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{DIY Tutorial} When Your Husband Ruins Your Favorite Shirt.

The Candyman is excellent at doing chores (he calls it "choreplay"). We’ve got a pretty good distribution of tasks. He does the lawn. I cook. He vacuums. I do the bathrooms. He's in charge of dishes and I clean the cat box. When it comes to laundry, we both pretty much suck.

I hate laundry. He hates laundry. We both hate folding. He doesn’t sort colors and never knows which things of mine to hang dry and which not to (that’s okay though, I really don’t expect him to know that). The Candyman will wear something for 5 minutes and throw it in the laundry basket. He ends up with twice as much laundry as I do.

He’s also one of those guys who bleaches his whites on the regular. I don’t know who taught him to do this, but we all know that when you bleach stuff – you gotta run a quick cycle afterwards to get all the bleach out of the washer. And you particularly need to do this if you haven’t cleaned out the soap scum that sticks to the insides of the washer. And yes, I’m letting you in on the fact that sometimes we’re gross and don’t clean out our washer as often as we should. Don’t judge. We all have a bit of nasty in our private lives, no?

So anyway, some time ago The Candyman bleached and didn’t rinse and then I did laundry. I happened to wash an Ann Taylor top that I LOVED. And it wasn’t cheap. And it was super cute. And I wore it when I was on What Not to Wear when they featured my girl Hillary from Brocade Design Arts in Nashville.  I featured her e-shoot here. Anyway, here’s what the top looked like in it’s original state:


That’s me with my officiant (he was the officiant in the “fake” wedding set up to surprise Hillary), Ralph Griggs. As a quick aside, you should totally check out his on-line marriage preparation course. It rocks! Anyway, I loved this top. I wore it with 800 billion different things.

When I washed it post Candyman Laundry Bleach Day, this is what happened to it.

Can you see the lighter bleach marks on the left? Yeah. That’s where it got pressed up against the nasty bleach-holding soap scum inside the washer. Nice. I tried to wear it a few times under a jacket or whatever, but there are marks on the back bottom edge too and it just looked like crap. I’ve been holding onto this shirt for a year or so now, because I just couldn’t throw it out or give it away. I definitely have an unnatural attachment to clothing.

So I found it all wadded up in the back of a closet shelf (what? like you don’t have shit wadded up in your closet? ) and was woefully considering its new home in the trash. I’ve always thought that the stain looked a bit like a tie-dye mark and that’s when I decided to bleach it ON PURPOSE.

I checked the material and it was mostly cotton, with some rayon in the ruffles, so was all, “Why not? I can only make it worse, right?”

So has everyone tie-dyed before? I learned how in art class in the 9th grade. I also learned by watching my Deadhead brother do it in our garage when we were teenagers. When you tie-dye with colors, it’s a total pain in the ass and messy to boot. Tie-dyeing with bleach is easy and quick.

So in case you have no idea how to tie-dye with bleach (also known as Reverse Tie-Dye), here’s what you’ll need:

  • A colored 100% cotton garment.
  • A few cups of bleach.
  • Your washing machine.
  • Rubber bands.

There are all sorts of ways to create patterns when you tie-dye. You can do vertical and horizontal marks, stripes, sunburst patterns, spirals – you name it. I think starbursts are the easiest and since my shirt already had that kind of stain on it, I went with that.

  • Basically you pick a point where you want the center of the starburst to be. Try to avoid putting one right in the boob location or you’ll be sorry. Right in the center is lame too. You want to have them sort of scattered and random.
  • Hold the fabric at that center point and twist the fabric into a long spiral of fabric. if you’re starting on the front, make sure to keep the fabric on the back loose. You’ll want different patterns on the front and back.
  • Start wrapping those rubber bands around the fabric TIGHTLY. That’s where your color is going to be, so you don’t want the bleach to seep in under loose rubber bands!
  • The rubber bands can be spaced randomly or symmetrically or however you want to do it. I made mine random with no real thought. I used different sizes and shapes of rubber bands too.

Here’s what it looked like pre-soak.


I made sure to include bits of the ruffled parts. I really had no idea how this was going to turn out. You can also do this next step in a bucket, but it’s much easier to do in the washer.

  • Use the smallest load setting on HOT. Depending on the size of your washer, you’ll need to adjust how much bleach you used. I have a normal size washer (no front load or extra capacity stuff here) and I used about 3 cups of bleach. Honestly, I just eye-balled it.
  • Once the water is done filling and your bleach is in, drop in the garment and close the lid and let it agitate a few seconds and then open the lid again.
  • Let it soak for a few hours. I meant to soak mine about 2-3 but forgot and it was in there for like 5 or 6. Ooops.

*Note: Some people do a high bleach to water ratio and dip it for a few minutes (like in the bucket method above), but I think that it’s too high of a concentration for 100% cotton. I’d rather use less bleach and soak longer. That’s a personal preference.

  • Close the lid and let the washer run it’s course. Run the washer again when it’s done with detergent with the garment inside. This will get rid of the bleach smell AND rinse out your washer.
  • Carefully cut or removed the rubber bands when the garment is wet. Be careful. I wasn’t and snipped a hole in the side seam. I was able to fix that, but it was a dumb mistake. Don’t be dumb like me.
  • Dry and wear. If it still smells like bleach, wash it again.


See, this is why your should avoid the boob area. It looks like my right boob is leaking radio active goo. No?

Front. Yes, this is our bathroom. It’s early and my hair is a fluff ball mess of  whatever. I mean, I haven’t even showered. Cut me some slack. You’re lucky I’m not in the shirt and panties for chrissake.

Do you know hard hard it is to get a pictures of your back in a mirror? I took like 60 shots of my toilet before I got this one. Anyway, the point is to show you the pattern on the back. So there it is.

I really like how the ruffles came out two-toned. I probably could have just bleached it without tie-dyeing it and gotten a pretty cool effect. I do like the end result though and am happy that I have my shirt back, though it doesn’t necessarily have the same vibe it once did. Definitely an end-of-summer shirt I can wear for a little while longer.

The Candyman now knows that he can’t get all bleach-happy without rinsing the machine out. The rub is that I’m doing most of the laundry now anyway, so the point is moot.

Has your partner ruined any of your things yet? Have you saved a favorite something from ruin by changing it all-together? Do tell.

Reader Comments (10)

I actually think I like your shirt with the tie dye better than before. This turned out so great!

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Bunny

WOMAN. You are amazing. I tried to dye one of my favorite cotton tops - it has a print on it that I love, but it's dyed black cotton with white accents, so you can guess how well THAT lasted even on gentle in cold. I tried to dye over the whole pattern and went with fuschia figuring that if it looked ugly at least I had tried. It doesn't look fantastic. I wasn't careful enough and patient enough about time. But I can always try again! There was some amazing-looking dye at Blick that looked fun...

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennie

It looks pretty darn good! Not being as talented in the DYI dept. as you, I probably would have tried an overall dye job with a dark color. Not sure if it would evenly cover the bleached spots, however.

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMom

That is AMAZING. Did someone already say that? No matter. It is AMAZING.

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLori

1) THAT SHIRT LOOKS AWESOME. What a great job, radioactive boob and all!
2) I have never, ever, EVER in my life heard that you're supposed to rinse a washing machine after using bleach. I mean, we kind of, uh, rarely bleach in my household. We rarely sort, either. We just kind of throw everything in on cold. My mother, though, is an obsessive color-sorter and bleach-user. I feel like a laundry failure next to her. And yet she didn't even know about machine-rinsing? Mwah hah, looks like the Goddess of Laundry has taken a slight tumble down the totem pole!

August 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlyn

@Lyn - They even have washing machine cleaner stuff you can buy. I totally bought it, sucker that I am.

August 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

Genius! You are so clever, L!

August 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Spoon

I really like how it turned out. When I started reading and saw the stain, that was my first thought-- "That looks kinda like tie-dye." So I am glad to see how great it turned out when you decided to go with it and DIY to experiment.

Hey, new here and just in time. This is such a great post. I love how you salvaged that shirt. It looks awesome!! My brain is buzzing right now thinking of shirts I can "ruin." Got any ideas for a stained white shirt???

August 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

@Laura - Welcome!! And girl, just get yourself some Rit Dye and tie dye that sucker up!
There's several more steps involved though....

August 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

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