EasY Non-MessY TYe DYing of Tshirts and Pants, Including Instructions and Experimentation Results




Take a bland shirt or pant and turn it into a multispectrum colorfest

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Step 1: Materials

Soda Ash : powder. $5 for 5 lb. use 1/3ish cup per gallon (16 cups = 1 gallon) of water. for single shirt I use 6ish cups of water so.... you don't need a ton of this stuff!. Some dyes (RYE?) come with soda ash in them. Procion does not.
n.b. The pool or hardware stores sell soda ash as sodium carbonate. Any pH upper will do! you want around pH 10 or 11 to fix "fiber reactive dye".
n.b. Arm&Hammer has a natural washing soda, sodium carbonate decahydrate, that contains water in addition to sodium carbonate, so use maybe 3 times as much.

Cold Water Fabric Dye : powder. $4 per little bottle (3 quarters (<--US currency) tall). 1 tablespoonish per shirt bag, will dye a second shirt, too. at least. I use Procion MX.

Some salt (tablespoon ish)

Some ziplock bags

Some gloves or plastic bags with rubber bands

A shirt or any kind of natural (cotton) fabric to dye.

Step 2: Soak Fabric in Soda Ash

Put the ratio of
1/3 ish cup soda ash powder
1 gallon water
in a zip lock bag.

You probably want to use enough water to cover the fabric.

Pour in the water, add the soda ash, close the bag and shake around, then add the fabric.

Let it sit half an hour.

This step matters. The soda ash prepares the fabric fibers to absorb dye. If you don't do this step the dye will fade dramatically in the wash.

Step 3: Soak Fabric in Dye

Put the ratio of
1 table spoon procion mx powder
6ish cups of water. luke warm.
Also add
a tablespoonish of salt
in a bag or bucket. shake or stir.

Consult packaging for exact quantities. Though experimenting will provide you with more flexibility in the future. The packaging doesn't know your goals, anyway.

I often resort to a large zip lock bag, but the mop bucket is a more environmentally friendly container if you're not going to save zip locks (if you do save them make sure to label them as NOT FOR FOOD, especially if you live in a coop like I do).

Fold/rubber band/tye fabric if dying with a pattern. I like to scrunch it up to get the crushed look in the pictures. No ties or rubber bands-- the key to crushed is to let the bag sit still and not move the dye around. The uneveness of the soda ash, salt and fabric layering and squishing will give the crushed effect.

On the other hand, for even color use a bucket and stir consistently. You can even put a large load in the washing machine.

Put the fabric, eg a shirt, in the bag/bucket. Add more water if necessary to cover the fabric. Seal the bag (if applicable) and squish out the air.

Step 4: Remove Fabric From Bag/bucket and Let Sit Overnight

I recommend using gloves to take out the fabric, both to prevent your hand from getting discolored or contaminated. If you don't have gloves use plastic bags with rubber bands over the wrists. Grocery store produce-bags work best.

Take out the fabric. Ring dry (back into the bucket if reusing). Put into a plastic bag and let sit over night. You might be concerned that your neat pattern will now dilute and disappear. In my experience the dye does not spread. This step does help strengthen the color.

Step 5: Wash and Dry

Put in washing machine or wash bucket (one of those small hand powered washers is perfect for a wash/rinse of this sort). Wash. You probably don't want to use soap or wash with other clothes.

Hang dry. (You can use a dryer but why waste energy?)

n.b. - the dye will respond well to discharge paste (discharge pigment) and acrylic (screen) paint. There are many instructables on this topic, so if you've never tried this technique check it out. You can also screen/bleach/discharge before dying.

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    15 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Очень интересно! Надо попробовать сделать.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    omg. did anyone else see the face on the shirt? its half way up the front and to the left. it looks like a skull. it has dark blue eyes


    10 years ago on Step 3

    Had a question about the length of time between step three and four. How long do you wait from soaking in the ziplock bag until rinsing them?


    11 years ago on Step 5

    hey, i want to make one of these teeshirts that look more scrunched rather than circles. how do you get it to look like this? and what colour teeshirt do i use if i want grey / purpley tye dye?

    4 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

    hey! thanks for that i havent got around to it yet probably this weekend il let you know how it goes thankyou!


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

    To get the scrunched rather than circle/spiral look scrunch up your shirt!. Take a little bit of say the sleeve and start mashing it together, pulling in more and more of the shirt. The more folds and creases, the tighter the scrunch pattern. Loosely or tightly--depending on how sharp a contrast you want; if it's wicked tight then the insides might remain undyed--wrap the shirt in string or rubber bands. If your bag or bucket is the right size you won't even have to tie it up. Once in the dye, don't move it too much. Also, I put a little bit of dry dye on top once the shirt is in to get a slightly uneven coloration. I think putting salt in also helps with unevening the dying. what color dye do you have? I used midnight blue tye dye on a crisp white shirt for the blue one, and lilac dye on an off white shirt for the purpley one.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    So, once I've scrunched the shirt and I have put it in the dye...how long do I leave it in there before I remove it to ring it out?

    2 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    depends on how dark you want the darks and how light you want the lights. the longer you leave the shirt in the dye the more the dye will seep into the folds, causing the lights to become dyed. if you left the shirt in there for a week presumably it would be an almost solid color (maybe mottled?). I'd say 1 hr is prolly good. 2 hrs is fine, too. Once you take it out squeeze it out. you can either try not to mess up the shape, or you can try to give it a good squeezing out so it's not dripping wet (much). Then leave it in a plastic bag overnight. Because you're leaving it in a bag overnight, the darks will have time to really darken. I don't think this will dillute the whites too much.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    you can get soda ash cheap at the pool supply,or get to know a pool guy and you'll get it free!

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    awesome! The pool or hardware stores sell it as sodium carbonate. Any pH upper will do! you want around pH 10 or 11 to fix "fiber reactive dye". Arm&Hammer has a natural washing soda, sodium carbonate decahydrate, that contains water in addition to sodium carbonate, so use maybe 3 times as much. I'll add these tips to the soda ash step. This isntructable is collaborative... but I wish anyone could add to it (like a wiki).. I think I have to add collaborators manually. If you want to be added let me know!