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Tie-Dye Instructions

Tie Dyeing Instructions For Grateful Dyes, Inc. Reactive Type Dye

(303) 763-9730

Tie Dye Instructions:

Introduction: We teach the modern "direct application" method of tie dye. In direct application tie dye you do not make large buckets full of dye solutions, and you do not dip the fabric into the dye. Instead, you make small concentrated solutions of dye, and squirt the dye onto the fabric. Please read our "common sense" safety and dye handling instructions before starting your dyeing project. The most important of these instructions tell you to protect your work area from spilled dye messes, and to wear gloves and protective clothing to protect your skin from the staining dye and potentially irritating dye fixer.

Equipment you will need:

Dyeing surface: We use flat sheets of cardboard cut from boxes we "recycle" out of trash cans as a surface on which we dye our fabric.

Work space protection: plastic sheets covered with newspaper provide good workspace protection.

Personal Protection: Rubber gloves to protect skin from fixer irritation and dye staining; Eye protection to protect eyes from splashing fixer water and synthrapol detergent; Dust masks to prevent breathing powders. "Paint shirts" to protect clothing.

Bucket to mix fixer solution.

Pitcher or jar to mix "chemical water".

Cups, bottles, or other containers in which to mix dye colors.

Rubber bands to bind fabric. We use big thin rubber bands instead of short heavy bands.

Pipettes, squeeze bottles, or other tools to apply dye. Measuring cups and measuring teaspoons.

Step 1. Wash new fabric to remove any sizing or oils on the fabric that may interfere with the dye.

Note: We include this instruction, because it is a long standing recommendation in fabric dyeing. It is the one instruction that we NEVER follow ourselves when tie dying. Unless you are really concerned about the fitness of the fabric for tie dye, you don't need to bother washing the fabric first.

Step 2. Prepare Fixer Water and Soak Fabric. In a plastic bucket, or other suitable container. Mix 3/4 cup Dye Fixer per gallon of warm water. Expand this recipe as needed i.e.: 1 & 1/2 cups dye fixer in 2 gallons warm water. Etc. Dye fixer is a chemical called sodium carbonate. Sodium carbonate is a common chemical which is the main ingredient in things like laundry detergent and bubble bath. Treat it as you would a strong soap. Wear gloves to keep it from irritating your skin, and avoid splashing it in eyes to avoid irritation and burning. After preparing this mixture, soak the material to be dyed in the dye fixer/water solution. We have found that it doesn't matter too much how long you soak the fabric in the fixer solution. Use whatever time makes sense to you and your project timing. If you can let the fabric soak 5 minutes, that's fine. If you let it soak overnight, that's probably okay too. If you only have time to dip the fabric in the fixer, that's not the ideal. But you will still be successful. Do not worry if you do not have room to soak all of the pieces you plan to dye in one batch. You can reuse the fixer water and treat several batches of fabric in the same mixture.

Step 3. Remove fabric from fixer water solution. Wring out excess fixer water back into the fixer water bucket because you can reuse it.

Note: The dye spreads on the fabric in different ways depending on how wet the fabric is with "fixer water" before you squirt on the dye. Wetter fabric causes the dye to "flow" out into fabric in more feathery or marbled patterns. Dryer fabric yields cleaner lines and less spreading. Different dye patterns look better with different fixer wetness levels in the fabric. Marble patterns look better when starting with a wetter shirt because the dye flows out into the fabric in interesting random shapes. Striped patterns look better when applied to a dryer shirt, as strips tend to look better with cleaner lines and spots.

Step 4. Place wet "fixed" fabric on dyeing surface and "fold, twist, or tie" as desired. A printed instruction book with tying illustrations will be sent with your order.

Step 5. Prepare "chemical water". In 1 quart warm water, mix 3/4 cup Urea, 2 teaspoons Ludigol, and an optional 1 teaspoon Water Softener. This will be the "chemical water" you will mix your dye powders with to make your dye colors. If you do not have the chemicals for "chemical water", you will mix the dye powders with plain warm water.

Step 6. Mix dye colors. You control how bright and strong or how light or pastel your dye colors are by how much dye powder you mix in your concentrated dye solutions. Remember, in this stage, you are not making big buckets full of dye. You will be mixing small concentrated cups of dye. See our sections on "how much dye should I mix" on this web site for ideas on how much dye to mix for your particular project. In general, you will be mixing dye powder with "chemical water" in cups, bottles, or other small containers.

For Bright Strong colors, Mix 4 to 6 teaspoons dye powder per cup of chemical water. For Medium shades, Mix 2 to 4 teaspoons dye powder per cup of chemical water. For light or pastel shades, Mix 1/4 to 2 teaspoons of dye powder per cup of chemical water. Many of our dyes these days are EXTREMELY concentrated and so the lower end of these ranges can often be used.

Dye powders have different densities. That is why the same weight of dye can come in different sized jars. Some dyes are dense and powdery. These dyes can use the smaller number of teaspoons to reach the same brightness. Stir dye well to dissolve dye powder completely.

Step 7. With fabric on dyeing surface, apply dye to fabric by squirting dye onto the fabric with a pipette, squeeze bottle, or other dye squirting tool. Most dyeing patterns call for saturating the fabric with dye. The mistake most beginners make is to not squirt enough dye into the fabric. Apply all the different colors at this time. Flip the fabric over and apply dye to both sides of the fabric. Usually saturating each side of the fabric.

Step 8. After you are done dyeing the fabric, leave it alone. Do not untie it. Do not hang it up to dry. Leave it tied up, and leave it alone. Let the fabric sit for 2 to 24 hours. The length of time you let the fabric sit is not overly critical. Just let the fabric sit for as long as your dyeing time frame dictates. If you Tie-dye in the evening, let the fabric sit overnight, then wash out the loose dye in the morning. If you are in a hurry, let the fabric sit for as long as your deadline will allow. Then wash out the loose dye. I do find that if you let the fabric sit overnight before you wash out the loose dye, then it is easier to wash out the loose dye and keep the colors from running.

Step 9. Wash loose dye from fabric. Wear gloves to handle messy dyed fabric to avoid staining skin. Do not put dyed fabric directly on floors, carpets, countertops, etc. to avoid staining these surfaces. Leave fabric tied up! Take tied up fabric to a sink and flood it with cold running water. A lot of loose dye will come out of the fabric, this is normal. Allow the cold flowing water to rinse out the loose dye. Cold flowing water will carry away the loose dye and keep the colors from running together and the white areas white. It takes a lot of rinsing to wash away the loose dye so rinse and rinse each piece for as long as your time frame allows or until you get sick of rinsing each item. You will not likely rinse all the loose dye out by hand in this manner and you will finish washing out the loose dye in a washing machine. To complete the washing process, fill a normal top loading washing machine with warm water. Add Synthrapol SP Detergent if you have it. UNTIE Rinsed shirt and put it in washing machine. You can now wash several shirts together. Use various amounts of Synthrapol SP depending upon how heavy the dye concentration you plan to wash out. If you’ve rinsed most of the loose dye out of the fabric by hand, then use only 1-2 TBSP of Synthrapol SP. If you have pretty heavy dye concentrations, us up to ¼ cup Synthrapol SP per load. If you do not have Synthrapol SP Detergent, then use regular laundry soap in amounts for a normal wash load. Wash fabric as many times as you need to until you’ve washed out all the loose dye. You can tell you’ve washed out all loose dye by looking at the water in the rinse cycle. If the water is clear, you’ve washed out all the loose dye. If you have a front loading washing machine, do not use Synthrapol as it is too sudsy. Front loading or low water washing machines tend to not wash out loose dye well as they do not have enough water to dilute the dye and carry it away. If you use a front loader or low water machine it is best to rinse as much loose dye from fabric as possible before you throw it in the washer.

Some people wash out loose dye bye skipping the rinse out process first and putting dyed shirts directly in top loading washing machines and using Synthrapol SP detergent to keep the colors from running together. If you do this, use cold water and ¼ cup Synthrapol SP on the first washing. Use warm or hot water on subsequent washings. Wash fabric as many times as you need to until all dye is removed. Add smaller amounts of Synthrapol SP Detergent on each additional washing.

You are finished! Dry as you would any normal fabric and enjoy!