How Do I Bleach Hair with Bleach?

Sarah Sullins
Sarah Sullins
A hair bleaching kit.
A hair bleaching kit.

Lightening your hair should generally be done by a salon professional, but if you want to use bleach to lighten your hair at home, there are ways to accomplish it. One way is to bleach the hair with bleach, although this approach is frowned upon because of the damage it can do to hair. Using bleach for hair is a risky process when it involves the use of regular household cleaning bleach. It is done to lighten darker hair, but is not recommended for shades lighter than light brown.

Using household cleaning bleach in order to bleach your hair is considered a risky process.
Using household cleaning bleach in order to bleach your hair is considered a risky process.

A few days before you use the bleach, take 0.25 tablespoon (3.69 ml) of the bleach and combine it with about 0.25 cup (about 59 ml) of shampoo. Stir this mixture together with a spoon. Plastic spoons are generally recommended because the bleach may cause oxidization to occur in metal spoons.

Strip all previous color treatments from your hair. A couple of days before you begin to bleach hair with bleach, use a small amount of the bleach mixture on an unnoticeable strand of hair. This will help you determine how your hair will react to the bleach and what color hair you will end up with after the treatment. Rinse your hair thoroughly after a minute or two and dry it to see the color. Darker shades of hair may turn orange instead of blonde with the addition of bleach.

When bleaching hair, it's necessary to wear gloves to protect the hands.
When bleaching hair, it's necessary to wear gloves to protect the hands.

You may also want to place a small drop of the mixture on your elbow or behind your ear, where it can not be noticed. This will help you gauge your skin's reaction to the mixture. If your skin is not very irritated by the mixture, you may be able to continue to bleach hair with bleach. Bleach is highly caustic, though, so most people will experience itching or even burning; watch carefully for signs of more dangerous allergic reactions, which will be listed on the bleach bottle, and contact a poison control center if you observe any.

Lightening your hair should be done by a salon professional.
Lightening your hair should be done by a salon professional.

When you begin to bleach hair with bleach, use a comb to apply the bleach to your hair. While you are doing this, make sure the clothes you are wearing and the towels you are using can be thrown away, because the bleach will discolor them. Wear goggles to prevent bleach from getting in your eyes; bleach can cause you to go blind if it gets in your eyes. After the mixture is applied, leave the bleach in for just a few minutes, watching it change the color of your hair as you do. Do not leave it in for too long because it can cause serious damage to your hair.

If a woman has naturally dark hair, she will need higher strength bleach to lighten her hair.
If a woman has naturally dark hair, she will need higher strength bleach to lighten her hair.

Rinse the bleach out by putting your head under the faucet of either your bathtub or sink. Do not get into the shower; you do not want the bleach mixture to get all over your body. Continue rinsing your hair thoroughly for 10 or 15 minutes, and then apply regular shampoo and wash your hair a few times. You may also want to mix a little vinegar in with your shampoo to stop the bleaching process completely.

Condition your hair every day for the next couple of weeks to limit the amount of harm the bleach causes. If your hair turns orange instead of blonde, do not immediately begin to bleach hair with bleach again. Doing so can cause a lot of damage to your hair. Instead, consult a professional on the next steps to take.

How Long Do You Leave Bleach In Your Hair?

Bleaching your hair can be an inexpensive alternative to dyes and time-consuming trips to the salon. Doing it yourself from the comfort of your own home certainly has its appeal. However, it is unwise to leave the chemicals in your hair for too long due to the risk of damaging your cuticles, fibers and follicles. Your hair color and its texture are two factors that influence how long you should wait before rinsing the bleach out.

Lighter Colors Require Less Time

Different colors require different treatment durations with bleach. Blond hair needs only 15 to 20 minutes. Any longer than could cause drying and cracking of the strands. If your hair is brunette or darker, leave it in for about 30 minutes. Once the time is up, if your look is not as light as you want, wash thoroughly (instructions below), and then bleach again for another 30 minutes. Bleaching dark hair in installments achieves a brighter color without risking the harm that comes with overdoing it.

Coarse Textures Require More Time

Fine hair should only be left in bleach for 10 to 15 minutes. The cuticle layering of this texture is thinner and therefore needs less time to dissolve the melanin (also known as color). If your hair is coarse, the opposite is true. Leave the chemicals in for up to 30 minutes. Alternatively, if you have a combination of the above qualities (blond but coarse or dark but fine), consider a 20 to 25 minute bleaching time. Honoring these times will protect your hair and help you achieve the color you desire.

Learning How To Wash Bleach Out of Hair

It is important to thoroughly cleanse your hair of bleach as soon as you have reached the maximum time given above. Follow the guidelines below to fully remove the chemicals. Use lukewarm water only, and do not use shampoos and conditioners until you are completely happy with your hair color.

  • Test your water temperature to ensure it is lukewarm. Hot water may damage your hair, and ice-cold water may not cleanse it at all.
  • Do not take a bath or a shower as you focus on your hair, as this will disperse the bleach directly onto your bare skin, potentially causing burns, rashes or dryness.
  • Holding your hair away from your body, use a sprayer or detachable shower wand to spray water directly onto your hair.
  • With your hair in your hand and your head over the sink or tub, thoroughly spray the bleached area so that the chemicals and water together can rinse directly down the drain, avoiding contact with your skin, clothes or washcloths.
  • Do not use shampoo, conditioner or other treatments during this rinse. Using any type of soap or cleanser at this point will cause the hair cuticles to close, making it more difficult to change your color later.

What Does Bleach Do to Your Hair?

Imagine a sewing thread that has been dipped in a fine wax. In order to change the color of the thread, you would need to chemically remove the wax, at least temporarily. This is similar to how bleach works with your hair by opening the cuticles before breaking down the inner keratin (also known as proteins).

Opening the Cuticles

First, the bleach opens the cuticles that surround your hair fiber like a sheath. Once the cuticles are open, the bleach chemically alters the pigments that lie within the cuticles. As long as the cuticles remain open, your hair can be easily changed to any color. This is why beauty technicians may add bleach before professionally dyeing it. This is also why you only rinse with cool water. Shampoos and conditioners cause the cuticles to close back over the hair fiber, making it difficult for a new color to penetrate and show up well in your final look.

Breaking Down Keratin

In technical terms, bleach affects your hair by breaking down the microscopic proteins that give your hair color, texture and body. The more the chemicals interact with these proteins, the more they are dissolved. Keratin not only generates color but also forms the sturdiness of your hair. This underscores the importance of honoring the time limits listed above. Too much bleach can lead to a keratin breakdown, which causes strands to break during brushing. If you are only bleaching certain sections of your hair for highlights, leaving it in for too long may create uneven textures or undesired colors.

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Discussion Comments

anon1006737

Can I bleach my 60% grey hair before using a blond color?

anon1003833

Maybe use hydrogen peroxide instead?

SteamLouis

@bear78-- I think I'm going to have to disagree with you. I have tried bleach on my hair. Thankfully, I was careful and tested a small piece of hair first. The bleach seemed to work but then my hair literally started breaking. I'm so glad I didn't use it all over my hair. I had tried a tiny amount on my scalp too and it made my scalp burn.

I'm not sure how others make bleach work without harming their scalp and hair. I don't think it's possible. Of course, applying bleach directly is the worst thing anyone can do. I recommend testing diluted bleach on a small strand of hair first like the article said.

bear78

@donasmrs-- Many people use this method to lighten their hair though. My friend did it and it doesn't look so bad. She said it made her hair a little dry, but that's about it. I think as long as the bleach is diluted with something like shampoo, it's okay.

donasmrs

I had never heard of bleaching hair with household cleaning bleach before. Personally, I think that's a horrible idea. I would not put regular bleach in my hair or on my scalp. I can't even imagine the damage and other side effects it would cause.

Getting hair bleached and dyed at the store may be expensive. If the budget is limited, an over-the-counter hair bleaching and dying kit can be used at home. But household bleach is just meant for cleaning. I even frown upon the use of bleach for cleaning because inhaling the fumes can cause cancer in the long term. But sometimes it's required for cleaning areas like the bathroom and it's acceptable to use it in small amounts. But putting it in hair doesn't sound safe at all.

Lostnfound

@Grivusangel -- I know what you mean. My hair was light brown in high school and I decided to try strawberry blonde. The results were not good.

I had a friend who tried bleaching her hair with bleach. She did it and then went and tanned in bright sunshine for about three hours. She ended up with a sunburn and badly damaged hair. Good thing it was in the summer, or she would have had to have worn a wig to school!

After seeing what happened to her hair, I vowed then that I would never try anything remotely weird with mine. So my answer to the question is for people to not be stupid and don’t try using Clorox on your hair!

Grivusangel

My first thought was "you don't." I've seen some pretty bad things happen when people used regular commercial hair color. I'd hate to see the results of the untrained (or trained, either) using household bleach on their hair. The idea is appalling.

Hair color can be such a tricky process, to start with. If you have dark hair, even the commercial color kits tell you not to use a blonde formula to go to blonde from brunette! That's a chore only a professional should do. I certainly wouldn't try it. I’m a brunette and I’ve gone a shade lighter and a shade darker, but I would never try going blonde on my own.

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    • A hair bleaching kit.
      By: Tim
      A hair bleaching kit.
    • Using household cleaning bleach in order to bleach your hair is considered a risky process.
      By: design56
      Using household cleaning bleach in order to bleach your hair is considered a risky process.
    • When bleaching hair, it's necessary to wear gloves to protect the hands.
      By: steinerpicture
      When bleaching hair, it's necessary to wear gloves to protect the hands.
    • Lightening your hair should be done by a salon professional.
      By: bertys30
      Lightening your hair should be done by a salon professional.
    • If a woman has naturally dark hair, she will need higher strength bleach to lighten her hair.
      By: Jenner
      If a woman has naturally dark hair, she will need higher strength bleach to lighten her hair.