Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Discharging Dye With Bleach

Today was a hit and a miss. I had a window of opportunity to do some bleach discharging outside before several days of rain settle in. I ironed my freezer paper stencils to some solid black cotton fabric (it may be Kona cotton but I'm not sure - it has the weight of a Kona) and set them out on the porch. Here you can see how the center circles have to be added one by one. While I like precision, I was not concerned about these being perfectly centered.

It's been years since I've done discharge this way. I pulled out a notebook with info on discharging to refresh my memory on the procedure and was surprised to find a note indicating that the bleach is to be mixed with HOT water. I wonder if this explains some of my problems with very slow discharging in the past. Rather than measure out a new solution, I just grabbed the spray bottle of diluted bleach from under the kitchen counter. No idea of the proportions of bleach to water, but as long as you keep an eye on your fabric, it really doesn't matter too much. I set it in hot water to warm it up while I got the neutralizing bath prepared: 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water. I know, I know. There are those out there who insist vinegar doesn't stop the bleaching action, but my source doesn't agree with that, and I too have not had any trouble with discharged fabrics neutralized this way. I think the key is in the thorough rinsing and washing in detergent that follows the dip in the vinegar solution.

At any rate, I sprayed quite a lot of bleach solution on the bigger stencil as the first few sprays didn't seem to be saturating the fabric. Before moving on to the smaller one, I suddenly realized I should NOT be spraying so much bleach on because, although the freezer paper acts as a resist, if the exposed fabric gets too wet, the moisture will wick under it. Stencil 2, then got a light spray and a wait. Even so, you can see areas that must have a higher concentration of moisture because of their quick discharging. After a bit when no additional discharging seemed to be happening compared to the larger piece beside it, I lightly sprayed a little more bleach solution over it. When the discharge looked to match my found piece of metal (and perhaps a bit too late remembering that wet fabric is always darker than dry), I removed the stencil and dunked the fabric in the vinegar neutralizer.

Swish, rinse, suds, rinse, damp dry and iron. Yes, I could tell as soon as I removed the first few circles of the stencil, my super saturated cloth was a miss. At least for my intended purpose. It may work for something else, but not this particular project.

Ahhh, but my 3 x 3 is definitely a hit!


Connie Rose said...

Blogger's being weird this evening, this is the 3rd time I've left this comment!

Anyhow, I love the two discharged pieces, great work! FYI, you really should be using AntiChlor to neutralize the bleach -- vinegar won't do the job. Dharma and ProChem carry AntiChlor. Without it the bleach will continue to eat at the fabric, albeit slowly.

June said...

The 3 x 3 is definitely a winner.

And of course, we'll all have advice -- washing the fabric helps remove the sizing so the bleach can penetrate. And if you did that (which you probably did), then having it slightly damp might allow the bleach to penetrate through rather than puddle around and under.

And I think you are right that the washing thoroughly is perhaps what has allowed your fabrics to come through without damage. But I fear Connie is correct for the most part -- AntiChlor is the only way to go. But it's another chemical and has to be dealt with in tiny bits; like bleach it can be overdone. I dislike it as it effects my lungs.

The horror story about bleach and holes is from Jane Dunnewold, who in the 90's sold a piece of silk for a fabulous sum, only to have it returned to her with holes. After hearing that I've always used anti-chlor, even on sturdy cottons. But I suspect that numerous washings could dilute the bleach sufficiently.

Congrats on the successful piece. Your percentage of success is about what mine often was, which may mean that you can discard all this advice at will:-)

Sherrie Spangler said...

Your 3x3 is stupendous! It glows! I took a workshop from Jane Dunnewold in the '90s in Houston where we bleach discharged samples and used vinegar to stop the process. It's been over 10 years and the samples haven't shown any deterioration. That said, I don't even like to use bleach for cleaning because of the toxicity.