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Bleach Bathing

11 July 2007

A guide to bleach bathing (sometimes called soap capping). This process is not intended to be used instead of bleaching for initial dying, but rather as a gentler step by step process.
It is especially useful for removing colour from hair, and can be used of veggie dyes (Manic Panic, SFX) as well as box dyes, as its mainly bleach that does the lifting.

Please note bleach bathing might seem the easier option, but as with any lightening process it is still damaging to the hair’s cuticle, so please exercise caution, and don’t over do it as the author of this article did!

You’ll need:-

20/30vol bleach (unmixed)

Shampoo (preferably clarifying so you can gauge the strength of the bleach better)

Good conditioner

Time telling device

Step – by – step

Pour into a mixing bowl the normal amount of shampoo you would use to wash your hair.

Mix up the bleach as normal, try and make approximately HALF of the amount of the shampoo you’ll be adding it to.

Mix together thoroughly, the shampoo (if a clear clarifying one) should be a sky blue colour from the bleach.

Quickly apply to semi wet hair. I usually run mine under the shower and give it a towel rub. So it’s wet but not dripping.

Starting at the ends like bleach apply the mixture, work your way up your hair then give the whole lot a good rub, like shampooing your hair. Spray on some water to get it bubbling.

You can now wrap your head in plastic OR leave it loose depending on how severe you want the colour removal to be.

Scrape off a bit of the bleach every few minutes to watch the lightening.

Wash off when desired colour achieved.

Proportions of bleach to shampoo
Mix bleach with shampoo
I found at the start of getting the SFX reds off my unbleached hair 10-15 minutes at a time was good. Then I left it a week or two and repeated.

For bleached hair I’d suggest 7-10 minutes, or if you’re confident, go by your eye.

Make sure you get all the residue out and condition really well, as the shampoo and bleach mix will leave your hair pretty dried out!


  • I tried this on my sfx blood red hair and it barely faded it. First I mixed up some bleach (about a teaspoon of 40 vol because that's all I had) with about two tablespoons of clarifying shampoo. it lifted a little color, but it only got the red about half a shade lighter. Is this color just impossible to get out or did I do something wrong? Report Comment
  • As Blood Red is quite dark - it'll take more lifting than say - Fire form Crazy Colour. Id reccomend either leaving it longer of simply mixing up a stronger batch. Report Comment
  • can you use this method with dyed black hair or should you go full process and do the regular bleaching procedure? Report Comment
  • i have originally light brown hair and almost all of it was virgin when i bleached and dyed it blonde this week. i wanted to get a platinum shade. i have bought one of those stupid toners that you can get in any drug store, for regular people and regular hairs, (i was very impuslive that day...) and i got a yellow tone. the question is: do you think i can use the soap capping method, once a week, to bleach my hair *little by little* so it will cause less damage and then dye it with a professional platinum blonde toner or do you think i should wait a couple of weeks and bleach it the old school way and then dye it again? Report Comment
  • Thank you! Thank you! I could not remember the formula for this. My cosmo teacher called it a bleach cap. Guess thats why I could never find it. Report Comment
  • What do the #s mean (30 vol/40vol)? I see this all over the site. I'm going from black to blond so I can re-dye. I'm going to try this to even out the colour after using the colour stripper. If it doesn't work out, I can always bye some hair bleach. Very comprehensive. Thank you. Report Comment
  • "Mix up the bleach as normal" that means with powder and developer? Report Comment
  • My hair colour right now is dark blonde - would it work to simply use this method to lighten my hair for dying pillarbox red? I only have volume 40 developer, and I don't want to damage my hair too much (it's a whole head application) so if I could do this instead it'd be great... I just need to know approx. how much it will actually lighten your hair. xD Report Comment
  • I can't believe alot of you guys that are on this site that dont even understand the basics of Hairdressing. If their is something that you read that you dont understand...DO NOT DO IT!! Bleach bathes are scary things and if you havent been trained professionaly to do it then you will have a high risk of all your hair falling out!! 30/40vol is developer. in order for powder(bleach)to work for lightening hair you must use it. you really shouldnt use 30/40vol with bleach. use 20 and it will take longer but will be 100% safer for your hair. For bleach bath use 30vol and bleach(mix till creamy and add palm size of shampoo and mix. apply to hair from mid-lengths to ends and then do the roots last as the root area heats of from your scalp and will turn first. WARNING your hair will fall out if you leave it one too long!!!! Report Comment
  • Hi, i tried this and it was good for me, i was a natural brown wanting to go a few shades lighter, anyway its been 2 months since then (had extensions in) and well i have regrowth now and i have no clue how i can do my regrowth with a shampoo bleach? do i just do the same as bleaching normal regrowth? thankss!!! Report Comment
  • @mizcherie: i would try just doing bleach with 10vol/20vol of developer til the color is the same as the rest of the hair. if you do a bleach cap all over again it will just lighten everything. Report Comment
  • @shellybellyped - the hair doesnt 'fall out' most of the time. Its breaks off. Report Comment
  • I am a hairdresser whos been doing this for 6 years. From my experience of having to do bleach baths around 10x a week there is no reason why 40vol should damage your hair more than the other levels. You need to use visual aid and a good step by step guide. 40vol will ALWAYS be the best for stripping BLACK hair, any other colours such as dark brown and lighter should be 20/30vol. Here is the mixture for a healthy 40vol bleach bathing for black hair: 40vol creame peroxide (3 tbs) Powder bleach (1 tbs) Clarifying shampoo (2 tbs) Conditioner for dry hair (4 tbs) You will need to Apply it fast on towel dried hair by sectioning and taking the hair in thin sections. And keep your eye on the hair to see the shades its turning into. You dont need to always wait for full 5 tone lightening with bleach, you can just strip the black 1-2-3 tones and use 6% or 9% peroxide with your tints to go up the next 1-2-3 tones to your desired colour depending what your after. If you require information on this process please email me and ill be happy to help - Report Comment
  • I will try this! Thank you. Report Comment
  • What would happen if you used a toning shampoo like shimmer lights? Report Comment
  • ok just to let everyone know do not use 40 vol in a bleach wash it will make ur hair fall out. and Be careful when using bleach it can seriously damage hair and can cause breakage. trust me been there done that. Report Comment
  • uhh I used 40 vol bleach. Same rules apply with all chemicals...don't be stupid with it. My hair didn't fall out/break off one bit. Report Comment
  • There are different types of hair and each hair has different reaction to bleach.. It's true that bleach bath is safer but if you make something wrong or if you take it five minutes later then it's very possible to burn the hair and break them Report Comment
  • Should I used gloves when doing a bleach bath? Report Comment
  • im thinkin you should always use gloves with bleach as it can burn the skin Report Comment
  • I just want to go like 3 shades lighter, would this work with 20 volume developer and leaving it on a shorter time? (how long?) Report Comment
  • My hair, for example, just would not cope with 40 vol developer! Only ever use 40vol on people with hard to lift, thick, strong and healthy hair like asian hair and even then 30vol does the job. 40vol should not be touching anyone's scalp, it's only meant for highlights. People don't think about the potential chemical burns. A bleach bath is only intended to lift a few shades anyway! If you're in doubt if you hair can take it always go for 20 vol!! You can always bleach bath again in 7 days to take it up a few more shades until you have the desired colour. It's worth being patient and not frying your hair (or scalp). You'll thank yourself. AND when the author wrote 'mix up bleach as normal' they meant using bleach powder and developer according to the instructions given on the powder packet/box. :) Report Comment
  • Would this also be an effective way of lightening, verses straight bleach for x amount of time to get your desired blonde? My hair is curly type 3c, shoulder length, and med-dark brown. I'm really afraid that if i do straight bleach it'll severely damage my hair... I would personally be okay with it if some minor curl damage happened, as i plan on wearing my hair mostly straightened after i color anyway.... Does anyone have any suggestions on this? Report Comment
  • A hairdresser told me that if you only leave bleach or bleach baths on for a maximum of 10 minutes you'll do less damage to the hair. Apparently the sulphur in the hair starts to break down after 10 minutes and that's what causes the damage. Now, while it's a pain having to use a lot of bleach and repeat the process several times in place of just once, it could be a lot more beneficial to your hair in the long run. I obviously can't verify whether or not that is the truth but it's worth a thought if your hair is badly damaged like mine. Report Comment
  • I have dyed my fringe hot hot pink, but it is very faded, and the rest of my hair is bleach blonde. The tips of my hair is a bit brassy, would a full head bleach bath help lift some of the brassyness, or should i just do it on my fringe, to get the pink out? Report Comment
  • Would this work on pink hair? Report Comment
  • Would this work on pink hair? Report Comment
  • I'm trying to go completely platinum blonde from just platinum highlights and I just bleached my hair by myself and unfortunately missed a lot of spots - thanks to having thick and long hair. I was wondering if doing a bleach bath with 20 vol developer a couple of times would do the trick as far as getting the spots that I missed? I figured a bleach bath would be easier because I could just lather it all over my head instead of using a brush. Report Comment
  • i have read alot of opinions by different people from their hairdressers, but i have not read the same answers very confusing on what you should and shouldn't do safest way etc. Report Comment
  • For those who are confused by some of the terminology: 10/20/30/40 Vol(ume) is the liquid developer or activator. It's basically like super-strength peroxide. Regular old-school peroxide that comes in the brown bottle is like around 6 Volume if I remember correctly. So the higher the number the stronger the product. So 40 Vol is way stronger than 20 vol. Now, 40 vol does work faster because it's stronger, but it's also more damaging. It's better for your hair to stick with a lower volume and leave it on longer. Imagine if you were baking a cake and the recipe said bake at 350 degrees (sorry, I'm American and have no idea what that'd be in celsius/centigrade) and instead you wanted them done quicker so you turned up your oven to 500degrees; you'd have a cake that's burnt on the outside and still 'raw' uncooked in the middle. That's kind of like the difference between using a lower number volume verses using a high number volume. If you only have 40 vol and are concerned about frying your hair, you can make it weaker. I've watered down my mixture and that worked okay, even though I added too much water. I've also successfully used less 40 vol and added some of the regular old brown bottle type peroxide in order too cut down on the strentgh. It cuts down your chances of frying your hair and having it break off. When you buy a boxed bleach kit such as clairol, l'oreal,or feria, they dont usually tell you what the volume is. Using Clairol's Born Blonde as an example, there's two types, one is called Born Blonde Maxi and it says "For Dark Blonde to Black Hair", the other is call Born Blonde Ultra Blue and it says "For Light Blonde to Dark Brown Hair." I would assume that since the Maxi is supposed to work on darker hair, even black hair, that it has a higher volume number that the Ultra Blue. I think both have directions that say to leave it in your hair no longer than 90 minutes, so I'd assume that the Ultra Blue is not as strong, therefore a smaller number volume. As always, read ALL of the directions! Bleach does not work just like a box of hair color, even if its from the same brand/ company as your box of hair bleach! When you are poring the bleaching powder into the developer (sometimes called activator), be careful not to inhale the powder. You know how when you make Kool-Aid, how you can taste the powder in the air when you pout it into the pitcher? That's what the bleach powder does too and you do NOT want that stuff in your lungs, so be aware and pour carfeully. I hope this helps those of you out there who are new to coloring their hair crazy colors. Have a fun time coloring your hair! Report Comment
  • whoops, lemme fix that mistake from above: (Boxed) bleach does NOT work just like a box of hair color, even if your bleach and hair color are the same brand/ company. Sorry if I wasn't clear the first time. Report Comment
  • I have dirty blonde hair and only 40 vol developer at home. My hair is naturally dirty blonde, a few months ago I bleached it (trying to achieve grey) but then dyed over it with light ash brown dye because I got fed up.The brown dye is starting to fade and I want to try to go pastel grey again.I was wondering if adding in more shampoo to the mixture will dilute the strength of the toner. I have thick long hair and I'm worried that it will take too long to apply the mixture to my whole head. I am trying to go a couple shades lighter so that i can dye my hair after the bleach bath process with light ash blonde with some black dye mixed in. I REALLY want a pastel grey colour and any tips or help would be greatly appreciated! Report Comment

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