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Home Bleaching of Silk, Wool, Cotton, and Hemp

Bleaching with peroxide is an effective and safe way to whiten all natural fibers. 

Here is what you will use :

1 pint bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), 3%
This is the strength commonly available at grocery stores and pharmacies.

100 g / 4 oz white silk (eri, cultivated silk, mulberry silk, bombyx mori silk) or wool
50 g / 2 oz beige silk (wild, Tussah, Muga, any naturally beige), cotton, or hemp

As with all dyework, you will need to do this in a well-ventilated area.  

This process uses heat, so you will need a cooktop or hot plate

You will also need a large pot with a lid — large enough for your material to move easily around within it.  Aluminum pots can work, but this process will discolor the pot and long use may dissolve it. Iron pots may permanently stain the fiber. Stainless steel or enamel pots are best

Here is what you will need to do :

  1. Prepare your textile as for dyeing.
    1. For fiber : put into a mesh bag
    2. For skeins : tie them loosely so they won’t tangle
    3. For fabric : fully open out the fabric
  2. “Wet out” the material.  Use hot water for fiber and yarn; run fabric through a wash cycle to remove any sizing. 
  3. Pour the peroxide into the pot and fill with warm water.  Add your material and cover.
  4. Heat to a simmer — when bubbles are forming on the bottom of the pot but it is not yet boiling.
  5. Continue to hold at a simmer until your material is light enough, maximum 10 minutes.  
  6. If your material is still not light enough after 10 minutes, add more peroxide and continue for another 10 minutes. 
  7. Once your material has become sufficiently light, remove and let cool a bit.
  8. Rinse the material and dry.  “Work” it as it dries to soften. 


The amount of hydrogen peroxide needed may vary according to the fiber and the conditions.  For instance, to bleach a very dark tussah until it is very white will take more hydrogen peroxide.

Bleaching to a stark white does weaken and soften the fiber.  Too much bleaching can cause the fiber to lose considerable strength, so be mindful of how much you bleach.  For example, a light bleach, to cream, softens tussah, but a heavy bleach may leave it feeling dry and could damage its resiliency. As a base for dyeing even the lighter colors, a light bleach is fine.

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