How to Tie-Dye a Shirt



All-purpose dye
Plastic squirt bottles
Rubber bands
Plastic gloves
Plastic bags or plastic wrap

1. Select your workspace: Tie-dye can get messy, so working outdoors is ideal. If your workspace is in a garage or indoors, arrange garbage bags or plastic sheeting to catch splatters and spills.

2. Select your shirt. Prewashed, 100% cotton soaks up dye the best. “The Tie-dye Lady,” Joanna Babbitt, recommends saving spotted or stained white clothes for tie-dye projects.

3. Prepare your shirt. Immerse your shirt in lukewarm water, then lay flat.

4. Prepare your dye. Most tie-dye kits come with packaged instructions, often containing half-full squirt bottles of concentrated dye to be mixed with warm water. Adding a little salt will enhance the color. You can also make your own dye bath using powdered dye, available at most craft stores.

5. Plan your design and tie your shirt. The most popular designs are included with most tie-dye kits and endless possibilities can be found online. Here are two to get you started:

Swirl — Decide where to place the center of your spiral, then position your fingers around the center point and twist fabric in a spiral direction. Wrap rubber bands around fabric to hold spiral together.

Stripes — Fold shirt vertically or diagonally in two to three inch folds, like an accordion, then wrap with rubber bands every few inches.

6. Start tie-dyeing. Squirt dye from the bottle onto the shirt, applying only one color at a time, starting with lighter colors first. Babbitt recommends using only one to three colors. “I try and use one color on one side of the rubber band, then another color on the other side of the rubber band,” she said.

If you don’t have squirt bottles or if your shirt is made of synthetic material, an immersion bath method is recommended. Instructions can be found at

7. Let it dry. With the shirt still rubber-banded, place it in a plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 12 to 24 hours to allow the color to set.

8. While wearing gloves, unwrap shirt and take off the rubber bands. Rinse in cold water until the runoff is clear, ideally using an outdoor hose. Then wash shirt with cold water in the washing machine. Babbitt recommends using Shout Color-Catcher Sheets, which absorb and trap loose dye.

9. Dry on hot and your tie-dyed shirt is ready to wear.