How to Bleach Pants

Three Methods:Dip DyeingSpray BleachingMachine Bleaching

Bleaching is a great skill to add to your DIY repertoire. It can freshen up a graying pair of white pants and restore them to their original brilliance, or it can give a whole new lease of life to a pair of boring, old jeans. There are several different bleaching techniques you can use: dip dyeing is best if you want to completely bleach a pair of pants, turning them several shades lighter, or even completely white; spray bleaching is great for creating cool effects or bleaching specific parts of the fabric; and machine bleaching is perfect for freshening up a pair of pants, turning them a shade or two lighter. All methods are described below.

Method 1
Dip Dyeing

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    Choose your pants. Before you decide to go ahead and bleach any pair of pants in your wardrobe, take some time to consider the fabric and quality of the pants.
    • Bleaching works best on fabrics like denim, cotton, rayon, linen and polyester. The pants should also be of fairly good quality, as bleaching can disintegrate thin or weak fabrics.
    • Before you decide to bleach your favorite pair of jeans, it may be a good idea to test the bleaching process out with an older pair first. Good quality, second-hand jeans from a thrift store are perfect for this.
    • Just make sure that the pants you are bleaching have no holes or tears, as the bleach can eat away at the edges and cause them to widen.
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    Decide if you'd like to bleach the entire garment or tie dye. Depending on what kind of look you are trying to achieve, you can either bleach the pants so they are uniformly lightened all over or you can tie them to achieve a funky tie dyed look.
    • If you want them bleached evenly, you don't need to do anything, but if you want to create a tie dye effect, you will need to ball the pants up in your hands, then use two large rubber bands to hold the pants in the ball shape.
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    Put on a pair of latex gloves to protect yourself from the bleach. Bleach is corrosive and can damage your skin, so it is best to protect your hands with a pair of latex or rubber gloves.
    • You may also want to change into an old pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, as any splashes could bleach your clothing.
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    Make the bleach solution. To make the bleach solution, you will need to mix one part bleach with either four parts or three parts water, depending on how light you want the pants to be and how quickly you need to bleach them. Any kind of bleach can be used; even generic brands will work just fine.
    • Mix the solution in a large plastic tub or basin, or a sink that you will not be using for several hours.
    • New, fresh bleach will work better than old bleach and will be more effective when mixed with warm water, rather than cold.
    • The volume of solution does not matter as long as there is enough to completely submerge the pants.
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    Place the pants in the bleach solution. Place the pants - either loose or tied with rubber bands - into the bleach solution. Mix them around for a minute or two to ensure that they are completely submerged in the bleach and water.
    • Bleach will process better on damp material, so it is a good idea to rinse the jeans in some warm water to dampen them before placing them in the bleach solution.
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    Leave to soak for several hours. Once you are happy that your pants are completely soaked in the bleach solution, all you need to do it sit back and let it process. The time this takes will vary completely, depending on the fabric and level of bleaching you wish to achieve.
    • If you just want to lighten the pants very slightly, you may only need to soak them for under an hour. On the other hand, if you wish to lighten very dark jeans, it may take several hour or overnight.
    • Check on the pants every hour or so to see if they've reached the desired level of bleaching. Keep in mind that they will be a shade or two once they're dry.
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    Rinse them out. Once you are happy that the pants have been bleached to your liking, you will need to remove them from the bleach solution and rinse them thoroughly. The best way to do this is to use the spin cycle on your washing machine.
    • Make sure to put the pants in the washing machine on their own, otherwise the excess bleach could stain your other clothes!
    • If you went with the tie dye option, remember to remove the rubber bands before rinsing.
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    Dry the pants. Hang your pants in a well-ventilated or outdoor area until dry, or put them in your dryer.
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    Try them on! Try on your newly bleached pants and decide if you'd like to repeat the process to lighten them further. Some colors may require additional soaking to achieve the desired color or texture.

Method 2
Spray Bleaching

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    Mix bleach and water in a spray bottle. In a clean plastic spray bottle, mix one part bleach with three parts water.
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    Lay your pants on a plastic tarp or newspaper. Lay the pants you wish to bleach out flat on a plastic tarp or sheets of newspaper. This will prevent your flooring from becoming stained by the bleach.
    • If you only want to bleach one side of the jeans, stuff the legs full of balled-up newspaper to prevent the bleach from soaking through.
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    Wear safety goggles. As you will be spraying the bleach, it is a good idea to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes.
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    Start spraying. Start spraying your jeans with the bleach. If you have a plastic bottle with an adjustable nozzle, you can decide whether you want to spray the jeans with a concentrated blast of bleach (for an all-over bleached effect) or lightly mist the jeans with bleach (for more of a weathered look).
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    Add extra detail. The great thing about this bleaching method is that you can be more precise in terms of the details you wish to add. Use masking tape to create a stencil on the pants (stars, stripes, crosses) and spray inside the stencil to create funky bleached designs.
    • Dip a paint brush into the bleach solution and, wearing latex gloves, flick the bristles backwards onto the pants to create a cool splatter effect with the bleach. Just be very careful to flick the bleach onto the pants and not onto your face.
    • Dip a sponge into the bleach mixture and dab it onto specific areas of the pants. Try dabbing it along the seams, around the pockets and along the belt line for a designer effect.
    • Use a bleach pen to draw more intricate designs onto the pants .
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    Leave the bleach to sit. Once you are happy with your designs, you should leave the bleach to sit on the pants for about five to ten minutes to soak in.
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    Rinse and dry the pants. Put the pants through a normal wash cycle in your washing machine, without adding detergent. Dry thoroughly.

Method 3
Machine Bleaching

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    Pre-soak the pants in water and bleach. Place the pants in a plastic bucket or basin filled with a gallon of warm water and a 1/4 cup of bleach. Stir to soak the pants, then leave to sit for 5 minutes.
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    Set your washing machine to warm/hot. For best results, you should use a warm/hot setting on your washing machine. However, be sure to check the care label on your pants first; if it specifically states that they should be washed in cold water, then use cold water.
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    Put the pants in the washing machine. Remove the pants from the bleach solution and add them to your washing machine. If you have any white towels you wish to freshen up with a little bleach, you can add them to the washing machine too.
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    Add laundry detergent and bleach. Add the regular amount of your usual laundry detergent to the washer, then add about 3/4 cup of bleach.
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    Wash the pants in a normal cycle. Let the washing machine complete a regular cycle, then dry the pants thoroughly in the dryer, or drip dry outdoors.


  • This process works best on jeans.


  • Remember that bleaching fabric weakens the fibers, and shortens the life of your jeans. Straight bleach will burn holes right through cotton.
  • Do not try this without gloves. If any part of the water/bleach mixture touches your skin, rinse immediately and thoroughly with cool water.

Things You'll Need

  • A good fitting pair of pants.
  • Lots of warm water
  • Regular bleach
  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge
  • Paint brush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Latex gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Plastic tarp or newspaper
  • Washer and dryer

Article Info

Categories: Pants and Shorts