safety first!

• Do NOT wet the fabric before spraying (tried it).  This will dilute the bleach and spread it too evenly, rather than making it blotchy.
• Vary your sprays with the spray bottle lid—from wide sprays to small direct sprays.
• Don’t over-bleach or the shirt will simply look like a new color, rather than textured looking.
• It takes about a minute for the color to pull up.
• Bleach spraying works on knits and wovens, but I found that knits worked better for me.  And I haven’t tried anything other than cotton but I imagine it would work with synthetic fibers too.

Most importantly….have fun experimenting!

Every shirt is totally different.
It’s an adventure to see which colors pop up.

Just like these munchkins.

(I promise he’s really a goofball.  Shaking trees, dragging his sister along…)

Hope you had a nice holiday weekend!

  1. So very cute! A must do, for sure.

  2. 3) aprilshowers

    Where are your jelly shoes?!?

    The shirts came out great!

    • 4) Dana

      they’re hot pink flip flops from GAP (last summer. sorry 🙁 )

  3. 5) fern

    Love it!!! Totally rad!

  4. 6) Andrea

    1. awesome idea! I tried this on a hat once, but just didn’t like it. I will have to try on a tee. 2. you look fabulous for just having baby #3!!

  5. Gnarly! I may have to try this out with some of our stained shirts that I have in a box!


  6. I have accidentally made these before but accidents don’t look as cool!
    This is great! You look fabulous as well.

  7. 9) Stacey

    Now just need to do that to one of Clara’s onesies and she’ll fit right in! 🙂

  8. 10) Leigh Anne

    Super cute! Lovin’ the return to the 80’s 🙂

  9. Cute idea Dana! I love that you made some for your kids too. And you look great!

  10. love these! also, how did you just have a baby!? you look awesome!

  11. Oh man, my distracted mind read “Acid Washed Jeans” on fb and thought…”Oh no she didn’t!” PHEW…:) Love this project!

  12. 14) Rodiemom

    We did a similar idea on a camping trip a couple of years ago. We covered our shirts with nature things (leaves, sticks, etc) and then sprayed the bleach to leave silhouettes. We ended up with really cool souveniers from that trip! Also, we did learn that cotton bleaches white, but some of the cotton/poly blends didn’t work nearly as well. They either just lightened the color or changed to a completely different color (we had some brown shirts that turned pink, weird).

  13. Those are super cute, and a I must say, you are looking fabuloso, my dear Dana!

  14. LOVE Owen’s “I’m too cool for words” expression.

  15. 18) Dayna

    Perfect! My son has a shirt that is 1/2 way there by accident. A sad state. I’ll have to finish the job.

  16. Dana, I think the only way you could possibly get any cooler is if you wore those safety goggles around 24-7. Haha. Super rad shirts.

  17. 21) Marnie Peck

    Cute shirts, but I am more impressed with how great YOU look! You do not look like you just had a baby!! You look great, motherhood agrees with you.

  18. 22) Melissa H

    hehe…. I was given some hand-me-downs the other day I saw one of the t-shirts had a spot of bleach on it, so I tossed it…. if I had had your vision I would have just “acid washed” it….. oh well, next time 🙂

  19. 24) Anjanette Mensa

    Uh, didn’t you just have a baby? WHY don’t you look like it? 😉 Super cute, I’m trying this idea today.

  20. cute, cute, cute!

  21. Did you seriously just have a baby? Couldn’t tell from the pictures…you look fantastic!

  22. Love these pictures of all of you and your protective gear. 🙂 Fun idea!

  23. You are rockin my world, here! I have at least a few ruined shirts in this house; time to make ’em rad! 😉

  24. Dude, didn’t you like JUST have a baby? You look amazing!

  25. The shirts look great but more importantly–you look FABULOUS! It certainly does not look like you just had a baby, you look fantastic Dana!

  26. What a great idea. I will try that for sure

  27. Cute idea! I didn’t see any mention of neutralizing the bleach with peroxide. If you don’t neutralize it, the shirt will continue to off gas the chlorine which can cause headaches, dizziness, and coughing. The shirt will also deteriorate much quicker.

    • Hi Leslie,
      Since I just stumbled onto this project tute and was browsing thru the comments…

      How do you neutralize the bleach with peroxide? Never worked with bleach before but have ruined a few shirts working with pool chlorine. As mentioned in a later post, holes devloped in the shirts where the chlorine splattered.
      Thanks for the help.

  28. Love this! I may do this to some of my shirts this summer. (Mossimo, just like yours.)

  29. You are definitely looking great post-baby. Those T-shirts are so groovy – time to search my drawers for something stained, faded or generally old looking and get bleaching. Hmmm, maybe I should dye something so I can bleach it (or am I just being silly now?)!

  30. This looks like fun! Great pictures!! I love it.

  31. 38) Jacinta

    Just wanted to say how FAB you look after having Clara only 3 MONTHS AGO!!!!!!! WOW! I don’t look anywhere near that good and my youngest is nearly 2! Yay for you!! =)

  32. wHOW Dana, i love your blog, just found it surfing the www for how to make a babyt-shirt. So i’m gonna drink a nice fresh limonade, put my feet up in the sun and read and enjoy your blog all afternoon!
    Sunny greets,
    from Belgium, Europe
    the country with lots of nice beers and of course the most heavenly chocolade 😉

  33. I need to try this with all of my shirts that get bleached accidentally. So cute!

  34. Just 2 weeks ago, I bought a new top, went to brush my teeth, and got toothpaste on the front of it. It left a white spot in an awkward place, so I was trying to think of what to do. I thought…hmmm maybe bleach in a cool design, but with the placement of the stain I couldn’t figure it out! Your post saved the day! I can’t wait to try it.

  35. So CUTE! Must do this!! I have a shirt with bleach spots on it that I haven’t known what to do with. Thanks for the idea. 🙂

  36. 43) karen l

    So – if I were the one in the picture in the cute striped shirt spraying the tee shirt in the sink, I would accidentally spray the cute striped shirt I was wearing and then have to bleach it, and then realize I had also sprayed the cute shorts I was wearing and then have to bleach them, and then realize I had also sprayed my kitchen towels and then have to bleach them, and then realize I had also sprayed my kitchen rug and then have to bleach it………………Great job and congratulations on not spraying yourself and everything around you!

  37. 44) Kathleen

    Hi, I usually wind up with holes in my tee shirts where i have splashed bleach. I figured that straight bleach is weakening the fabric . The holes appear after a few washings. Is there a way to avoid this?

  38. Love the shirts! What a great idea. Now we won’t show up with the same turquoise V-neck on! (I’m wearing mine as I type this!) 🙂

  39. Oh, Owen, you’re killing me! So cute!
    I love these shirts! Psychedelic!

  40. 47) Cami

    Love the idea! I made some birthday gifts recently using a combo of this method and the freezer-paper stenciling. They turned out really neat! Not quite an acid-washed look, but another fun way to use bleach – and a little faster than using paint. I love fun, cheap, FAST projects!

  41. Well, now I know what to do with the dyed onesies that didn’t work out so well! Thanks, Dana, great tutorial!

  42. Ooh… we did these by accident. Unfortunately with really weird colours so now my son walks around with yellow pants with tan splotches. We tell our friends it’s fashion but I’m sure they know exactly what happened!!

  43. I did these at a 4-H Sewing Training a few years ago (home ec teachers like me were invited) and I put narrow strips of duct tape on mine first in the shape of a spiderweb coming off the shoulder. It looked great and my friend’s son loved it.

  44. 51) Valerie

    Another variation…you can lay leaves on top before you spray. Fern leaves are cool. Shaped stickers like hearts work well too. You can even cut out shapes or letters with contact paper and stick them on before spraying. If you don’t over saturate the shirt it will not bleed underneath and is a really cool affect. We did this for cub scouts year ago. Also, do it outside on your driveway. In the sun it will dry really fast. Then wash separately to get the bleach out. NO FUMES this way.

  45. 52) Karey

    cool save!

  46. 53) Theresa

    I can’t help but say that household beach is a very strong base, not an acid. But I get the idea of the moniker “acid-washed”, even if it is the other side of pH 7. Sorry for my nerdy comment.

  47. I did this last night too! Currently it is in the wash. I hope it comes out looking as good as yours do! Thanks for the idea.

  48. 55) Tiffany LaGrange

    I did this with my kids. PIcked up some shirts from hobby lobby. One worked awesome, the other one didn’t. Turns out the one that worked was 100% cotton and the one that didn’t was 50% polyester and 50% cotton. Lesson learned! 100% works best!

  49. The shirts look very cool.
    Thank you for the tutorial. It is on the long list of things to do. : )
    I have yet to master t-shirt making, then the long gym shorts, the underwear shorts!

  50. We did something similar on family vacation last year. We bought inexpensive shirts from Wal-Mart for all the kids (and some of the adults) and some vinyl. We let each of the kids draw and cut a design out of the vinyl and stick it on their shirt. Then we hung the shirts on a clothesline outside and let the kids squirt them (one kid and one shirt at a time) wearing safety goggles and rubber gloves. The shirts all turned out sooooo cute and each child got to personalize theirs! It was super fun and creative!

  51. 58) Andrea

    I was wondering if you have to flip it over and do the other side, or just put enough to let it soak through the top? Love the idea!! Thanks

  52. 59) Petra

    I have found a couple of plain t-shirts at Target that I don’t particularly like the colour of so will give them a go with the bleach – it should make them look more interesting! 🙂

  53. 60) robtayyytay

    thanks for this, your a saint. and you have a lovely family

  54. 61) Susann

    You can tie the tshirts with rubber bands or strips of fabrics or whatever like when you do regular tie-dye and then soak them in bleach. Then you can get more varied patterns than you get from just spraying them with bleach.

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