How to Paint with Bleach

Dress up a lampshade, napkin set, or any other cotton fabric with this easy DIY project. With just a little bit of bleach, you can remove some of the fabric's dye and create a customized statement piece.

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Image Courtesy Chelsey Andrews

Last week I decided to try painting with bleach. Instead of adding color with paint, I'm taking it away. I have to say this was a fun experiment. You don't really know how it's going to turn out until everything is all washed and dry. It's inexpensive and you can paint with bleach on most cotton items. Blankets, placemats, pillowcases, clothes—have fun! I painted on napkins and lampshades for my first attempt. Want to try it out for yourself? Check out the directions below or head to my blog, The Paper Mama.

If you like this DIY, you'll love these easy spray-dye projects.

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What You Need

  • Bleach or bleach pen
  • Old paintbrush
  • Solid color cotton fabric napkins and/or a lampshade
  • Gloves
  • Goggles

Step 1: Prep for Paint

IMAGE COURTESY CHELSEY ANDREWS

In a well ventilated area: put on your gloves, goggles, and apron (I did all this outside). Open the bleach pen and squirt some of the bleach into a jar.

More creative ways to reinvent a basic lampshade.

Step 2: Brush Bleach

IMAGE COURTESY CHELSEY ANDREWS

Dip your paintbrush into the bleach and brush a small horizontal line onto the fabric and/or lampshade. You can do little short lines, or long lines. Create a little pattern with the lines. Don't worry if the design isn't perfect, freehand painting this project will give it charm. Though, if you'd prefer, you can always use a washable fabric pencil and ruler to mark where you want the lines to go.

Editor's Tip: Feel free to get creative with your designs! You don't have to brush the bleach on with a paintbrush, instead you can use the tip of the bleach brush to make a neat design. Polka dots, lines, and swirls. Maybe some flowers? Words? Try whatever you'd like!

Step 3: Let Dry

IMAGE COURTESY CHELSEY ANDREWS

Let the bleach sit on the fabric until you start to see the fabric turning white. Mine sat for about 3 hours. Wash and dry the napkins (separate from any clothes) before using. For the lampshade, rinse off the bleach in the sink and let dry completely before using.

Party-Ready Napkins

IMAGE COURTESY CHELSEY ANDREWS

Once you've mastered your technique, try bleaching your favorite fabric decor for a pattern boost. Plain tea towels in a colorful shade can easily be updated with a fun bleach design and used for every type of celebration.

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