Can I bleach this? How to Change the Color of Your Formal Gown

Can I bleach my dress? | How to Change the Color of Your Formal Gown and Other Clothes

Advice Bride Other Wedding Prom The Basics

Recently, I received this email from a customer wanting to re-purpose an existing dress for her wedding.

Can I Bleach My Dress?

I bought a prom dress from you in 2010, and I loved the way it looked and felt on me. It is 100% polyester, floor length, and beaded with a cinch at the waste. I am now getting ready to get married and really want to re-purpose my dress. I am looking to take it to a tailor to get it fitted, but I am in debt due to student loans, so I am looking for as many DIY projects as I can do. I am interested in bleaching it if that is possible without damaging the dress. I would really appreciate any kind of advice you can share with me. Like I said, I LOVE this dress and it would mean so much to me to be able to wear it on my wedding day.

How to Bleach Clothes

Warning: Bleaching fabric is difficult and under the best conditions may not turn out the way you hope.  Bleach can ruin polyester, leaving it stiff and yellowed (the fabric may lighten, but the result is no where near white).

Bleaching Cotton and Natural Fibers

Cotton, cotton blends, and natural fibers are the only fabrics that I would ever attempt to bleach. A 5 gallon plastic bucket (like the Homer buckets from Home Depot) work great. Add up to 1/2 cup of bleach to the 3+ gallons of water then slowly add your garment for bleaching. Be careful not to splash the bleach water out of the bucket. Set a timer and check on the “lightness” of the fabric after 2 hours, then 30 minute increments. You can always bleach longer, but too much bleach is damaging to the fabric and can result in holes at the seams and in the garment.

Larger projects can be bleached directly in the washing machine by using the soak setting. You may need a full cup of bleach for the larger capacity of a washing machine. Run the cold wash cycle, then check the garments. A second wash with bleach might be needed, for darker fabrics. Run a final cold wash cycle, without bleach, to clean out the remaining bleach from the fabric.

Warning: For delicate fabrics, only use the soak cycle then remove the garment from the washer to gently wash and rinse, without the potential damage from the washing machine agitator.

Other Color Changing Options

The best option to change the color of polyester fabric (or any synthetic) is fabric spray.  Rather than bleach, use a white fabric spray, it is a spray paint specifically designed for fabric.  The pump sprays (like the Tulip brand) offer a wide color range and are good for smaller projects. 

Tulip Fabric Spray Assorted Colors

First try the spray on fabric from a matching wrap or extra fabric left-over from a hem.  Practice the spray pattern and coverage before using on the dress. Aerosol sprays can be layered to achieve the exact shade and appearance that you desire. Start at least 3 feet away from the dress or garment, then slowly move in closer to apply more coverage spray.

Simple Spray and other 
aerosols provide consistent coverage and are easy to use for larger projects.

Fabric spray works much better on whites and light colors. So adding a pop of color to your wedding dress makes for a bold statement at your wedding. This is also a great way to repurpose your wedding dress for another use. Fabric dye or color spray your wedding dress for a completely different look and wear it again!


Try a graduated color change with the fabric spray, like Gwen Stefani’s color sprayed wedding dress.
Can I bleach this? How to Change the Color of Your Formal Gown

I love hearing from former customers, and even better when they want to re-purpose a dress.  

Good luck with your dress and congratulation on your engagement!

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