Removing color

I’m playing again–not that I ever really quit.  I reach a point of needing to think and take a break. Then I start playing again.  I’m still not certain what to do with my other fabrics but I was sufficiently pleased with bleaching that I decided to collect a few more products and try again.


My fabric is a teal-green cotton/poly cut into 6×6″ squares. Or at least I think it’s cotton/poly. As you view the loss of color process, you’ll understand my reluctance to be positive. As with many of my fabrics, it’s been in the stash for several years. It’s also a Walmart fabric which means that it could be crap but it also could be excellent. I didn’t do the burn test. I assumed cotton/poly because it came through the wash with minimal wrinkling. Rayon feels like wood. Acetate is always slick and noisy. Cotton is always wrinkled. That’s my experience, YMMV.



I’m mostly intrigued by the use of common products in fabric manipulations. So while I know that Dharma and several art supply houses have specially formulated products, I prefer to find something on the grocery shelf. This time it was Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Clorox Bleach Pen

I opened the window in my Stash room (where I planned to work) and then covered my cutting table with a large plastic tarp. I know you can use garbage bags but I like the stiffness of the tarp and besides I found it on sale for less than a box of garbage bags.


My first sample used the Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner (with Bleach).

I  taped one edge of the stencil to the fabric and poured a line of Toilet Bowl Cleaner. The bottle has a nice nozzle which makes pouring quite ease and controllable. I tried to “pull” the Clorox with my squeegee.  I say tried because the toilet bowl cleaner (TBC) is only very slightly thickened.  I mean you can tell it’s not the straight bleach in the big bottle but it’s very runny. It absorbed into the fabric before I was half-way across the stencil.  I laid another line of TBC on the other end and pulled from that end. I lifted the stencil and waited for the bleach to work.   I kept checking every few minutes to see how it was coming along.  After about 20 minutes, I decided it was enough.

I’ve learned, with surprise, that bleach does not stop it’s bleaching action just because it’s rinsed out of the fabric article.  My research indicated I would need a bleach stop of some kind.  My research also told me it was to be commonly and cheaply found amongst the pool supplies.  Maybe it is, but it is not listed as “bleach stop”.  Since I wasn’t sure what those chemicals were, I decided upon Hydrogen Peroxide which I have and use in multiple ways at home.   I opened a fresh bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide and put a pin hole in the center of the foil sealer.   Then I squirted the sample.   I could have filled the basin or a bowl and dunked the small sample. But squirting through a pin hole is very economical and doesn’t take but a few seconds.  I let the Hydrogen Peroxide bubble for about a minute and then rinsed the sample under running water.

The result (above) was most of the color under the stencil was removed.  The sample does have a streaked appearance.  The bleach spread in the fabric and bleached areas I didn’t intended to be bleached.  It’s difficult to even tell that I used a stencil.

I made a second try with the TBC.  This time I sprayed the stencil with temporary adhesive before placing it on the fabric.  I squeeged from one edge but used a foam dauber from the other.  I left the stencil in place until I was ready to stop the process (about 15 minutes). I repeated the same process of squirting hydrogen peroxide and then rinsing with water.  The result:
Is slightly more controlled.  In the pic the top half is TBC applied with a dauber, the bottom half is TBC applied with squeegee.  I’m not going to say any one of these is better than the other.  I’ve learned when it comes to fabric manipulation that a certain amount of spontaniety is desirable.  The point here is to discover what these products will do and remember it so that in the future I know what product and what method to use to produce a specific result.




.But I wasn’t done playing. I still had the gel pen to play with.

Photobucket  One more sample was laid out. I sprayed the stencil with temporary adhesive again and using the fine-point end of the gel pen, I applied the gel within the stencil cut out.  The gel tended to stay where put i.e. it didn’t spread rapidly or very far.  I did not use any other implement (squeegee, paint brush etc) to spread the gel. I removed the stencil immediately after applying the gel.  I did not leave this sample for nearly as long.  I think I left it about 5-7 minutes. The TBC foamed while at it’s most active giving me some kind of indication that bleaching was taking place.  The gel just sat there giving me no indication that it was doing anything.

Assuming some bleaching had actually happened,I used hydrogen peroxide and then rinsed with water just as I did with the TBC samples.

I like the results of the gel sample best. It was the fastest (I tend to be impatient). I stopped the action early enough to have a lighter teal color instead of the yellow and white hues achieved with the longer time frames. The gel produced a soft edge. I’m inclined to believe that a stiffer gel solution (i.e. another product)  would be required if I wanted  crisp hard edges.

I will repeat myself here to say I’ve learned not to call any of the samples “bad”.  That I liked one better than another is because I want to produce a more controlled result.  In future projects I might prefer the wider spread of the TBC and the development of the yellow and white hues by leaving the product in place for longer periods of time. IOW, each project will require it’s own set of standards to produce the desired result.

One last note, it did seem to be enough just having the window open.  I didn’t need to run the fan.  I could smell bleach, but did not suffer any irritation like I would have, had I been using the big bottle of bleach. Cleanup was a matter of a quick squirt of hydrogen peroxide on the tarp before wiping it down and then rinsing my tools with a drop or two of hydrogen peroxide.  I do like easy cleanup.