Picture of How to Tie Dye an Old White Shirt

Tie dye shirts are almost as American as apple pie. It’s impossible to be sad while wearing tie dye colors — especially if you accessorize with your favorite rainbow loom bracelet!

While some instructions suggest using string I find that rubber bands work the best. Either way, the most important thing is that you have fun preparing an old tee for its transformation into a rainbow masterpiece.

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Step 1: The shirt, fit to be dyed!

Picture of The shirt, fit to be dyed!

The shirts that work best are 100% cotton, but you can also use 50% cotton/50% polyester. The results will not be as vibrant. I once tried to dye a 100% polyester garment and when it was unwrapped - all the dye washed off! The dyes only bond well with natural fabrics, like cotton, silk and rayon - but we're talking cotton here....

Step 2: Presenting your choice of dyes

Picture of Presenting your choice of dyes

You can buy dye kits very easily in the craft stores, which come with everything you need. They include rubber gloves, rubber bands, soda ash, urea and complete, easy to follow instructions. The dyes are already in the squeeze bottles, all you have to add is warm water (not hot). Other alternatives include buying single packages of dyes. These also come with the necessary urea, soda ash and instructions for mixing. However, you would need to purchase some squeeze bottles separately if you don't have any.

Although I have used kits, I prefer to use the Procion dyes as supplied by Dharma Dye. They have a great website where you can buy all you need. Procion dyes are the best and brightest dyes, I thoroughly recommend them. If you mix the dye powder yourself however, always wear a mask so that you don't inhale the powder into your lungs.

Step 3: The tools you will need for success

Picture of The tools you will need for success

If you are like me and not using a pre-packaged kit, you will need the following; Procion dye, rubber bands, rubber gloves, squeeze bottles for the dye, urea and soda ash. Oh yes, don't forget to have paper towels and old rags to mop up the spills. Tie-dying does not have to be messy!

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just wanted to say thanks so much for the instructable, i used it to make this tie dye shirt for my boyfriend to wear to my rainbow birthday party :)

It was really easy to follow and now i want to tie dye everything!! :)
This posting has won today's "I Made It" Challenge. For winning you will receive a 3 month pro membership!

Thanks for using instructables!

Seems like you had so much fun! :))

Seanysean1 month ago

Thanks so much! Can't wait to try it!

rockin-robin2 months ago
zeenia.zehra3 months ago

i like it

WhyHello4 years ago
WHy soda ash? Is that baking Soda? Would it be found in the same area as baking soda in a grocery store?

No. Its different from baking sod. however, instead of soda ash you can use washing soda.

slivie WhyHello4 years ago

Soda Ash isn't the same as baking soda. you can buy it from a dye store or get it at a pool and spa store. It is caustic so be sure to protect your hands and eyes.

As for banding. Once you twist your shirt into a bun. (I use a fork and twirl like its pasta) Just take your rubber band, hold it open and slide it under , and around the shirt while it's sitting flat. Do that 2 more times and you'll have your triangles. (almost looks like a pie chart at this point.)

Once you've allowed the garment to sit dyed for 24 hours, rinse, then wash with the hottest water for the garment in the machine...with Syntrapol or similar product. The shirt is amazingly color fast. I have one dress I bought about 5 years ago that the colors are still vibrant... the fabric is showing wear... but the colors are still awesome.

marj19994 months ago

Hello, we love the tie dye! How long can my dyes be stored after mixing before using? I have about 12 bottles of colors mixed from before I went on vacation, 3 weeks ago. They have been in my basement where it's pretty cold this winter. Should I chance it to see if they'll still hold up?

From everything I have been reading the dye needs to be used straight away, within an hour or so or it won't come out very bright. after 3 weeks I would say you can't use it anymore.

Hi there, I been trying to find some white shirts to tie dye but all of them a pretty much see through. Does this matter at all?? will the dye stop them from being see through or should i find better shirts???

as long as it is cotton. Any other material the colors will come out weird.

I love it! Thank you! :)

bballer20002 years ago
It will work if you only dry it for 8 hours?
KB092 years ago
Would a Person be able to vinyl print a logo onto the shirt once its been dyed?
What if it dries in the 24 hours
sjohnson752 years ago
Hi me and my partner love tie dying and have tried so many differnet ways but everytime we rinse off our tshirts they seem to fade and dont look so vibrant like yours. What are we doing wrong? We soak in soda ash solution for 10 mins, then wring out and fold, add bands then squirt on our dye. We then leave this for 24 hrs but still they look faded. Can u help please?
bschneid2 years ago
If i want to make a lot of tie dye items how much dye do you recommend buying? How many tshirts can you make from 2oz of each colour?
chrissy772 years ago
chrissy772 years ago
Thanks so much!!! I love how my tank top turned out. I love it soo much....I thought I'd post a picture. Thanks again!!!
kerryxxx3 years ago
oh i got so excited about then i saw what i need and thought okaaaay i wont be doing this i have no idea what procion dye is... :/
WhyHello4 years ago
So, like, say you wear this evey day. And wash it ever night. How much more would the die wear out? =(
so awesome im gonna make it (:
thank you for the easy to follow "instructables". We are planning a combo egg dyeing and shirt dyeing party for our Easter celebration. The kids can dye 3 dozen eggs in under a half hour and we wanted to do something to continue the theme. Lone behold, my Grateful Dead following (those were the!) husband suggested Tie Dye! Perfecto! thx again
kariaist4 years ago
I think the colors are in the wrong spots here in the photo as the instructions describe if you want to achieve the cool spiral pattern.
lakramer5 years ago
RIT dye works, probably better than the procion dye if you're working with children. :) Really nice instructable! Thank you!
slivie lakramer4 years ago
rit dye often requires boiling hot water. I've tried both and I'd rather cover my nieces and nephews with garbage bags and give them squirt bottles. (Adults should mix dyes and soda ash solutions)
WhyHello4 years ago
i heard you can use rubberbands a certin way to make triangles. Do you know how to do that

I'm not DIY Im WHOPDIF (WHatch Other People Do It First)
PennisFuxx4 years ago
Thanks for sharing...
I am thinking about doing a tie dye party for about 25 children and wanted to know if you could tell me how much dye will a 2 oz bottle of procion fiber reactive dye make?
Do you have any suggestions for mixing them? How much dye to water?
if u want it to look freaking awesome, dip one side in black cotton dye, twist it off center(possibly with rasta colours:D), or do a DOUBLE SPIRAL!!!! double spirals for the win!

soda ash isnt necessary... i didnt use it
caseyst5 years ago
A tip on doing the spiral - instead of a dowel, use the bottom of a walking cane that has a rubber tip. Makes a great, fast spiral and doesn't slip off like a dowel does - also easy starting too!
ANTQNUT5 years ago
I LOVE TIE DYE!!!!! Great instructable, all the tie dye looks beautiful! I love it! it will completely pull off my seventies look I've been going for . hah I like your username!
JoseAAV ANTQNUT5 years ago
dude I don't wanna be annoying but its the 60`s the 60`s were the hippie ones
ANTQNUT JoseAAV5 years ago
dude I don't wanna be annoying but when someone screws up it's not your problem so let it be.
JoseAAV ANTQNUT5 years ago
ok dude sorry peace lets not turn this into a flame war
ANTQNUT JoseAAV5 years ago
ok dude
stinkymum (author)  ANTQNUT5 years ago
tie dye has never gone out of style, you can still buy them today!
 so true. 

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