How to Tie Dye Shirts

    by Megan Mattingly-Arthur

    About the Author

    Megan Mattingly-Arthur has been writing professionally since 1998. She has contributed to various publications, including "Teen Voices" and "Positive Teens" magazines, as well as a book, "The Young Writer's Guide to Getting Published." Mattingly-Arthur is studying travel and tourism through Penn Foster Career School.


    The hip and trendy style that defined a generation is back. With so many tie dyed shirts, pants, dresses, purses and other items available, it's arguable that tie dye is even more popular than it was in its 60s heyday. Tie dying your own shirts is fun, easy, cost-effective and is sure to bring you plenty of compliments and questions on where you found such a super groovy top.

    Things You'll Need

    • White cotton shirt
    • Rubber bands
    • Fabric dyes in squeeze bottles
    • Bucket
    • Rubber gloves
    • 2 cups soda ash
    • Long-handled spoon
    • Sheets of plastic, newspaper or garbage bags
    • Paper towels

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    Lay down sheets of plastic, garbage bags or newspaper on a flat work surface to save yourself a lot of clean-up. Keep a roll of paper towels around to soak up any excess dyes or clean up accidents. Wear an art smock, apron or clothes you don't mind getting ruined.

    Wet the shirt you're planning to dye and ring out excess water. For a marbled tie dye look, bunch your wet shirt into a ball and randomly wrap rubber bands around it. If you would rather make the classic spiral tie dye, lay the shirt flat and pinch it in the middle. Twist tightly and wrap the shirt with rubber bands.

    Fill your bucket with 2 gallons of really hot tap water. Use a long-handled spoon to stir in the soda ash until it is completely dissolved.

    Soak your bound shirt in the hot soda ash solution for at least a half an hour to ensure that the dye will bind to the shirt fibers. When you're ready to dye, wear rubber gloves, pull your shirt out of the soda ash water and wring out the excess liquid.

    Keep your rubber gloves on and get ready to tie dye. Squirt the dyes between the sections of your bound shirt and squeeze the fabric gently to make sure that it is saturated.

    Wrap your bundled shirt in plastic and put it somewhere where it can sit undisturbed for 24 hours. It may be tempting to unwrap your shirt early, but to make that the dye has properly bound to the fibers, you'll need to leave it wrapped in plastic for the whole 24 hours.

    Unwrap your shirt. After 24 hours, the waiting is over and you can finally take your shirt out of the plastic. Cut off the rubber bands and rinse the shirt under running water until the water runs clear.

    Wash your shirt with detergent on the regular wash setting. When it's done, you can either machine or line dry your shirt. From this point on, the dye is set and you should be able to wash your tie dye shirt with similar colors with your regular laundry.

    • Soda ash can be found in the laundry detergent section of your local grocery store.
    • Roll your wet shirt vertically and secure with rubber bands. Once dyed, the finished product will be an awesome vertically striped tie dye shirt.
    • To avoid unwanted color transfer, rinse your gloves and wipe your workspace with paper towels before changing dye colors.