Looking for a fun at-home project to design t-shirts? How about tie-dye? This is a simple process that is fun for everyone! For best results, choose a t-shirt with high cotton content. T-shirts of 100% cotton such as the Hanes 5280 and Anvil 979 are perfect for tie dye!
What you will need:
- T-Shirt – White is a common color and possibly the easiest to work with. Colored t-shirts also produce fun results. Just be careful not to choose anything too dark, as the dyed colors may not show well.
- Squirt Bottles – Get a squirt bottle for each color of dye mix. The bottles are used to apply the color.
- Fiber Reactive Dye – This is dye that reacts with the fibers of the fabric to effectively change its natural color. Stay away from “all-purpose” dyes because they need very hot water and may not last as long as fiber reactive dyes.
- Rubber Bands – Use these for tying the t-shirts before applying the dye solution. Get a lot of rubber bands or use lengths of string to vary the designs.
- Rubber Gloves – These are always smart to protect skin from the dyes. The dye is harmless, but it will take a lot of time and vigorous washing to remove from skin.
- Plastic Wrap – This is used after the dying process to keep the dye moist as it soaks into the t-shirt. A plastic bag with a zip seal will also work well.
- Soda Ash (Optional) – This optional ingredient enhances the vitality of the dye by increasing the pH. It is not always sold in tie dye kits, but it is available at the hardware store, most often in the pool supplies section.
Make sure you pre-wash and dry the garment before the tie dye process. This is especially a good idea when not using a pre-shrunk t-shirt. Tie dye can be messy, so outdoor space is ideal. For working inside, lay out trash bags, a plastic tablecloth, or newspapers to protect furniture and floors from stains. Wear old clothing or a smock because the dye is permanent. But the good news is that it can withstand washings on the clothing that was meant to be dyed! Tie the t-shirt ahead of time because it is not easy to tie while wearing gloves. Prepare the dye using the directions specific to the product. Make sure to follow closely to ensure the best results for a permanent tie dye.
If using soda ash, mix one cup per one gallon of warm water. Soak the t-shirt for thirty minutes to an hour in the soda ash and water mixture to prepare it for the fiber reactive dye process. Thoroughly wring out the t-shirt and dry it before starting the dye process.
Take each bottle and squirt the color on the t-shirt as desired. Follow a pattern or squirt arbitrarily, this is the part to have the most fun with. Just make sure to soak the t-shirt thoroughly. When finished applying color, wrap the t-shirt with plastic wrap. It is best to leave the garment to soak overnight. If you do not have an overnight to wait, make sure to let it sit at least eight hours. The longer the wait, the better!
Put the gloves and old clothing back on once the dye is set. Then, rinse in cold water to wash out the excess dye. The amount of dye and the darkness of the water may surprise you even when done properly, so do not panic at the amount of dye. When the water runs clear, you have successfully rinsed out all the extra dye. Wash the finished tie-dyed t-shirt in hot water by itself at least twice before wearing. The t-shirt is ready to be worn after two washes, but continue to wash separately for the next few washes to make sure it does not bleed on any other garments.
And there you have it! A simple and fun way to dye t-shirts!