Clothing,  Thrifting Tips

How to Lighten Bold Colors on Clothing

We’ve all been there. You’re strolling the aisles of your favorite thrift store, coffee cup in hand and a great playlist streaming through your earbuds. You’re in the zone, flipping through old polyester jackets with sky-high shoulder pads and denim dresses with Tweety Bird patches sewn on. You know exactly what you’re looking for — and what you’re definitely not there to find.

Then, you spot it. It’s the perfect shape and size, with the perfect vintage flair that always catches your eye. The only problem? It’s washed in a shade brighter than the noonday sun. Or, it’s a patchwork of mismatched, conflicting colors that actually kind of gives you a headache.

You can’t look directly at it, but you can’t look away either. So inevitably, you begrudgingly hang it back up and walk around some more. Hours later, you’re still wondering about the one who got away, asking yourself, “What if?”

Well, fret no more! Today, I’m giving you crazy simple step-by-step instructions on how to lighten bold colors into calmer, less crazy-inducing versions of themselves. In other words, we’re transforming these wares into the etheral, pastel beauties they were always meant to become. This way, you can turn any find into a salvageable treasure.

Let’s get started!

Materials Needed:

  • An item of clothing with colors you want to fade
  • A box of Rit Laundry Treatment Color Remover
  • A stainless steel bowl
  • Rubber gloves

Step 1: Choose an Article of Clothing You Want to Change

This isn’t necessarily an experiment you want to try on your favorite blouse or summer dress. Find a piece of clothing (or thrift one!) that you’d be totally cool with transforming. Trust me, it will be worth it! Here’s the beauty I chose:

Step 2: Soak it in Bleach

Next, run a little cold water in your washing machine, then pour in about 1-2 cups of regular old bleach. Soak that bad boy for an hour or two. Go eat lunch, take a walk, finish that book, or chug through that endless mountain of e-mails.

Step 3: Prepare Your Stovetop

Wring the article of clothing out and try to squeeze out as much bleach water as possible. Then, fill a large stainless steel bowl with enough water to submerge your item of clothing in. You want to be able to totally stuff all of it inside the bowl with no part of it sticking out of the water. Get that water simmering, but not boiling.

Step 4: Mix in the Rit

Be careful to do this in a ventilated area. I turned on the fan above my oven and opened both my kitchen windows to get a good draft going. You don’t want to breathe in the powder or get it in your eyes. Using scissors that you can stick in the dishwasher later, snip the package open and pour all of the contents in. Stir with a long-handled spoon to make sure it’s all dissolved.

Step 5: Stir, Stir, Stir to Lighten Bold Colors

Next, put your clothing in the Rit-filled water. If you’re just looking to lightly fade the color, don’t spend too long on this step. About five minutes should do the trick. I wanted to really lighten this top, so I stirred it for 30 minutes. The key is to stir consistently, or the color removal might be splotchy.

Step 6: Drain the Water

Carefully, drain the water, wearing the rubber gloves. The Rit package says you can do this in your sink, but I have a 100-year-old family heirloom sink in my farmhouse kitchen and wasn’t taking any chances by dumping a chemical down the drain, so I took the pot to the woods and emptied it on a patch of dirt! There will be fumes that arise from the steam so keep your head turned.

Step 7: Rinse the Item

Rinse the item in hot water, then in warm water to get all the chemicals out. Going straight to cold water could set some creases, and you don’t want your newly fabulous item to be all wrinkled!

Step 8: Launder as Usual

Finally, pop the item in the laundry and wash and dry it as you usually would, using your regular detergent. It’s now ready to wear!

That’s it!

I’d LOVE to see if your results if any of you try to lighten bold colors with this method! Post a link in the comments below, or better yet, shoot me an e-mail and image through the “Share Your Finds” button on the top menu and I’ll feature them on a new page! Thank you for reading!