How to Make Super Vibrant Tie Dye
How to Get Professional Quality Tie Dyes
We are always getting asked this question…”How do you get your Tie Dyes So Vibrant?!” well there is a simple answer: we use fiber reactive dyes.
Fiber reactive dyes are the professional dyes used to create tie dye. The kind of tie dye you see being sold at festivals and the kind that does not fade. There is a HUGE difference between fiber reactive dyes and the tie dye kits you get at Walmart. The Walmart kits, while great for beginners, are just going to leave you with a faded tie dye. Every time you wash your tie dye it will become more and more faded to the point that after a couple years you’re almost back to a white shirt. The same thing will happen with RIT dye.
That is because the dye in these kits work by staining the fabric. But when you use fiber reactive dyes the dye creates a permanent bond with the fabric. It’s pretty crazy because you can literally feel that the dyed shirt feels like a thicker material than when it was white.
Working with fiber reactive dyes is a little more complex than the tie dye kits at the store, but it is still super easy. The key ingredient in these dyes is SODA ASH aka sodium carbonate. Soda ash is also used as an ingredient in swimming pools and can be purchased in bulk from pool stores!
We use soda ash from Amazon, but there are several available on Amazon for cheap! You can also make your own soda ash using baking soda and baking it in the oven.
The first step in making a fiber reactive tie dye shirt is to create a soda ash solution. A solution is: a liquid mixture in which the minor component (the solute) is uniformly distributed within the major component (the solvent). In this case the solute is the soda ash, and the solvent is your water!
Here is a recipe for soda ash solution:
1 cup soda ash
1-gallon Lukewarm water
Wear Gloves and Mask!
Combine the two ingredients in a bucket and stir until dissolved. When the liquid is clear you are ready to go! The soda ash solution is slightly caustic so it can irritate the skin. Make sure you wear gloves to avoid any adverse reaction.
Now that you have your soda ash solution ready you can get your shirts ready to dye. Make sure you are using 100% cotton shirts – rayon, modal, linen, hemp will also work. We recently tested a large batch of white cotton shirts for tie dye and our favorite was the Bella Canvas 3001C style. But any fabric that is made from plants will work. Also, it is ok if you have a blend of polyester but the more polyester/synthetic fabric the less vibrant your tie dye will be! Make sure you wash your shirt/fabric before preparing for dye! New clothing comes coated with different chemicals that can prevent the dye from bonding with the fabric.
Soak Your Shirts/Fabric
Place your material in the soda ash solution and let set for 15-20 minutes. After it soaks use your gloves to remove your material and squeeze out the excess soda ash back into your bucket to be reused. Soda ash solution lasts forever so don’t let it go to waste! The more of the liquid you can squeeze out of your shirt the more dye will be able to soak in. In other words – the wetter your fabric the whiter will show up in the results. If you really want to get out the excess liquid, then you can put your fabric in the washer on a spin only setting. This is how we prepare our shirts for tie dye and it does an excellent job getting out the excess liquid.
Now your shirts are ready to dye!
Preparing your dye
Use LUKE WARM (not too hot, about baby bottle temperature, 105 degrees F or less) to mix your dyes.