How to Bleach Drop Cloths

How to Bleach Drop Cloths Tutorial, Upcycling, Repurposing, Sewing Project, Curtains, Slipcovers

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Drop cloths have been a popular staple of frugal decorators for a while now. But, it wasn’t until this week that I understood. I actually bought a set a few weeks ago and was so dissappointed in the texture, color and the massive seam running right down the middle that I cut my losses on the postage and sent them back.

I have decided to replace my living room drapes, since I am giving that room a makeover and definitely want white. Everything I looked at, though, was too short. I wanted at least 106″ panels and I needed four.

Then, I stumbled upon my friend Lisa’s blog post about bleaching drop cloths. Her before and after shots are so pretty.

Hmmm, at approximately $2.50 per yard, I could have four panels for $40!! The only problem was that Lisa used a top loading washer and mine is a front loader.  You will not be able to use a front loader because it doesn’t fill with water or have a soaking setting. The other two options are to use a bathtub or take them to a laundromat.

I am going to show you the bath tub method, although  . . .

disclaimer #1

I think I may have “ruined” the enamel finish on my claw foot tub by doing this. It has yellowed considerably from the bleach and while I did try to neutralize it with hydrogen peroxide and it is fading a little each day, I am pretty sure we will need to repaint it. If you have a fiber glass tub, this should be fine, though, from what I hear.

disclaimer #2

If you are on septic, DO NOT bleach drop cloths! They require too much bleach for a septic system’s live bacteria and will be expensive to fix. Just stick with buying white canvas fabric.

Sorry to disappoint!

So all that to say, I humbly submit this post in hopes that learn from my mistakes and know that decorating involves risk.  However, it is still worth it to keep researching and moving toward the goal of a beautiful home.

How to Bleach Drop Cloths Tutorial, Upcycling, Repurposing, Sewing Project, Curtains, Slipcovers

This post contains affiliate links to products I know and love. Click here to read a full disclosure.

Materials Needed

  • Drop Cloth
    • I cut the big, bulky seam right out of the middle and was able to use one drop cloth to make two curtain panels.
  • Bleach
    • I get mine at Costco and it is concentrated, you will use a TON of bleach, an obscene amount. So have two bottles per drop cloth.
  • Rubber gloves
  • Bathtub
    • Fiberglass finish, see my disclaimer above
  • Wooden board(s)
    • to cover the tub
  • Plastic tub
    • to transfer the bleached cloth in
  • Hydrogen peroxide
    • to neutralize the bleach when you are done


  • Measure 20 gallons of the hottest tap water you can get and add it to your tub.
    • Determine where this line is in your tub and you can use that as a guide for the next time you fill it.
  • Pour 1/3 of the bottle (!) of bleach into the tub and mix with your gloved hands.
  • Add one drop cloth and get it to submerge.

How to Bleach Drop Cloths Tutorial, Upcycling, Repurposing, Sewing Project, Curtains, Slipcovers

  • Cover the entire tub with the boards to trap the heat in.
    • If you don’t do this it will take  f o r e v e r  to bleach (this is the voice of experience talking here).

How to Bleach Drop Cloths Tutorial, Upcycling, Repurposing, Sewing Project, Curtains, Slipcovers

  • Turn the fan on in the bathroom and shut the door, the fumes are terrible.
  • Leave for six hours.
    • Stirring twice throughout the process to keep them from turning out blotchy.
  • After six hours, drain the tub and repeat the whole process, totalling twelve hours. This will leave you with soft, white, speckle free fabric.
  • Transfer in a plastic bin to your washer and add hydrogen peroxide to the wash cycle to stop the bleach from working.
  • Dry in the dryer to make them soft and pre-shrunk.

How to Bleach Drop Cloths Tutorial, Upcycling, Repurposing, Sewing Project, Curtains, Slipcovers

Now you will have a beautiful piece of white fabric to work with for slipcovers, table runners, curtains, pillows, etc. I will be sharing my finished curtains very soon.

What will you make?

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  1. Cheryl
    March 19, 2017 / 2:53 PM

    Thank you for the tips! I am getting ideas!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 20, 2017 / 7:21 PM

      Oh good! I love to hear that from my readers!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 20, 2017 / 7:23 PM

      Thank you for the compliments and invite! I hate to say it, but I am not currently able to attend any more link parties than I already do.:( I hope it is a raving success, though. xoxo

  2. Brenda
    March 19, 2017 / 3:50 PM

    I have bleached dropcloths but never got them to a true white, which either means I did not use enough bleach or I did not keep them warm during the soak… I guess.
    uDid yours come out a soft white or a bright white? Not an antique-white?

    I have hesitated to use the one large one I bleached for anything other than crafts where color was not a problem, as they are not the true white I was going for.

    From your post, I am thinking you achieved what I wanted. One thing about this, I can re-bleach the fabric I have left to see if success is possible. It is a great value per yard, durable, too.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 20, 2017 / 7:24 PM

      Brenda, I would say you needed more hot water and more bleach. Mine are pure, bright white. You are right, though, you can always re-bleach them.

  3. Liz
    March 20, 2017 / 9:07 AM

    From your photos, I notice you live in the country maybe, for those of us who have septic tanks, chlorine bleach can cause real problems. Please be mindful when using large amounts of bleach as it will stop all activity in the septic tank. Enjoy your blog and and the beautiful pictures.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 20, 2017 / 7:27 PM

      Liz! Thank you for the reminder, I didn’t even think to add this in. Updating the post now! xoxo

  4. March 21, 2017 / 4:14 PM

    I have a front loader washer also so I will have to use the bathtub method. I use drop cloths for everything except painting. Great idea for a change of color.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 24, 2017 / 12:43 PM

      I hope it goes well for you! Love your comment about using drop cloths for everything but painting! haha!

  5. Tanya Hulbert
    March 28, 2017 / 5:46 PM

    I just love this idea! I don’t currently need curtains but I keep thinking what else I could use a cloth for! So clever!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      March 29, 2017 / 6:16 PM

      Maybe someday soon you will need to make a slipcover.;)

  6. Shavaun
    May 3, 2017 / 8:37 PM

    Do you think this could be done in a very large Tupperware like container outside? I live in Georgia and will have no problem keeping the water warm in this weather?

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 9, 2017 / 5:32 PM

      It is possible, but it would need to be quite large. You will need about 24 gallons of water per drop cloth.

  7. Karen
    May 6, 2017 / 2:22 PM

    Do you have the instructions for doing this in a front load washer? I am assuming it is done on the hot water cycle, but uncertain about the time it sits.
    Thank you and your curtains look lovely!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 6, 2017 / 3:22 PM

      Karen, in answer to your question, a front loader will not work. 🙁 I’m so sorry, that is what I have, too. The drop cloth needs about 25 gallons of water to spread out in and a front loader isn’t designed for that. Hence that bath tub method.

      Good luck on your project!

  8. May 18, 2017 / 7:25 AM

    Sarah these turned out beautiful! I so wish we weren’t on septic so i could do the same. So sorry about your tub!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      May 19, 2017 / 6:31 PM

      Haha, thank you, friend! DIY does come with some risks, doesn’t it?

  9. Susan Freeman
    August 7, 2017 / 1:31 PM

    The curtains are beautiful. That being said, with that much bleach it seems the bleach would destroy the fibers of the drop cloth. I would appreciate knowing how the curtains went through subsequent washes.

    Regards, Susan

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      August 18, 2017 / 6:17 AM

      I agree with you, Susan, but the drop cloths are sooo thick that they can take that much bleach. I haven’t had any problems.

  10. Kimberly Holt
    October 19, 2017 / 6:02 PM

    Hi! Love the white drop clothes! Was I spired so making my own but having some issues getting them white. Was wondering if you could help! In your directions you say to use 1/3 bottle for 6 hours then repeat – however you say you will need 2 bottles of bleach for each panel- I bought drop clothes from home Depot with no seam and washed them before bleaching – I had them in 12 hours total and while they are lighter def. Not white – should I add more bleach and soak again? Thanks for any help!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      October 21, 2017 / 5:30 PM

      We spoke via email, but I am going to publically answer you here, as well, for others. I think the problem is the temperature. You want the drop cloths to stay super hot the whole time, at least 80F. I kept pouring boiling water in the tub and kept wooden board over the tub to keep the heat in. Also, drain out the water every 6 hours or so and refill with HOT water and new bleach.

  11. Jessie
    April 19, 2018 / 9:36 AM

    From what I’ve read, mixing hydrogen peroxide and bleach can make a harmful chemical reaction and also does not neutralize the bleach. Try Ascorbic acid (vitamin c) powder, instead! Available on amazon. Thanks for the info about the importance of temperature, I’m going to try to rebleach some pillowcases I made.

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      April 26, 2018 / 8:28 AM

      Ok, thanks for letting us know! I hope your pillowcase project went well.

  12. Tiffany Holmes
    November 19, 2018 / 7:51 PM

    Hey there! I also bleach drop clothes to a true soft white using a large Rubbermaid tote (clear, so the color doesn’t transfer). I have to use boiling water and soak, wash once and then soak in ammonia (it gets them true white and gets rid of the yellowing) the reader above mentioned getting her drop cloths from Home Depot. Drop cloths from Home Depot are usually not 100% cotton which might be why they are not bleaching. After one soak for 8 hours covered, mine are usually pretty close to true white. I do it twice just to be sure but it doesn’t usually take more than that!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      November 19, 2018 / 9:10 PM

      This is such great advice, thank you for letting us know!!

  13. Lori
    January 5, 2019 / 10:41 PM

    Does the weight of the drop cloth matter? I have an 8 oz cloth. Also, do you use an entire bottle of hydrogen peroxide to neutralize? I’m so excited to try this!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      January 6, 2019 / 8:04 PM

      Yes, Lori, 8 oz is perfect. That is what I used. And I only used about a quarter cup of the hydrogen peroxide and poured it into the bleach dispenser.

      Hope that helps!

  14. Jerri Edwards
    June 3, 2019 / 9:48 AM

    I will be trying this this week for our new home!! Can’t wait!! Would love to see your pics!

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      June 4, 2019 / 6:53 PM

      Oh yay!!! I’m so excited for you!

  15. Leah Bergman
    June 17, 2019 / 12:26 PM

    Where do you rec. buying drop cloths for bleaching?

    • Sarah | She Holds Dearly
      June 17, 2019 / 10:12 PM

      I like the ones from Amazon, the link is the post. Hope that helps!

  16. Tina S
    February 13, 2021 / 6:54 PM

    Hi Sarah. I’m just now finding you and I’m pretty much obsessed with everything you do. Thank you. Once you cut the drop cloth seam out of the middle do you sew a hem?

  17. Elizabeth
    April 9, 2021 / 10:48 AM

    Hey, so I followed your directions, is it normal for the drop cloth to shrink in size, one of the 4 pannels is longer than the others what do you suggest I do. They came out AMAZING, and look incredible in my “country french guest room” with Louis XIV night stands and 4 poster bed!

  18. Robin
    April 15, 2022 / 11:16 PM

    Our tub is from 1945 and when I’ve used the mildew remover on the tiles, the places where it drains down on the tub turns brown. Nothing we have tried to clean it with has phased it at all but like you said it eventually fades away. Our tile needs grout work badly but I’m afraid it might not fade away next time.

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