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Trending ALERT! How to Bleach a Flannel Shirt with Brooke at The Junk Parlor.

When I go to sell at an antique show, people are always trying to sell bleached flannel shirts! And they are selling them for big bucks!  So, what do I decide to do?  I decided to try to make some myself! And now that I have, I’m teaching you how to bleach a flannel shirt.

Please, please be sure to check out the what I learned section because you do not want to lose brain cells like me!!!

First off you are going to need flannel shirts! (these are the cheapest ones I could find online) Now, I am making these to sell, so I am bleaching A LOT of shirts at a time.  But this is how I do things…in bulk.  Doing a lot of the same thing at the same time just is more time efficient!!

And my to-do list is WAY too long to not be time efficient!!

So, gather your shirts!  Bleach some for your kid’s friends, your friends, the neighbors… doing it 10 times takes about as much time as doing it once!

Watch Me Bleach a Flannel Shirt Step by Step

Where Do You Get Shirts?

Getting shirts is kind of like getting junk.  Want to know where I get junk?

I checked the mens section EVERY time I went to a thrift shop.  AND I picked up flannels for next to nothing at garage sales.  Between these two places, you should be able to find quite a few and have a nice selection!

I also didn’t pay attention to labels, like I probably should have because turns out, many of them WILL NOT bleach! Now when I research what fabric blends won’t whiten or are resistant to bleach, I can’t get a straight answer!

So I’m going to tell you as an unofficial recommendation, because I’m just telling you my experience..get a shirt that is a cotton blend.  If the shirt feels like it has rough scratch wool in it, then don’t get that one because it’s probably not going to take the bleach.  A very official answer, you are welcome.

Of course the shirts that didn’t bleach for me, I just tried to sell as is.  So buy cute ones that you would like even if the bleach technique doesn’t work!  You can always embellish them another way with letters that go on a lettermans jacket or with lace or vintage patches!

Tip!  If you are making these to sell, stay out of the women’s section!!  People are not little and even if they are, this is one clothing item that people want big.  They are going to tie it up real cute, layer it over a little tank, OR just simply want it oversized. So, no smalls, a few mediums, but focus on large and up!

The Supplies

  • Flannel shirt
  • Tub of bleach solution
  • Running water
  • Gloves

Ok, so you have your shirts, now what?

You will need bleach, water and a tub for your bleach solution.  I used a plastic storage tote I had.  Did you know that I love and use storage totes for lots of different things? Take a look.

And probably the most important tip I can give you is to be in a well ventilated area!!!

I read that this should be the location and I thought the bathroom with one door and a closed window qualified as a well ventilated area…WRONG! 

If at all possible do this outside!  (Watch the video and note that I am outside)

After bleaching a couple shirts in the bathtub I realized it was pretty smelly.  Grabbed a fan and proceeded to smell up the whole house.  I was too stubborn to give up, and I’m pretty sure I lost a few brain cells that day.  So I repeat…GO OUTSIDE!

Another important factor..please be sure to wear clothes that you are okay with getting bleach on them!  I would hate for you to do this project and ruin your clothes!  And it will happen! I have so many pairs of clothes with paint spots on them because I always think to myself…oh, I’ll be extra careful this time…it’s just a little project, I won’t get paint on myself THIS time…I’m already ready to start, I don’t want to take a couple minutes to change… BUT, guess what happens? I get paint on myself 99% of the time!

So don’t be like Brooke!  Change your clothes!

I am also totally the person that never wears gloves when doing a project.  I don’t know how many times I’ve ran to the sink with stripper burning a hole through my hand!  Again, I always think oh, it will be fine this time, I’ll be careful!  Ugh!

So, you have work clothes on and gloves.  You are outside with a tub of bleach solution and flannel shirts that are cotton blend.  Sounds like you are ready to get started!

The Process: How to Bleach a Flannel Shirt

  • Make Bleach Solution
  • Dip Shirt in Solution
  • Rinse Shirt
  • Wash Shirt

In your tub mix half and half water and bleach.  I guesstimated, but you could always go grab a cottage cheese container out of the recycling to measure with.  Why did I say that?  Because that’s what I would do!

With your gloves on, select which end of your shirt you want to bleach.  You could do the top section or bottom section. 

Tip: A common design rule is to split things into thirds.  That means imagine splitting the shirt into 3 equal sections.  Then you will either want to bleach one of those sections…1 section is bleached and 2 sections are not bleached.  OR bleach two of those sections…1 section is NOT bleached and 2 sections are. The Rule of Thirds.

Dip that section into the bleach. To get an ombre effect, dip a small section into the bleach solution.  Then, add a little bit more of the shirt to the solution and wait. Then add a little bit more.  That first section has now been in the bleach solution 3 times longer than the top section and should be more bleached, white, after you wash it!

Because I bleached a lot of shirts at once, I would remove them from the bleach solution and then lay them out.  I would stack them on top of each other being sure to put all of the bleached sections on top of each other.  That means that some of the shirts would be facing different directions depending on if I bleached the top or bottom of the flannel.

After I have dipped all of the flannel shirts in the bleach solution, I would start with the shirt I dipped first and rinse it off.  After rinsing the shirts off really well I would again stack them with the bleached sections together.  

After rinsing all of the shirts off with water I washed the shirts.

Then, when you pull them out of the dryer…voila!  Your masterpiece is revealed!

And, then you will be addicted and want to do more…you’re welcome!

And when you do your next batch you will know how to tweak the process to get the look you want!

Tip: Get a splatter effect by adding bleach solution to a spray bottle!

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of shirt do I use?

According to my Google research, you do need the shirt to have some polyester in it because 100% cotton shirts can get some holes in them.  However, you do not want the shirt to have fibers that are colorfast, because then it will not take the bleach.  Meaning there will be no evidence that you tried to bleach the shirt. Since I don’t know exactly what the label would say, my advice is that you want the majority of the label to say cotton.  And you do not want to pick something that is scratchy and feels like wool.  You are welcome for the super helpful answer ha!

How do I make the bleach solution?

Use 50% water and 50% bleach.  If you use a gallon of bleach, then you will use a gallon of water. A guestimate is fine!  I would probably error in the side of a little too much water.

What color will the bleached section of the shirt be?

This really depends on the type of fabric.  Different fabrics are going to respond differently to bleach.  It also depends on the amount of time you hold the shirt in the bleach solution.  The longer you have it submerged, the water the fabric is going to be.  If you just want a lighter version of the plaid flannel, then don’t have it in the solution as long.

What if I want a different design?

See Tip about spray bottle

See Tip about ombre effect

How long does the flannel shirt need to set in the bleach solution?

The longer you soak the shirt in the bleach solution, the whiter it will probably become.  I say probably because different shirt materials will have a different bleach time.  If you like for some of the plaid to be visible then you don’t need to let it soak.  Soaking time in the solution is less than 5 minutes IF you are going to let the bleach solution set on the shirt outside of the solution before rinsing it off.

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Bleach Flannel

Equipment

  • Have a big tub that you can put in a WELL ventilated area

Materials

  • Buy flannel shirts that do not have wool in them
  • Have a water source
  • Have bleach *optional put bleach in a spray bottle
  • Wear gloves

Instructions

  • Make your bleach solution by using a 50/50 ratio of bleach to water
  • Choose an end of the shirt to bleach and dip that section in the bleach solution
  • Set that shirt aside until you are finished using the bleach
  • When finished, rinse of the bleach solution with water
  • Wash your flannels

This post may contain affiliate links for the products I use and recommend. I am not paid to promote these products. If you purchase using my affiliate links, I could make a small commission at no charge to you.

25 thoughts on “Trending ALERT! How to Bleach a Flannel Shirt with Brooke at The Junk Parlor.”

  1. Thanks so much for making the video. Very informative and inspiring. I missed how you wash them though. I’m cold water? Detergent? Softner for the bleach smell?

    1. I just wash them with my normal detergent in cold water. I haven’t had a problem with lingering bleach smells. Glad you enjoyed the video!

  2. Your video was very informative and well-done. Thank you for the step by step. How do you do the splatter effect like I see on certain shirts?

    1. Brooke Johnson

      I’m guessing you just put the bleach how you want it. You could wear gloves and flick it on or you could put some in a spray bottle. I hope that helps! Good luck!

  3. I have some old flannel shirts that haven’t seen the front side of the closet for a while, this looks like fun?! Thanks for posting this video!

  4. Michele Pitcock

    I know you made this video years ago, but bleached flannels are still a popular item. Here in Tennessee anyway. I just thought I’d add something….the reason certain fabrics don’t bleach is there is too much synthetic fiber. Like polyester or nylon. Wool is natural so it will definitely bleach. Polyesters won’t at all. Thanks for your tutorial! I wish you great success! I think it’s great you don’t charge an arm and a leg for these items! Wish I could visit your shop. I pray Covid did not affect you business wise!

    1. Brooke Johnson

      Yes, I think flannels will always be popular! Bleached, embellished. Have a great day and thanks for the information!

    1. Hi Laurie!
      I do Live Sales on Facebook every Sunday at 7pm and Tuesday at noon CST. I also go Live on Instagram every Thursday at 6:30am. I switch weeks with a friend, so some weeks we are on here account and some weeks we are on mine. Otherwise they are just at random times and I don’t have a notification system set up anymore. When you watch from Facebook it often asks if you want to be notified when I go Live and you’d just want to click yes!

        1. Sorry, I don’t use that feature anymore. Facebook lets you select notifications differently now, so I would suggest upping your notifications on Facebook and ringing the bell on YouTube. That way you shouldn’t miss anything! Thank you!

  5. I can’t seem to find the follow-up video of the bleached flannel shirts. I would really like to see them. Loved your tutorial video on how to do them!

  6. There’s a step I’d suggest adding: after you rinse out the bleach put the whole garment into a bucket filled with 9 parts water to 1 part hydrogen peroxide fir 20+ minutes to “stop” the bleach entirely. Then wash in laundry.. Otherwise that powerful chemical will keep eating away at the cotton fabric and crest holes

    1. Thanks for the extra tip! I guess I lucked out on mine because they didn’t get on each other in the wash or create holes! I still have a couple I did years ago!

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