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How to tie-dye any item of clothing—quarantine’s biggest DIY fashion trend

Enough baking, it's time for tie-dyeing

You can make that tie-dye matching set at home. Credit: Joann

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If you’ve made enough banana bread to last through summer, and need another quarantine project, you might want to get into tie-dyeing. 

The colorful and nostalgic trend has been all over social media, most notably in photos of celebrities and influencers in matching tie-dye loungewear sets. But it doesn’t stop there. Sneakers, t-shirts, yoga pants, bathing suits—everything is getting the tie-dye treatment.

If you’ve been trying to get your hands on tie-dye apparel, you may have noticed that it is often either sold out or very expensive (some matching sets go for hundreds of dollars). Luckily, just like you may have done in year’s past at summer camp, you can create your own tie-dye clothing at home.

Whether you’re looking to save money or find a new hobby for yourself or your kids, below you will find instructions on how to tie-dye—and the best supplies you will need to do it.

Where to buy tie-dye kits


Many retailers sell tie-dye kits, making it easy to get everything you need in a one-stop shop. These kits include dye, bottles, rubber bands, gloves, and a plastic tarp, which means you don’t have to hunt around for each item individually. The kits we recommend are nearly identical aside from the number of dyes and specific colors that are included, so you can choose your kit based on the size of your project and what colors you want. Here’s where you can find them.

The best clothes to tie dye


There are a few things you will want to keep in mind while shopping for clothes to tie-dye. White clothing will produce the color of the dye from the bottle while colored clothing will produce a color somewhere between the color of clothing and the dye. If you choose a clothing item that’s a blend of natural and synthetic fibers, like 50 percent cotton and 50 percent polyester, it will most likely take some of the dye but the color won’t be as bright. 

Before making a purchase, check that the clothing item and dye are compatible. Most dye kits recommend using natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, or rayon. Below, we recommend sweatshirts, sweatpants, and t-shirts that will work with most dyes.

Sweatshirts


Sweatpants


T-shirts

How to tie-dye

1. Purchase your tie-dye kit or supplies

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Credit: Joann

These kits have everything you need.

A tie-dye kit isn’t necessary to have a successful tie-dye project, and you can purchase all the supplies separately. But the advantage of a tie-dye kit is that it includes everything you need, which is great if you don’t want to go through the hassle of searching and buying each item separately. They also have a variety of different colors included.

2. Pre-wash your clothing item

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Credit: Getty Images / Good Life Studio

Removing any potential chemicals in your clothes are essential for good tie-dye.

If you purchase a new item, be sure to pre-wash it. Pre-washing helps remove some of the chemical treatments put on fabric during manufacturing, which can prevent dye absorption or cause unevenness. 

3.  Gather your materials and prep the surface

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Credit: Getty Images / yongyeezer

Plan out your tie-dye before you start.

You will want to have everything you need set-up before you start, so you’re not running to get something while your hands are covered in dye. Lay out a plastic tarp or garbage bag to protect the surface you are working on from getting dye on it. Place multiple sheets of paper towel down to absorb extra dye (or an old towel if you don’t mind it will get stained). Make sure to wear old clothes that could get stained and gloves to prevent staining your hands.

4. Choose between dry dye and wet dye 

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Credit: Joann

They are two ways to tie-dye.

You can start with your clothing item wet or dry, they both work but will produce different looks. Dry dyeing makes the color more vibrant, the dye spreads less and will have more definition around the edges. It also requires more dye. With wet dyeing, the colors will be less saturated and “bleed” more which means the edges will be less defined. If you are wet dyeing, start with a damp item, not soaking wet. 

5. Get creative and plan ahead

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Credit: Joann

There are several ways to create cool dye patterns.

The beauty of tie-dye is that the way it looks can turn out many different ways, depending on how you tie and where you put the dye, so plan ahead of time. Here are some things you’ll want to plan ahead:

1. Plan what colors you want to use. Many of these kits come with multiple colors and you can use all of them or just a few of your favorites.
2. If you want deep dark colors or less saturated color. If you add more water to your dye the resulting color will be lighter.
3. Where you want the dye on the garment. You can put dye over the entire item or in select spots such as one sleeve.
4. What types of patterns and designs you want. There are so many options for patterns and designs like stripes, swirls, hearts or you can wing it and put the dye wherever you want.

6. Time to dye

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Credit: Joann

Get ready for your new creation.

  1. Mix the dye according to the instructions.
  2. Use rubber bands or ties to create stripes, swirls, or whatever pattern you want. If you’re a beginner you may want to practice your technique on a scrap piece of fabric to see how it will come out beforehand. 
  3. Once you have everything tied, squeeze the dye in the area you want to dye. It’s best to add a small amount of dye, see how it spreads, and add more if needed.
  4. Repeat until you are finished.
  5. After you are done, cover your tie-dye project with plastic or put it in a plastic bag. Be careful that the colors don’t run together. Let this sit for 6 to 24 hours, the dye will turn out more vibrant the longer it sits. 
  6. When time is up, rinse your item thoroughly until the water runs clear.
  7. Wash your garment on it’s own a few times to get rid of excess dye. 

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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