How to Bleach a Shirt for Sublimation – Complete Guide

Last Updated on October 22, 2022

It is possible to enhance the aesthetic appeal of a t-shirt by bleaching it before sublimation. In addition to expressing your creativity, it opens up a number of opportunities for wardrobe expansion.

I have actually bleached shirts several times in the past, so I can tell you that as long as you have the right materials, it is not as difficult as you might think.

It is assumed that you already have a sublimation printer and are familiar with the basics of sublimation. Make your own unique shirts using bleach and start creating them for yourself or as gifts right away.

Supplies Needed To Bleach Sublimation Shirts

Supplies Needed To Bleach Sublimation Shirts

⦁ Blank Shirt

Gildan Softstyle shirts that include the word “Heather” in front of the color name have yielded the best results when bleached. There is a direct correlation between the amount of polyester on the shirt and the brightness of the design. A polyester substrate is ideal for sublimation inks; however, polyester is not suitable for bleaching. You will need a shirt that is a mixture of cotton and polyester in order to bleach shirts for sublimation.

Furthermore, you should make sure the polyester has a higher count than the cotton in order to avoid having a faded appearance. The shirts I recommend are composed of 65% polyester and 35% cotton. This percentage of bleach removes the dye from cotton and leaves the white polyester.

⦁ Spray Bottle

The next step is to obtain a spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle that is of good quality. When you adjust the nozzle, you can change how the bleach is sprayed. If you intend to make many bleached shirts for sale, I recommend purchasing a glass spray bottle.

⦁ Bleach

The quality of old bleach you may have lying around may not be as good as it once was.

⦁ Hydrogen Peroxide

⦁ Paintbrush

⦁ Protective Gloves

⦁ Transfer Paper

⦁ Heat Press

⦁ Cardboard

Prepare to Make Bleach Sublimation Shirts

As a first step, I always place a piece of cardboard or even a plastic garbage bag inside the blank shirt. In order to keep your shirt looking good, you should avoid bleaching the area on the back of your shirt. The best material to use for this is scrap cardboard boxes, however, you can use anything disposable that you have on hand. 

Prepare to Make Bleach Sublimation Shirts

1. Use of Paintbrush

You may find that using a paintbrush is more effective than using a spray bottle. Simply paint your bleach on with a brush after putting it in a container. In order to make the edges less perfect, I often spritz them with the spray bottle as well. The large front area of the shirt should be lightly dabbed with paper towels once the shirt has been sprayed with bleach.

Additionally, if you did not get a good coat on the area, you may need to go over it again after sitting for a while. To ensure that the shirt is thoroughly covered with a few spots, you should spray the entire shirt with the spray bottle.

2. Use of Spray Bottle

Starting on the front of the shirt, bleach a medium-sized area in the shape of a circle or square. Make a cardboard template to contain the bleach to one area.

The shirt can be sprayed with bleach that has not been diluted using a regular spray bottle. While I am doing this, I also spritz a bit of the bottle all over the shirt.

The large front area of your shirt should be lightly dabbed with paper towels after the bleach has been sprayed. Spritz the back of the shirt after the front has sat for a few minutes as well in order for it to match the front. 

3. Bleaching with Spray Bottle and Cardboard Mask

You may also use a cardboard mask in combination with the spray bottle method. Using an old cardboard box, I cut out a circle and placed it on top of the shirt. Make sure the circle is well sprayed. Spray the shirt in order to give it the appearance of being imperfect around the outer edge of the circle. Make sure the mask is removed and that you spray around both the inner and outer edges of the circle. To remove any excess bleach from the large area on the front of your shirt, take a paper towel and lightly dab the area with the paper towel once the shirt has been sprayed.

4. Conclude Bleaching Process

Conclude Bleaching Process

The shirts will become white within a short period of time. If you wish to bleach the back of the shirts, flip the shirts over once the front is white. A similar pattern should be sprayed on the back of the shirt using bleach. There is no need to do this, but it adds a unique appearance to the shirts.

The bleached shirts should be washed immediately in order to prevent the bleaching process from continuing. Water and laundry detergent should be used at very high temperatures. To ensure that I remove all the bleach from the shirts, I use an extra rinse cycle. It is possible for shirts to fall apart if they are allowed to sit in bleach for a prolonged period of time. A few cycles in the washing machine may result in the fabric ripping or getting holes due to the bleaching process.

5. Sublimate the Bleached Shirt

Sublimate the Bleached Shirt

Shirts that have been bleached and dried can then be sublimated. I heat press my shirts for 60 seconds at 400 degrees to preserve their quality. Depending on your heat press settings, you may have to experiment until you find the perfect temperature and time to avoid scorching your shirts. Each heat press is unique. During the process of warming up your heat press, you can prepare your shirts for sublimation. In order to prevent the ink from fusing through the shirt, place a piece of butcher paper inside it. Add a fresh piece of paper on top of the sublimation design in order to prevent the ink from bleeding and sticking to your heat press.

Sublimation paper should be mirrored in accordance with your printed design. In order to prevent your design from moving when you close the heat press, place special heat tape on the inside of the paper and on the shirt when you lay it ink side down. The sublimation design on your bleached shirt is now ready for heat pressing.

You can check whether your design has transferred when you remove the shirt from the heat press. Press it for a longer period of time if necessary. Spray hydrogen peroxide on any parts of the shirt that have turned yellow, and then place the shirt under your heat press plate. Using this method, any yellow areas will be turned back into white. When you do this, do not close the heat press completely. It only needs to be pulled down enough to activate the peroxide by heat.


Can you bleach a cotton shirt?

We do not recommend using them since they can get holes very quickly and are generally not durable. 

Why did my shirt scorch when pressing?

After bleaching, it is possible for your shirt to scorch when you add sublimation or even HTV. It can be seen here that there are faint brown marks where you pressed. There is no need to worry! There is a way to get rid of this! If the marks do not disappear, spray your shirt with hydrogen peroxide, place it under your heat press for a few seconds (do not press it again) and then rinse it with water.

What shirts are best for bleaching?

In order to prevent holes in your shirt, you should purchase a shirt containing at least some polyester. The shirt I am using for sublimation is a Gildan soft style shirt. The fabric is composed of 65% polyester and 35% cotton. 

Should you bleach before or after sublimation?

You have the option of doing both! As a result of the bleaching process after sublimation, I feel that the product appears more “worn.”. Therefore, the colors will appear more vibrant if you bleach them prior to sublimation. 

How long will the bleaching process take?

The color of the shirt will depend on what you are trying to achieve. According to my experience, a typical session takes between 25 minutes and an hour.

What is best place to bleach a shirt?

A bright and sunny day is the best time to bleach shirts outside. A faster bleaching process and a whiter shirt are achieved by doing this. To ensure that bleach does not bleed through to the back of the shirts, place cardboard in-between them. My bleaching process takes place on my deck, which gets the most sun, so I ensure that cardboard is placed underneath them.

Why didn’t my shirt turn white?

A few shirts will not turn white under any circumstances. Alternatively, you may have to apply several applications of bleach in order to achieve a white color. The color of the shirt depends on its origin and its initial color. Whether you are aiming for pure white or you simply prefer the color your shirt turns out to be, you may stop the bleaching process at any time.

Can you bleach 100% polyester sublimation?

100% polyester is most suitable for sublimation inks, but polyester does not bleach well. You will need a shirt that is composed of a mixture of cotton and polyester if you intend to bleach shirts for sublimation. You should also ensure that the polyester has a higher count than the cotton in order to avoid a faded appearance.

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