This is a big part of why I wanted to make this page. There a lot of shit that you can google and learn on the internet. Unfortunately, a lot of that shit is still incomplete. I googled a lot about dying denim so that I could make sure I end up with the right hues for my costume. Even so, there’s a lot of this process that is technique (which nobody tells you) and requires practice (which nobody tells you), not to mention having too little of the previous two items means buying more and more materials (which nobody tells you) in order to get enough of one to have the other. Which can be pretty fucking expensive, and I think one of my google searches did mention this but I’m not sure.
Here’s some of the shit I learned in a very expensive manner. Bleaching blue jeans is a common start to dying them a specific color. Fair enough. Some of the basics are common sense and some actually need to be mentioned. Like diluting the bleach 1 part to 1 part water or 1 part bleach to 2 parts water. Why? Because bleach can burn holes in your clothes if it is too concentrated. For a chemistry geek like me I didn’t need to know that but some do. Wear gloves while you’re doing this. Naturally we’re not talking about ski gloves. Rubber gloves. Most people think of rubber dish gloves. While effective I would recommend large industrial rubber gloves. They’ll last longer and stand up to heavier use. You may be using them for dying, bleaching, painting, gluing, glazing, jerking off, any number of things. Invest a couple of extra bucks and get some that are worth the investment. The link I gave is for the Marigold site where you can buy them by the dozen, at not a bad price. You can buy them by the pair at Grainger. I would also recommend Grainger for any other PPE (personal protective equipment) you might need. When working props you’ll use saws, dremels, brushes, sand paper and any number of other things so you’ll want things to protect yourself like disposable coats and safety glasses. Having worked in chemistry labs I cannot stress safety enough. I’ve seen people go to the hospital for the dumbest reasons and most of them because they didn’t take a second to protect themselves. Losing an eye because you’re just going to trim something off with the dremel and won’t need the safety glasses is just stupid. Buy a pair, wear them, live a long and happy life. The same kind of thing is true from the gloves. Some of the things mentioned above involve some very caustic chemicals and keeping them off of you will make the entire process much more enjoyable. Sure the gloves, glasses and coat may be warm and uncomfortable for 15-30 minutes, but that nasty chemical burn that sends you to the emergency room in pain is going to show you what I mean.
Getting back to the bleach thing. If you use it straight is will take the color out of your clothes quickly, and when you wash them to get the extra bleach out your clothes will literally fall apart. Even diluted there is some technique involved in bleaching clothes. I purchased two pairs of pants and some bleach to try just for the experience. At $20 a pair, perhaps not my best thought out plan. This is where that whole Love Goodwill thing comes in. I purchased two large bottles of bleach but only used one. In an odd spat of thriftiness I decided to reuse the bleach water from the first pair. Somebody with more experience might know whether this is a good idea or not. Nobody fucking told me this shit so I had to try it for myself. The first pair of pants are on the left and the second are on the right.
The pair on the left still has some blue in them. One of the things that was mentioned in my googling was to move the clothes around to prevent clothes from bunching up and preventing the bleach from bleaching evenly. On the left the bleach was even but it looks almost like they were not bleached long enough. I did leave them in longer than the 30 minutes most searches recommend. Because I was going to dye them I wanted to make sure I had a good base to work with. After pulling them out and putting in the second pair I noticed that the color seemed to be fading significantly faster in the second pair. This could be an issue with the quality of the pants or even a greater concentration of bleach as water was removed from the bucket when the first pair of pants were removed. I have no idea the actual reason. Because of the speed the reaction was progressing I pulled the pants out quicker than I did with the first pair. The discoloration is much more thorough in regards to the blue. The difference, however, is that the pair on the right show some yellow discoloration. This IS something they tell you on some of the searches. Concentrated bleach can leave a yellowing type tint to the clothes. As I haven’t dyed them yet I don’t know if this will effect the final color. Because of the differences I have decided to dye the blue tinged pants with my green dye and the other pair with the much lighter yellow dye. Once that is done I’ll post my thoughts on the effects of the bleaching and dying.
Is it possible that reusing the bleach water made a difference, absolutely. I’m not going to go buy a couple more pairs of pants to check though. Feel free to attempt this experiment yourself. This is definitely and area where visiting Goodwill, buying some cheap clothes and trying it out first could save a lot of time and money. Because of the length of this I will cover the dying technique in my next post.