How to Lighten Fabric Color

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Things You'll Need

  • Synthrapol

  • Clothespins or clothes hanger

  • Bleach, vinegar, baking soda or color lightener

Often, just the power of the sun is all it takes to lighten too-bright fabrics.

Whether it's a new garment, window treatments or stock yardage from the fabric store, over-saturated fabrics can detract from the slightly softer look you were going for. A number of steps will help you to lighten fabric without damaging the material or compromising any prints. Results will vary depending on the type of fabric. Synthetic fabric, for example, may have fade-resistant properties that natural fabrics do not. Fabric lightening techniques also have creative uses, such as stenciling or creating splatter effects.


Video of the Day

Step 1

Wash the item according to the washing instructions for the material, in hot water, if possible. Wash using 1/2 tsp. of Synthrapol detergent per pound of fabric. A specially formulated detergent, Synthrapol helps to extract excess dye and is safe with silk and wool. Often new fabrics still have excess dye, which will rinse out in the first washing.

Step 2

Sun-fade the item if washing has not achieved the desired level of lightening. Hang it outdoors in open sun from clothespins or a hanger. Leave the item for one to three days. Rotate it if it seems that one side receives less light than the other.


Step 3

Create a highly-diluted solution of bleach and cold water for further fading if sun-fading proved insufficient. But first, check the material instructions to see if the material can accept bleach. Test a scrap piece of the same or similar material, if possible. Soak the item in the bleach solution for a few minutes. If bleach is not an option, try soaking the item for longer in vinegar and water or baking soda and water. Commercial color lighteners are also available.



Mason Howard

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.