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How to Bleach Shirts For Sublimation

Bleached T-shirts are all the rage these days. Some people love wearing them, while some find them tacky and weird. We personally like the way they look and so are writing an article about it.

You may be confused on how to make these shirts, specifically if you’re planning on starting a business of sublimated shirts. That’s where article will be helpful for you with all the required details.

Bleaching for sublimation 101

Brief beginner introduction to sublimation

If you’re a beginner to sublimation, you will have to read through this part carefully. If you want to make bleached shirts, you will either need a printer of your own to make a sublimation transfer or you will have to shop for one that is ready to press.

You can find printers for sublimation transfers on Amazon, Etsy, and even in many crafting groups on Facebook. A sublimation printer can be expensive, but you can just turn your Epson printer into a sublimation printer in an economical way if you are willing to experiment with it. When considering buying a printer, we would suggest getting one that can print on large paper sheets as well just like a wide format printer.

If you do think of getting your sublimation printer, make sure to print high-resolution pictures and use PNG files, as they don’t come with a background and will have a better print quality.

Sublimation ink needs you to have a heat press so that the ink can be released onto the shirt. There are many different kinds of heat presses in the market nowadays.

You can buy a heat press that works for shirts only, or you can buy one online from etsy that can work on hats and mugs as well. Heat presses vary in size, so a little research will be required to know which heat press will be suitable according to your needs.

General tips on shirt bleaching

Tip 1

Now that you can sublimate, you are all ready to bleach your shirts now. The first thing you should know about the process of sublimation is that the higher the polyester count, the better and brighter the sublimation designs looks on the shirt. Sublimation inks work perfectly on authentic polyester and white will give great results.

Tip 2

You’ll learn over time that dark colors don’t show sublimation ink perfectly as the ink gets mixed up with the color and doesn’t sit well on the top of your shirt’s material as compared to heat transfer vinyl. This is exactly why you will see a variety of DIY-ers bleaching different colored t-shirts so that they can sublimate on the white bleached areas only.

According to some experienced users, white, pastels, and gray will show the best possible results if you’re not bleaching shirts.

Tip 3

Another thing you should always know before sublimation is that the polyester will never bleach as well as you want it to. So, if you want to bleach your shirt for sublimation, you will need a shirt that is made of polyester and cotton, and you’ll want the count of polyester to be higher than cotton or it will have a vintage and faded look on the shirt. We recommend getting t-shirts that are 35% cotton and 65% polyester. When you’re bleaching shirts with this percent, the dye in the cotton is eliminated and only the white polyester is left.

Tip 4

For best bleaching results, we recommend getting shirts that have the word “Heather” just with its color name. There are a lot of online t-shirt brands that you can try out. We haven’t had any issue with Heather colors. You might notice that some brands or colors don’t bleach as well as you want them to, so you might have to experiment a bit by yourself to know which brands and colors suit you the best.

Tip 5

Now to bleach your shirt, you can’t use old bleach. Don’t use the one you already have at your home as the quality of the used one might be downgraded with time. We prefer using concentrated bleach for a smooth process. Then, you will have to buy a good quality spray bottle that comes with an adjustable nozzle so you can adjust the way it sprays the liquid out of your bottle.

Don’t even think of getting some cheap spray bottles from Walmart as we regret getting them as they stop working properly after some time. We recommend getting a spray bottle made of glass if you plan on selling your bleached shirts.

Tip 6

To bleach your shirts, you should do them on a sunny day outside as it helps the shirts bleach quickly and they get brighter as well. Also, you’ll have to put a piece of cardboard between the shirts so the bleach doesn’t ruin the backside of the shirt. Bleaching your shirts on the deck is a great idea but you should always use cardboard or some other material under your deck so that you don’t bleach your surface. This is because the deck is mostly the sunniest part of most of the yards.

Tip 7

When you are going to start the bleaching process of your shirts, start by bleaching a large square or circle-shaped area on the front of the shirt. You can even make a template on the cardboard to help you bleach one area with the spray bottle or even by hand. Just make sure to eye-ball the area you’re going to spray bleach on , but some people also paint the bleach on the shirt with the use of a brush for unique results.

When your bleached areas is large enough for the sublimation design you are planning to paste on the shirt, you can start to just randomly spray bleach onto the shirt wherever you want to. You can change the setting to stream and spray in unique patterns. When the shirt is bleached enough, you’ll just grow your way of bleaching it.

Tip 8

It doesn’t take that much time for the shirts to turn white. Once the front area of the shirt has turned white, which takes around 4–5 minutes if the sun is bright that day, you can flip the shirts and start spraying the bleach on the back area of the shirt (if you want to). We prefer spraying bleach all over the shirts, because we like the way it looks.

Why do you need to bleach shirts for sublimation?

We bleach shirts during the sublimation process because it whitens, brightens, and removes any dark spots from the area you want to print on.

In other words, the bleached area acts as a highlighted background which visibly shows the colors and sublimation design of your artwork after you’re done sublimating it.

One of the main factors for the bleaching process of shirts is that it removes the original from the clothes and makes them white. Sadly, bleaching can cause damage to the fibers of the cloth and most of the dye, too. Therefore, it is better to bleach a cotton or linen shirt. It is recommended to use a shirt that has 35% cotton and 65% polyester count for the sublimation process.

Bleaching a black t-shirt it is the best way to get a bright print without losing its clarity or any detail. Furthermore, you can customize black-colored t-shirts with light prints without any loss in their clarity. It also reduces the chance of customizing black t-shirts with any other dark-colored print only.

What do you need to bleach a shirt?

The first thing you need to do is print the PNG file. You can bleach away to get close to the original sublimation design depending on the size of your file. Below is the list of items needed to bleach a shirt before the process of sublimation.

Materials Required:

  • Bleach: Don’t use thick bleach, as they don’t work well with tees.
  • A paintbrush or a spray bottle.
  • Gloves.
  • All-purpose flour.
  • Hydrogen peroxide solution.
  • A piece of Cardboard.
  • T-shirt: Use heather-colored shirts, as they will bleach white.

Safety Tips

First of all, let’s discuss some important safety tips, as you are going to work with chemicals and bleach. Always wear gloves to save your hands from chemicals, and do the bleaching work outdoors. Please make sure to be careful and wash your t-shirts a few times after bleaching to get rid of any extra bleach or chemicals. 

You should also wear clothes and protective shoes while you bleach the shirts to protect your bare skin from chemicals. You can just wear old clothes so you won’t worry about getting the bleach on your clothes, as bleach is harmful to your clothing too.

How to bleach shirts in 7 easy steps

To bleach a shirt before the process of sublimation, follow all the steps we’ve mentioned down below.

Step 1:

Slide the piece of cardboard inside the shirt. Align it to make it straight. Apply a hot iron on the surface of the shirt to make the shirt wrinkle-free before the usage of bleach.

Step 2:

Now, put the design patch on your t-shirt where you want to print it. Next, use your painting brush and all-purpose flour to draw borderlines to help you bleach inside that area. Moreover, if you’re planning on bleaching a lot of parts of the shirt but want to leave some portions, you can use tape to cover them up. You can just cut out your design from that area or just tape down the design that you want.

Step 3:

Next, apply the bleach inside the design area with a spray bottle or paintbrush. Some find using a spray bottle more convenient, as it applies the bleach on the shirt conveniently. However, spray bottles can be damaged due to bleach, so you can just buy a new one.

However, you can use a paintbrush as many times as you want to—so long as you rinse it every time after you are done with the bleaching process. This way, paintbrushes can be more economical and last more than spray bottles while also achieving the same result.

Step 4:

When you get done with the previous step, lay down the t-shirt outside on a sunny day so it will dry quickly. Bleached t-shirts are supposed to be dried under the sun as if you washed them; it will spread away from the bleach if it’s not dried properly. 

Step 5:

Lightly spread the solution of hydrogen peroxide on the areas which are bleached, as the bleach is probably going to spread outside the marked boundary as well. If you apply hydrogen peroxide, the bleach won’t spread.

Step 6:

After the drying process is completed, you can put them in your washing machine. A little bit of washing detergent can be used as well—and don’t forget to use warm water, as warm water helps in stopping the bleaching process.

Step 7:

After you get done with the washing process, put them in the clothes dryer. Tada! You are finally done with the bleaching process of a shirt for sublimation.


1. Can you bleach a shirt with a logo?

Yes, you definitely can. There are YouTube videos about it that you can check to learn more about it.

2. Can you bleach a white shirt?

Yes, you can. The process is the same as how you would bleach any other colored shirt for sublimation.

3. How long does it take to bleach a shirt?

That depends on the kind of shirt and the color that you want to get. It normally takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.


If sublimation is a new concept for you, we recommend joining some sublimation groups for beginners on Facebook or Reddit. This is a simple and effective way to find a beginner tutorial and know more about sublimation, and you can also interact with other people who are completely new to sublimation so that you can ask queries and get tips without having to worry about getting judged.

It is better to bleach your shirts outdoors, as bleaching inside your house can be dangerous due to the spreading of chemicals.

If you complete all the steps of bleaching we talked about in our article, you can start sublimating your shirts.

We hope this article helped get started with this process. If you still have any queries, you can ask them here or just try checking out some beginner-friendly YouTube videos on sublimation.

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