Monday, April 21, 2014

The "Bleach Spray Shirt" Mulligan (Or, How I Learned Bleach Has a Short Shelf Life)

Bleach Spray Shirts

This blog is all about do-overs.  It's about the "oops" moments, learning from those mistakes, and trying again.

My attempt at bleach spray shirts fits riiiiight in.

My kids are nerds and proud of it. With a new baby on the way, I wanted to make the kids gifts that would be "from" their baby brother. I saw several pins for bleach spray shirts on Pinterest and thought that was a good way to go.  Add in some Dr. Who, and I would have the perfect nerd shirts!

I followed Practically Functional's directions for making a bleach spray shirt. The only difference is that I don't have a fancy stencil making device, so I had to improvise.  Here are the steps I followed:

1. Find an image online and print it on regular printer paper.
Supplies for bleach spray shirt
My printed image, T-shirt, X-Acto knife, scissors, and clear contact paper.
2. Affix the printed image on clear contact paper with some tape and cut around it with an X-Acto knife.
Make sure you have cardboard or something underneath the contact paper to protect your work surface.
Bleach Spray Shirts
I cut out the shape, then taped it to the contact paper.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Image taped down.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Cut through both the printer paper and the contact paper with the knife.

2b. Cut out all parts of the image with scissors, trace around it on clear contact paper, then cut the contact paper with scissors, using an Xacto knife just for the hard-to-reach places.
Bleach Spray Shirts
After cutting out all parts of the shape, I traced around it on the contact paper and then cut with scissors, using an X-Acto knife for inside the "D."
3. Peel the back off the contact paper, and stick the contact paper to the T-shirt. 
I had two T-shirts, so I needed two stencils.
Bleach Spray Shirts

4. Fill a spray bottle with bleach.  Take a few practice sprays into a sink.

5. Put cardboard inside the shirt so the bleach won't seep to the back. Spray a couple squirts of bleach over the stencil.
Bleach Spray Shirts
My daughter's shirt.
6. Wait for the bleach to work.
Bleach Spray Shirts
My son's shirt... waiting for the bleach to work...
7.  Wait, and wait, and wait... spray some more... and wait and wait and wait....
Bleach Spray Shirts
My daughter's shirt started to change color slightly, but my son's shirt just looked wet.
Whaaaat?  I wasn't sure what was going on at this point.  My son's shirt was not changing color--it just looked wet. My daughter's shirt was only changing slightly.  At first, I thought it was because I initially had water in the spray bottle and thought maybe there was still water in the sprayer and not bleach.  So I sprayed some more, until it had to be bleach coming through.

At this point it occurred to me... can bleach go bad?  I didn't think my bleach was that old, but then again, I don't use it very often. I looked at the bottom of the bottle, and sure enough, I discovered it was several years old.
Bleach can expire
Yep, it expired in 2011.
A quick internet search revealed that bleach can in fact expire, and not only that, it does so in a relatively short amount of time. It has an effective shelf life of about 6 months, with 12 months being about the end of its usefulness. It chemically changes into salt and water.  So basically, I was trying to bleach my shirts with a solution of salt water.

8. Buy new bleach and try again!
Immediately I could tell a difference in the bleach. Not only did the new bleach smell stronger, but it was yellow in color. My old bleach was clear. Aha. Should have known.

9. Remake a stencil, affix to shirt, spray over stencil, but go easy!
I didn't spray much at first, but the sprayer was set to a very wide, light mist, so it covered way more of the shirt than I planned. So I had to go with it and sprayed the whole front of the shirt, hoping to make it look like stars in the galaxy.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Holy bleach, batman!
10. After the front dries, add a back stencil, if so desired.

Bleach Spray Shirts
I went a little easier on the back stencil.
11. Rinse in cool water, then wash.
If you used too much bleach, you may need to run it in the dryer before rinsing and washing.  Check out Practically Functional's directions for more details.

12. Enjoy your finished product!
My daughter actually liked my first attempt at her shirt, as it resulted in a slight greenish-yellow hue. I had to completely redo my son's shirt, as the old bleach barely left an outline of the stencil.
Bleach Spray Shirts
My daughter's shirt-- she liked it just like this!
Bleach Spray Shirts
Front of my son's shirt after the do-over.
Bleach Spray Shirts
Back of my son's shirt.
Now that I know what I'm doing, I may try bleach shirts again... especially since I have a new bottle of bleach that has to be used in the next year before it goes bad!

~Mulligan Mama

*Update*- Check out the T-shirt to Tank Top revamp of this project!

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