Bleaching Drop Cloth without a Top Loading Washer

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Preparing Drop Cloths for Home Decor

This is my first time working with a drop cloth material, talk about being behind the trend curve.    Do you know why it took me so long? I needed to find a way to prepare the drop cloth without using a top loading washer.  I didn’t want to damage my asthmatic lungs with bleach fumes, so the bathtub was out of the question and I didn’t want to pour strong bleach water out in the yard either.    Sometimes the simplest solutions take my mind a while to stumble across.   Finally, I  thought of using one of the dozen Rubbermaid totes I have hidden in the basement from moving, and drug one out for bleaching drop cloths in.


Bleaching drop clothes a before an after photo

How to Bleach Drop Cloths

You will need:

A 68L Rubbermaid Roughneck tote with lid

1/2 large bottle of bleach

Wooden spoon, or stick for stirring

Place a  68 L Rubbermaid tote inside a bathtub, preferably in a bathroom that you can keep closed, I used our master bathroom.  Using the bathtub makes it easier to remove the bleach water, no lugging heavy totes around or buckets of strong bleach water.    Either scenario was an accident just waiting for Leanna.


Large Rubbermaid container used for making bleached drop cloths.

Fill your Rubbermaid container with water and half a large jug of bleach.  (gross eh, I know).  Swish the water around with a wooden spoon to mix the bleach in, before adding your drop cloths.  Push the drop clothes down making sure they are well submerged.  Place the lid on the tote and close the bathroom door.

Hubs coworker lost his house because of their bathroom fan, so we don’t leave our fan’s turned on for long periods of time, and never leave them on unattended.

Instead of the fan, I used the bathroom door, the lid on the bin, and then stuffed a towel underneath the bathroom door to control the fumes and keep them out of the bedroom.

For this fancy picture, I vacuumed, its hard to make it look anything but exactly what it is.


A towel under a door to prevent fumes from escaping while bleaching drop clothes.


During the daytime, I turned the fan on before entering the bathroom,  but at night I turned it off and had no issues with fumes.  I went in a couple of times and moved the dropcloths around a bit, making sure they were still submerged.

After 36 hours I dumped the bleach water out into the tub, gave the tub a really good rinse.  Put the drop cloths back in the tote and carried it down to our front loading washer with the lid on.  No mess, none.

Run your washer on a normal wash load, to remove the bleach residue.  You may need to run the dropcloths through the washer twice. I had to wash mine twice in order to get rid of the bleach smell.    Dry as usual.

Grainsack Material

At an estate sale about a month ago, I found this old authentic grain sack.  Living in Alberta you would think they are everywhere but they seem rare so I love this one. It also provided me with a reference for using a drop cloth to replace grain sack material.


How drop cloth appears once bleached.


The one with the stripes is the real grain sack, the other shows you how the drop cloth turned out.  The drop cloth is a bit more cream and not quite as heavy as the real cloth.

I tried this method for bleaching drop cloths on three different drop cloth sheets, one from Lowes and two from Home Depot.  They are turned out in well.  The cloth is not white, but more of a soft cream colour, the texture is soft and pliable and not rough on the skin.

Now that I have the drop clothes ready I have one project finished, and a couple more ideas I need to get busy on.

Please comment if I solved the problem for you.  Or if you have another solution for preparing drop cloths.  As always I love hearing from you.


Here are some projects I made using the bleached drop cloth.

Layered European Size Cushions


Layered drop cloth cushions an example of how to use bleached drop cloth.

Bleached Drop Cloth Cushion Covers


Drop Cloth Teddy Bear Pajama Bag

Drop cloth is so versatile.  In this project, I dressed it up into a little bear.

How to use drop cloth to make a child's teddy bear.

Drop Cloth Teddy Bear Pajama Bag

Drop Cloth Basket Liners


Drop cloth basket liners using bleached drop cloth.


This is the last link I will share in this post, but I also have also made Halloween table runnersChristmas stockingsChristmas ornaments and even covered a farmhouse bench with it.


Bleaching Drop Cloth tutorial

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing! I don’t have a top load washing machine nor know anyone who does, so your post really helped me with starting the process of bleaching drop cloth! I do have a question, did you start to see the colour turn over the 36 hours?

  2. OMG, I’ve looked EVERYWHERE for how to bleach drop cloths without a top loader and voila, I find your post. Thank you SO much!

    1. Great, thank you for letting me know Heather. It works well, enjoy your DIYing

  3. Thank you for posting this. I don’t have a top loader either and have been wanting to sew some slip covers for my couches!

  4. They turned out great! I might have to try that because sometimes you want true white and not the natural they come in.

  5. I love working with drop cloths. I always wash them before using them but haven’t bleached them. They came out good, I’ll have to give it a try.

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