How to do tie-dye at home: instructions, tips and techniques


Most of us have already dyed t-shirts at school or camp, or maybe even picked up a cool tie-dye shirt at the store. What if you could make tie dye at home without ever using a washing machine?

Luckily, it’s entirely possible to relive your childhood while adding spice to your wardrobe.

The tie-dye craze has emerged from the ashes of the 1960s to grace us with its vibrant presence and is dominating social media. Because who doesn’t need a little (or a lot) of color in their life these days?

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Whether it’s a t-shirt, sweatpants, hoodie, or other garments, tie-dye looks great on all kinds of clothes. And the best part is that you can be on the cutting edge of fashion without having to worry about spending money on new clothes. You can dye almost any item, even blankets or curtains!

If you’re worried about messing up this DIY project, fear not.

Here’s how to make tie-dye at home, without ruining your clothes or bleaching your washing machine.

1. Consider your clothes of choice.

Despite how things look on Instagram, you can’t dye every item in your wardrobe. Bleach and most dyes won’t affect synthetic fabrics like polyester, so look on your clothing labels for items that will have a higher cotton content.

Whatever you do, don’t try to dye a delicate fabric like silk, lace, or chiffon. If your item is fragile or a bit sheer, the bleach will damage the fabric.

Also, if you are buying a new item, especially to dye it, be sure to pre-wash it. The dye will not work on clothes that have never been washed before.

If you’re dyeing dark-colored clothes, regular household bleach will achieve what expert DIYers call a “reverse tie-dye” look — basically, just a bleached pattern on your colored item. The bleach will come out somewhere between white and rust colors, depending on the color of your item (the surprise is part of the fun).

If you want a multicolored design, get your hands on a tie-dye kit or fabric dyes. These dyes will show best on a light or white colored shirt or item.

2. Gather your ingredients.

The beauty of tie-dye is that you can do anything with things you probably already have at home. Here is what you will need:

  • rubber gloves
  • Rubber bands or hair ties
  • Spray bottles or squeeze bottles (you can also just poke a hole in the top of your dye bottle or reuse an old spray bottle from a cleaner)
  • Items you plan to tie-dye
  • Bleach or dye

For bleach, mix equal parts water and bleach. If you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can make natural dyes from boiling ground turmeric or red onions.

Make sure you have a designated workspace to avoid staining your entire house. Exterior staining is the best way to avoid fumes and damage anything valuable in your home.

If that’s not an option, you can always use the tub or shower. Lay out an old sheet or trash bags on the bathroom floor and use it as a workspace.

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3. Choose your design.

The best part about tie-dye clothing is that no two items are exactly alike. It’s so easy to customize your dye look, and one of these templates will get you started.

Tie Dye Bullseye


1. Pull the center of the fabric through your hand to create a tube shape with the garment.

2. Tie your rubber bands at regular intervals along the length of the tube.

3. Dye each section a different color or use one color for larger undyed outlines.

Spiral tie dye


1. Choose where you want your spiral to start and pull the shirt from there (center works best).

2. Twist in one direction until the whole garment forms a circle.

3. Use tapes to fix the shape.

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4. Spray or pour the dye in diagonal sections across the circle.

Striped Tie-Dye


1. If your item has sleeves, start by folding them inwards so that the entire fabric is a square/rectangle.

2. Pinch the fabric at regular intervals and fold it over so that the fabric is gathered on itself.

3. Secure the ends of the item with bands to hold the shape.

4. Then tie them evenly on the tube.

5. Cover the entire item with dye. The folded parts will not be colored and will be your scratches.

Crumpled Tie-Dye


1. Lay your item flat and crease random parts by pulling the fabric in your closed fist or pinching it.

2. Shape the item into a ball, being careful not to damage your pleats.

3. Place a few strips all over the bale.

4. Spray the dye randomly on the ball, without covering it entirely.

If none of these choices suit you, there are many other designs to choose from, including diamond shapes, mandala spirals, spider patterns, ombre fades, concertina folds, or even shaped designs. Canvas.

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4. Let the dye absorb.

Once you’ve applied the dye to your chosen design, you’ll need to let it work its magic a bit.

Bleach is fast acting and will take effect in 10-15 minutes. For your colored dyes, how long you leave them on will determine the strength of the colors.

Leave the dye on for at least 1 hour for a light complexion and up to 24 hours for a more dynamic look. Wrap the item in a plastic bag while you wait to avoid staining your tub, and be sure to wear gloves so you don’t stain your hands.

Just be careful not to let the colors touch each other and ruin your design!

5. Rinse and dry.

Untie your bandages and rinse the clothes well under cold water. You can use your bathtub or even a garden hose.

Putting dyed items straight into the washing machine will dye your next load of laundry, which you definitely don’t want.

Wash them until you can no longer see the color in the water. Then, put your newly dyed item in the washer alone and wash it on a regular cycle. If you dyed multiple items, you will need to wash them separately.

Use detergent to remove remaining dye and keep machine clean. Hang them to dry or use your dryer.

And There you go ! Take a cute photo in your new article and be the envy of your friends!

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Alice Kelly is the news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based in Brooklyn, New York, her work spans all things social justice, pop culture and human interest. Follow her on Twitter for more.

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