{Tutorial}: Tie Dye

Many past trends have recently come into fashion. One of my favorites that comes in and out of style over the years is tie dye.

Last year I attempted tie dye using RIT dye. I learned the hard way that, although it works, it is not the best option. After much research and experimentation, here is the method that I have come up with.



*Gloves (I use Nitrile because they keep the dye off my hands the best and can be disposed of.)

*Dye (Tulip dye is a cheap and decent option. It is also widely available. Make sure it is NOT an all purpose dye. It needs to be a dye that can be done in cold water.)

*Squirt Bottles


*Rubber Bands

*Freshly Washed and Dried Cotton Shirts, or other items

*Washing Soda

*Bucket (I used the tub they gave my son his first bath in at the hospital.)

*Paper Towels

*Plastic Table Cloth or other area cover

*Plastic Wrap


1. Gather all the supplies and organize in a manner that makes it easy to access each item.

2. Lay the table cloth out on your work space. You want to make sure to completely cover the whole area you are going to be working on. The dye stains pretty badly.

3. Figure out what kind of pattern you want to create. If you want stripes, fold the fabric in an accordion fold and then place the rubber bands approximately every inch of the fabric (see photo below). The Tulip website is a great resource.

4. Fill your bucket with 2 gallons of water. Dissolve 1 cup of Washing Soda. If you want, you can use Soda Ash. It requires a smaller amount of Soda Ash per gallon of water than Washing Soda. I chose to use the Washing Soda because I buy it for other things. It is also easy to find at Walmart and is inexpensive. (It is NOT the same as Baking Soda. Find it in the laundry section.)

5. Take the items that you just “tied” with rubber bands and soak them in the water/washing soda mixture. Make sure that you wear your gloves before you touch the water.

6. While you are soaking your items, start preparing your dye. Remember to wear your gloves, even when opening the package. I bought a tie dye kit and did not wear my gloves before I removed the tape from the dye packages within the kit. One of the packages was torn and I ended up with purple dye on my hands. Let me tell you, it is very difficult to get it off of your hands. So unless you want them to look like this (see below), then make sure that you use gloves EVERY TIME you are working with dye.

7. Follow directions on your dye’s packaging. For the Tulip Tie Dye kits there are two different ways to do it. One set has the dye already in the bottles, so all you have to do is add water, shake, and apply. The kit I bought required that I poured the powder into the bottle myself before adding the water. I found that using a funnel was the least messy. But you will still want to do it over a covered area.

8. Once you have fully mixed the dye, get ready to use it within the next 30 minutes. After about 30 minutes the dye loses some of its vibrancy.

9. Lay down some paper towels on the table cloth as a working area.

10. Take the clothes out of the Washing Soda water and lay on top of the paper towels.

11. Squirt the dye into different sections of fabric. Be careful not to over saturate or under saturate the fabric. Over saturating will lead to muddy colors while under saturating will leave blank spots. You want the color to go through all the layers but not to go under the rubber bands.

12. Wrap your tie dyed item in plastic wrap and cover. (I do not suggest that you apply the dye while the item is on the plastic wrap as I am doing in the picture above. I found that it caused muddy colors.)

13. Place your wrapped items into large gallon sized ziplock bags. Seal (once full) and set aside. You will need to let the items sit for a good 8 hours. I did it early in the afternoon and just let them sit overnight. I put them in my now empty and rinsed bucket and set aside for the evening.

14. After 8 or more hours, remove the items from the bags and the plastic wrap. Remember to wear your gloves!

15. With cold water, start to rinse the fabric.

16. Carefully remove the rubber bands. You can cut them off if you want but make sure not to accidentally cut the fabric.

17. Continue to rinse the fabric until you do not see any more dye.

18. Place items back into the bucket. Carry to your washing machine. Set washer to hot water. Add a small amount of Dawn dish washing liquid (the original, non-concentrated blue kind) to the washer.

19. Continue to wash the items on hot. You will want to wash them several times to make sure that the dye is removed. You only need to add a little detergent, and only if desired. The Dawn will stop the dying process, and the water will remove the extra dye.

20. Dry in the dryer on hot.

And tada! A cute baby gift for a friend!

PS. With a dollar party table cloth clean up is a breeze! Gather all the trash on it and throw the whole thing away. Rinse bottles to be used again. Store leftover dye in individual ziplock baggies. Place all the items in the bucket and store away from heat, cold, kids, or pets (closet maybe?). And you are ready to go next time.

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