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How to Bleach a Shirt for Sublimation (T-Shirt Bleaching Techniques)

Sublimation is imprinting a design on specially treated fabric with a heat press machine. To get the best results from this process, it is important to use a shirt that you have properly prepared for this process. One way to do this is to bleach the shirt.

Bleaching a shirt for sublimation will ensure that you will get the best possible results for your design, as it will help to make the colors vibrant. This post will provide tips on how to bleach a shirt for sublimation.

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a specialized printing technique that allows the transfer of vibrant and high-resolution designs onto various substrates, such as fabrics, ceramics, metals, and plastics. It involves the transformation of a solid dye into a gas without going through the liquid state, hence the term “sublimation.”

What is Sublimation Printing

The sublimation process utilizes a combination of heat and pressure to enable the dye to penetrate the surface of the substrate, resulting in a permanent and durable print. The key element in sublimation printing is the sublimation ink, which is typically composed of colored dyes suspended in a liquid solvent.

The Supplies You Need To Bleach A Shirt For Sublimation

You will need various supplies to bleach a shirt for sublimation. These supplies include:

  • 1. Shirt – You need to find a suitable shirt for the process, such as a 100% polyester or a 65% polyester/ 35% cotton blend.
  • 2. Detergent – Use a chemical-free detergent when prepping the shirt for bleaching.
  • 3. Bleach – Use water and chlorine bleach to create the bleaching effect. Be sure to wear gloves and avoid direct contact with the eye.
  • 4. Sublimation ink – Use compatible ink for your printer and temperature settings.
  • 5. Heat press – A heat press will transfer and seal the sublimation ink to the garment. Make sure you buy one that is designed for sublimation.
  • 6. Protective paper – You will need release paper to protect the surface of the heat press when transferring the image.
  • 7. Printable transfer paper – This paper needs to be compatible with the sublimation ink.

It is important to use a fabric that will accept the dye. Cotton and polyester blended fabrics work best for this process. The 65% cotton to 35% polyester ratio ensures that the shirt will remain bright after bleaching and absorb the sublimation ink well. This fiber combination will create a sweat-wicking and breathable shirt with a sharp, vibrant design.

How to Apply Bleach on Your Shirt For Sublimation 

There are two t-shirt bleaching techniques for sublimation. First, you can spray the bleach onto the shirt. This method is quick and easy, but it can take a lot of work to control the bleach coverage. To do this, wear rubber gloves and a face mask and work in a well-ventilated area. Then, holding the spray bottle approximately 10 inches from the fabric, spray the bleach evenly in short bursts. 

Alternatively, to ensure more even coverage, you can paint the bleach with a paintbrush. Put on rubber gloves and a face mask before starting, and then mix a solution of 1 part bleach with 1 part water. Dip the brush in the solution and then paint the fabric. Allow the bleach to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing it with cold water.

Additionally, you can bleach your shirt before and after the sublimation process. You should bleach your shirt before the sublimation process if you want to lighten the color of the shirt. Alternatively, if you’re going to lighten the color after the sublimation process, you can use bleach to help strip away the ink to lighten the color. However, that bleach may affect the dyes and ink used in the sublimation process, damaging the image. Doing a test sample before bleaching an entire shirt is advised.

Remember, If you use a shirt with less cotton, it may be less appealing when you bleach, whether before or after. Cotton is naturally a very absorbent fabric, which means it will absorb the bleach more quickly than a fabric with less or no cotton. The resulting design after bleaching may be much less distinct and look more faded than if you had used a fabric with less or no cotton.

How To Bleach A Shirt Before Sublimation

Bleaching the shirt before sublimation is the better option. Bleaching the shirt helps the sublimation ink adhere to the fabric properly and ensures the design will look its best after the process. The process must be done carefully and thoroughly to bleach a shirt for sublimation properly. 

You will get better results if you bleach the shirt on a dry, sunny day. Sun rays are made up of ultraviolet (UV) light, which helps to break down the molecules in the bleach, speeding up the chemical reaction that causes the whitening of your shirt. It can help brighten a fabric naturally and reduce discoloration and fading. It’s a good idea to hang your freshly bleached shirt out to dry in bright, direct sunlight for the best results.

Below are the steps you should follow to bleach a shirt before sublimation:

Step 1: Slide a piece of cardboard or a foam board inside the shirt

The first step of bleaching a shirt is to slide a piece of cardboard or a foam board inside the shirt. This will provide a barrier between the front and back of the shirt and create a blank slate for bleaching. This will also help to protect any unbleached areas of the fabric from being discolored by the bleach.

Step 2: Clean the surface

The second step is to clean the surface where you want to bleach the design. Before bleaching, use a lint roller to remove any dirt, pet hair, or lint that may have accumulated on the fabric. This will help ensure a smooth, even bleaching process.

Step 3: Outline the design area by placing a template

When you are ready to bleach your shirt for sublimation, you should lay the template on your shirt in the exact location and orientation you want the design on the final shirt. Make sure the design is cut to the exact size and shape you desire and that the design is centered on the shirt. 

Step 4: Mark out the design

Using a paintbrush, apply a thin layer of flour along the edges of your design. This will create a contrast against the shirt to mark where you should bleach your design. The flour will act as a temporary stencil and help you keep your design in place while you bleach.

Step 5: Bleach the Design Area

Once you have your outline of the design area, take out a bottle of bleach and a brush. Then “paint” the area within the outline with the bleach. Be sure to cover all of the lines and edges of the design with the bleach. This will help the design stand out on the fabric when you rinse.

Step 6: Dry your shirt by hanging it under the sun

Drying your bleached shirt under the sun can be beneficial and will help ensure the bleach’s effects will be long-lasting. The sun’s ultraviolet rays act as a natural bleaching agent and will help brighten the fabric’s color. Of course, ensure the shirt doesn’t dry out too much under the sun, as this could cause it to fade prematurely.

Step 7: Rinse and dry your shirt

To ensure your sublimation design stays permanently on your shirt, you need to rinse it with cold water after the bleach dries and before applying the design. Once the shirt has dried, you will be ready to apply the design.

Step 8: Sublimate the shirt you have breached

The last step is to sublimate the area you have bleached. Set the heat press at 400 degrees and press the shirt for 60 seconds. Once the time is up and it’s cooled down, remove it, and the shirt is ready to wash and wear.

Bleaching Your Shirt After Sublimation

The second way to bleach a shirt for sublimation is to bleach it afterward. Below are the steps you should follow to bleach your shirt after sublimation.

Step 1: Sublimate your shirt

Start by preparing your heat press to 400 degrees before sublimating the shirt. Make sure you preheat the shirt for 10-15 seconds to get rid of moisture. 

Clear away any lint with a lint roller. When the shirt has cooled, position the design around 2 inches below the collar. Secure the design with heat-resistant tape on each side of the shirt. 

Place parchment paper over the design and press at 400 degrees for 60 seconds. Take away the parchment paper and transfer it before the shirt cools down. Now you can begin bleaching the shirt.

Step 2: Protect the shirt

Place a piece of stiff material inside your shirt, such as a cardboard box or garbage bag, to stop the bleach from leaking to the other side. It is better to use a cardboard box as it is easier to work with.

Step 3: Use bleach to outline your design

Pour some bleach into a container, then take a paintbrush, such as a foam brush, a chippy brush, or any other type. Dip the brush into the bleach and start tracing your sublimation design – this won’t harm the design.

Step 4: Hang and Dry your shirt 

Once you have finished bleaching, hanging your shirt up to dry thoroughly is best. Keeping the shirt on a sunny day will help it dry quicker. However, even if there is no sunshine, you can still continue to bleach your shirt.

Ultimately, you should rinse your shirt in cold water. If you are going to really wash it, use a small amount of detergent and omit fabric softener. Hang the shirt to dry once more, and it is ready for wearing.

And there you have it. You can use these two methods to bleach a shirt for sublimation. You can bleach the shirt before or after you breach it, and it’s really up to you which method you want to go with. Just follow all safety precautions and take the necessary steps to ensure the shirt is properly prepped before you start the sublimation process.


Bleaching a shirt for sublimation is an easy process that can dramatically impact the success of your sublimation project. When done properly, the results are vibrant and beautiful, but it takes some forethought and planning. To begin with, the quality of your shirt is the key to the project’s success. Environmentally-friendly bleaches are great choices for whitening the fabric and avoiding any potential damage to fibers. 

The amount of time you use for bleaching the shirt is also an important factor in determining the vibrancy of the transfer medium. Allowing the bleach to remain on the shirt long enough will give you beautiful results. With all the steps considered, you can be sure your sublimation project will turn out bright and beautiful.


What type of bleach should you use for sublimation?

The best type of bleach to use for sublimation is non-chlorine bleach because it is less harsh than chlorine bleach. Be sure to check the labels and instructions on the bleach carefully to ensure that the product is safe to use on the type of material the shirt is made of. 

How should I apply the bleach to the shirt?

The best way to apply the bleach to the shirt is by using a soft brush or a rag dampened with the bleach solution. Be sure not to soak the entire shirt or let too much bleach pool in one spot, as this can damage the material.

How long should the bleach stay on the shirt?

You should only leave the bleach on the shirt for approximately 10-15 minutes for it to take effect. Too much bleach can cause damage to the material, so be sure to check the progress of the bleaching and rinse it off with cold water as soon as it is light enough.

How should I wash the shirt after bleaching it?

After the bleaching process is complete, washing the shirt to remove any remaining bleach properly is important. First, rinse the shirt with cold water and then place it in a washing machine with a mild detergent on a gentle cycle. After the cycle is complete, hang the shirt up to air dry.