How Do You Tie-Dye?


Quick Answer

To tie-dye, fold or twist a t-shirt or other 100-percent cotton item, and secure it with rubber bands or string. Dip the fabric in dye, or apply the dye with squeeze bottles. Including washing, the tie-dye process takes a couple of hours.

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Full Answer

  1. Gather supplies

    T-shirts are the most popular items to tie-dye, but any soft, 100-percent cotton clothing item can be tie-dyed. Purchase specialty dye and soda ash, or buy RIT dye, which can even be found at the grocery store. Rubber bands or string, a bucket, squirt bottles, rubber gloves, and garbage bags are also needed.

  2. Prepare the fabric

    Wash the T-shirt to remove any chemicals added by the manufacturer that may inhibit the dye.

  3. Tie the T-shirt

    To make a classic spiral, pinch the T-shirt in the center, and twist the fabric in one direction. Continue turning the fabric in the same direction until it is wrapped in a tight ball. Secure the fabric with several rubber bands or string.

  4. Prepare the work area

    Use rubber gloves to avoid dyeing your hands, and cover the work area in garbage bags.

  5. Mix the dye

    Follow the manufacturer's instructions for preparing the dye. If using RIT dye, add it to hot water in a bucket. If using specialty dyes, mix the soda ash in a bucket with water according to the packaging instructions, and soak the T-shirt. Specialty dyes can be mixed and placed in squirt bottles to better control the application of the dye.

  6. Dye the fabric

    If the dye is in a bucket, submerge the fabric and stir for about 20 to 30 minutes or as directed. Some dyes must remain on the fabric for up to 24 hours. If using squirt bottles, apply the dye around the fabric as you like.

  7. Rinse and wash

    Once the dyeing is finished, rinse and wash the fabric by itself in cold water. Air dry or tumble dry, as directed by the dye manufacturer. Be sure to wash all equipment immediately with soap and hot water to prevent staining.

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