Bleach Bath for Hair: What It Is and How to Do It

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Going blonde or lightening the hair without the horrendous damage remains a fantasy to everybody.

Almost the entire population of hair dye enthusiasts is in a love-hate relationship with bleach. We despise the aftermath of the process just as much as we love its transformative results.

But despite the tingling and burning pain that we have to endure from every session, we can’t deny the fact that bleaching is our best resort when it comes to trying out different hair dyes. 

Young woman with bleached hair doing a peace sign

And then a trend touted as the “gentler way of bleaching” started surfacing on the internet: bleach baths. Is this really the solution we’ve been praying for?

What is a bleach bath for the hair? How do you do it? Read on to find out!

What Is a Bleach Bath for Hair?

A bleach bath may sound foreign to most of you, but it’s a technique widely used by salon professionals.

Basically, it’s a concoction made by mixing hair-bleaching powder with peroxide as you’d typically do. 

But this time, clarifying shampoo is diluted into the mixture, turning it gentler and milder in getting rid of stubborn hair dyes without the harshness of regular bleach.

With bleach baths, the results can be double-edged. It can be perfect if you’re looking for minimal lifting, but it might not do you favors if you want to go all the way with the lightening. 

Bleach Bath vs. Traditional Bleaching

It doesn’t matter if we change the name and alter the procedure; we all know that the presence of bleach in whatever formula can result in damaged hair.

Exposing your hair directly to a regular bleach mixture can result in intense lightening (up to eight or nine levels), leading to fried and fragile hair due to the aggressive chemicals it contains. 

And then the bleach bathing the hair came into existence, offering a gentler alternative. Still, it comes with downsides.

There are three ways to tell how distinctively different they are:

Bleach BathRegular Bleaching
The formula is composed of bleach, developer, and clarifying shampooThe formula is composed of bleaching powder or cream plus a peroxide or developer
Can only lift the color by one to two levelsCan do intense lightening and color removing
Must be applied on damp hairApplied on dry hair
A lower volume of hydrogen peroxide or developer is usually usedProcess time can be from 20 to 30 minutes, and not over 45 minutes
Process time is between 10 to 30 minutes only, depending on your hair condition and prior color

Just by looking at the process and strong chemicals involved in regular bleach, you can tell that the relatively less damaging effects of a bleach bath on hair come from diluting the bleach and using less peroxide.

Thus, opting for bleach baths might require more repetitions than the regular bleach process if you want intense color lifting.

When to Do a Bleach Bath

A bleach bath is a great alternative to traditional bleach, and we can attest to that. 

However, you must set your expectations appropriately because you’re basically dealing with a weakened bleach mixture. 

Remember, it’s a gentle solution that can give mild results, so completely stripping dark tones from your hair to make way for a new one may not come easy.

It’s not like we can’t have the best of both worlds and have lighter hair with minimal damage; bleach bath is still the perfect option if you’re stuck in situations where

  • you need to lighten your hair by one to two shades;
  • you want to remove the stubborn leftover tints from your previous semi-permanent or permanent hair dye;
  • your hair has been through so much trauma from previous sessions that it’s now too weak to handle an aggressive and direct bleaching process;
  • you touched up your bleached hair and you want to even out the color; and
  • you want to color-correct your overly-toned blondes.

How to Do a Bleach Wash

An infographic about the process on how to do a bleach wash including the different materials needed for the procedure

The necessary tools and products needed to perform a bleach washing are pretty much the same as what you’d use for your typical hair bleaching session. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Gloves
  • Wide-tooth comb
  • Old towel and cloth
  • Clarifying shampoo
  • Plastic bowl 
  • Tint brush
  • Hair clips or claw clip
  • Shower cap or cling wrap
  • Developer of your choice
  • Bleaching powder or cream
  • Other hair treatments (optional)

If you have all the tools ready, prepare for the application process.

1. Do an allergy or patch test.

Before using harsh hair products such as bleach, make sure to give the product a dry run into your skin to avoid serious side effects. 

Mix a small amount of bleach powder and developer, then use a cotton swab to apply the mixture to your inner wrist to check how your skin reacts to the chemicals. 

If no itching, bumps, or red patches appear, then it’s safe to apply it on your head. 

Most people skip this step, but prevention is always better than cure, especially when dealing with strong chemicals.

2. Dampen your hair.

This is perhaps one of the most distinctive differences between regular and bleach baths. 

Applying a bleach bath on dry hair is a no-no; make sure to dampen or wet your hair before the procedure. 

You take this opportunity to remove residues from your hair by giving it a good run with a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo. 

Doing this will give you a better view as to how light you still need your hair to be. It also washes away other chemicals that can interfere with the bleach.

Bleach baths are intended to be applied to wet hair. This allows the formula to be smeared into the hair faster and more evenly.

It is also another reason why this technique is gentler. As the bleach interacts with the water, it gets diluted and eventually weakens.

Once you’re done, you can let your hair air dry a little to proceed to the next step.

3. Prepare your mixture.

Give your checklist one last scan to see if you have everything on hand. Once you do, you may now begin concocting your bleach bath mixture.

The bleach wash ratio is 1:2:1.

Start by combining one part bleach and two parts developer as you’d usually do. 

This may vary depending on your brand choice, but another crucial part that will have a huge impact on how effective your bleach bath will be is the intensity or percentage of the developer used. 

10 to 20 volumes should be good enough for a gentle lift. But if you need more intense action, you can use 30-volume developers. 

The addition of clarifying shampoo into the mixture transforms your typical bleach into a bleach bath hair recipe. 

The ideal proportion is adding equal parts bleach and shampoo, but some people tend to eyeball this. 

To guide you further, adding more shampoo dilutes the bleach for softer lightening, and adding fewer concentrates the mixture for stronger color removal. 

You can also add in a few drops of hair treatment to ensure optimal protection.  

4. Apply the bleach bath mixture.

Before anything else, grab your safety gear. Wrap that old towel or cloth around your shoulders and put on your gloves because your mixture can still sting if it touches your skin. These should protect your clothes too!

By this time, your hair should still be damp. 

Clip your hair into several sections, and using a tint brush, start applying the mixture from the bottom of your hair and work your way to the roots. Run it with your wide-tooth comb after to make sure each strand is evenly coated.  

Repeat this process until you have your entire head lathered with your bleach bath mixture. You can put your hair up and cover it with a shower cap or cling wrap to prevent messy drippings and stains.

5. Let it develop.

So how long should a bleach bath stay on hair?

It depends on your hair’s current condition and the amount of lightening you need.

If you already have light hair, check on it once it reaches seven to ten minutes.

But if you’re eliminating dark permanent dyes, you will have to leave it in for at least 10 to 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

Remember to keep an eye on it while it’s on your hair.

Also, note that the mixture can sting and itch as it stays on your scalp.

Quick Tip

Adding Sweet’N Low to the bleach will help prevent any stinging or itching.

6. Rinse the bleach off. 

Once the alarm goes off, give it a good rinse. 

Wash out the solution using cool water to ensure your hair’s cuticles are closed during the rinsing process.

Toners may come in handy if you want an extra lift or if your hair went a little over to the brassy side. 

If you’re not into dyeing your hair right after bleaching, you can also reach for a deep conditioner to treat your hair and give it a little life back. 

Benefits of Doing a Bleach Bath for Hair

Smiling woman with short bleached blonde hair

Despite the glorified effects of bleach bathing your hair, you still have to do this procedure under safety precautions. After all, it’s still bleach we’re dealing with. 

However, the list of benefits you can get from a hair bleach bath outweighs the risks. This technique might really be a gift sent by the gods of hair treatments. 

The DIY procedure is a breeze.

The bleach bath recipe for the hair calls for ingredients and tools accessible from your local drugstores, online shops, or home.

This saves you hundreds of dollars worth of salon appointments and allows you to do the procedure anytime you want. 

Plus, the application process is much easier than the conventional way of bleaching. The bleach bath instructions require application on wet hair, making the whole process easier and less painful from start to finish.

Since damp hair is easier to manage, you would have to worry less about getting uneven patches and skipping a few strands. Rinsing won’t be a nightmare as well, as the bleach mixture slides off smoothly. 

It’s an easy fix if you’re about to change colors.

The days of having beautiful, freshly colored hair won’t last long, and eventually, you’ll have to retouch or redo your hair or completely switch colors. 

And the number one reason that may stop you from doing so is perhaps the leftover stains or tints from the previous color. 

Yes, reprocessing an overall traditional bleach can wash the leftover dye off, but doing it too soon would only do you more harm than good. This is when bleach bathing steps into the scene. 

It’s wig-friendly.

A hair bleach wash works on human-hair wigs and extensions too!

The procedure is pretty much the same as the previous steps mentioned in this article. Bleach and developer are still combined, then shampoo is added to the bleach mixture. 

But instead of applying it on wet wigs or hair extensions like applying it on wet hair, you’ll have to add water to your bleach-developer mixture instead. 

Submerge the wig or extensions in the mixture and brush it there. 

This video gives a good example of how to do it:


Can I dye my hair after a bleach bath?

Yes, but it still depends on the condition of your hair after the bleach bath. 

If you feel like your hair has been beaten up badly by bleach shampooing, then it’s best to give it at least three days to a whole week before dyeing it again. 

And if you decide to do so, the ideal type of dye to use is semi-permanent dye. Most of these dyes don’t have ammonia and can be used without developers. This will prevent hair cuticles from opening further. 

Can I mix bleach with purple shampoo?

Purple shampoo or toners should be part of your arsenal when dealing with yellow or orange hair after bleaching. 

Most people tend to think that adding it to the bleach solution is a way to lighten the hair faster and you won’t have to tone it afterward. This is a common misconception and is not a very wise move to make.

In general, bleach targets color pigments, and the peroxide in the bleach mixture will only eat the purple pigments in the shampoo away, as well as the entire point of adding it to your shampoo. 

Plus, the shampoo will also affect your bleach mixture’s ability to effectively lift the colors off your hair. 

Does bleach bath work on black hair?

Yes, you can do a bleach bath to remove black hair dyes, but the efficacy still depends on the intensity of color you want to remove. It’s safe to say that it works best if you want your hair lightened by a few shades or if you have light-colored hair to begin with. 

Whether you have it naturally or got it through box dyes, black is one of the most complex colors to tame. Even the bleach mixture would require a repeated process to have the hair gradually lightened with as little damage as possible. 

Meanwhile, a bleach bath is far gentler on your hair, but it won’t be able to provide a powerful lifting. It can only do up to two levels lighter. 

And repeating the process would make your hair more susceptible to the same damage as regular bleaching, which defeats the purpose of bleach bathing.

Take it One Step at a Time

Whether you’re doing the conventional way of bleaching or bleach wash for your hair, you have to remember that it’s still bleach you’re dealing with.

Anytime you’re stepping into these kind of hair procedures, make sure you’re equipped with the proper research and knowledge, otherwise, it’s better to leave it to the hands of professionals.

Bleach bath may be gentle on your hair and but it can also result to irreversible damage if you fail to execute it properly. 

So, take your time and don’t rush the process. The best version of your hair is still the healthiest state it can be.

Want to know more about hair bleaching? 

Read these articles!


  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

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  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

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  1. Kristen W. says:

    Thank you so very much! Your article has helped me so much! I have been dying my own hair since I was 18 years old and I am now 52! Now all of a sudden my hair has decided to change and doesn’t like the way I normally bleach it to get platinum blonde. I have had a horrible time figuring out how to get the ugly yellow and orange out! My normal color is a dirty dishwater blonde with strawberry undertones. It’s not pretty!! So I have appreciated your articles so much! Your writing is fantastic! I love it so much! Again, I say thank you!!!

  2. I overtoned my hair and it looked light amethyst, I used this method and did the left side first and once I finished the right side, I only had about five mintues left before I washed out both sides. I must have been doing something wrong years before, or used different products, because it actually worked very quickly this time in around 10 mintues or less. I did add coconut oil to the mixture and everything came out fine, but again I was only removing too much toner and not trying to lighten or remove color. Thanks for your article.

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