Shibori in Japan, Jumputan in Indonesia, Bandhani in India, Mudmee in Thailand… All these refer to the beautiful wearable art form called tie-and-dye. You can easily jazz up a bland shirt with this psychedelic art at home. But you must also know how to wash tie-dye shirts for the first time.
After steeping it in dye, the first wash for a tie-dye shirt starts with a quick rinse and a soak in a vinegar-and-water mixture. Next, it needs a wash with hot water and detergent before drying. After the first few careful washes, it will be ready to be cleaned with other clothes.
What steps do you need to follow to achieve the perfect colors and extend the life of your creation? Don’t worry – because I’m going to offer a step-by-step guideline. So keep reading!
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Wash Tie Dye Shirts for the First Time: Step-by-Step Guideline
- 2 Machine Washing vs. Hand Washing Tie and Dye Shirts
- 3 Washing Tie Dye Shirts: Cotton Fabric vs. Polyester Fabric
- 4 How to Rinse Tie Dye Shirts Without It Bleeding
- 5 How Prevent Fading While Washing a Tie-Dye Shirt
- 6 Final Words
- 7 How To Wash Tie Dye Shirts FAQs
How to Wash Tie Dye Shirts for the First Time: Step-by-Step Guideline
Washing tie dye shirts – or any clothing- requires you to be careful. It’s time to know how to wash tie-dye shirts for the first time. You’ll be surprised to see how easy it is. But the steps you take before and after the wash are just as crucial as the wash itself if you want radiant and long-lasting colors and patterns.
Take a look!
1. Let ‘Er Steep!
Steeping isn’t a part of washing a new tie-dye shirt. But the colors must develop. Let the just-dyed shirt rest in a sealed plastic bag or airtight box. The resting time is 8-24 hours for cotton. For polyester, the resting time after soaking the shirt in a boiling dye bath depends on the dye type and can be 30 mins – 4 hours.
2. The Baptismal Rinse
It’s time for the initial rinse to wash away the loose dye. Hold the shirt under running water, put it in the washing machine, and use the rinse setting. For cotton, use only cold water. But for polyester, start with warm water and gradually turn down the temperature. Use gloves and tongs if you don’t want to tie-dye your hands!
3. Setting All the Colors
Why chase colors in your head when you can set them on your shirt – and wear them? If it’s a cotton shirt, mix 2 cups of vinegar with about a gallon of cold water in a pail and place the shirt in it for 30 minutes. Polyester shirts will need synthrapol instead of vinegar. Doing so will help the dye cling to the fabric.
4. Say “Bye Bye Dye” with Detergent
Detergent? Won’t that remove the colors from your art piece? Your shirt still has excess dye sticking to the fibers at this stage. Using a small amount of a mild detergent will remove that so that it doesn’t bleed later. I recommend using hot water for this step so that the heat enables color-setting.
5. Repeat for a Masterpiece
While you’re done with the first wash, you may need to repeat the last step. I suggest you note the water’s color after each wash. If you notice it’s murky, there’s still extra dye in the shirt. Continue till the water looks clear. But don’t soak it – or you’ll damage the colors.
6. High and Dry
How do you dry a tie-dye shirt? Pull the shirt out of the detergent water and hang it in a warm, airy space. But stay away from direct sunlight as it may fade the colors. Always check if the dye needs a specific heat level to set. In that case, you may have to use the dryer at a particular temperature.
Washing a new tie-dye shirt will need careful steps to develop colors and ensure its long life. During the first few washes, let the shirt be alone. It will then be ready to be washed with other clothes. Always use cold water once the excess dye is removed.
Machine Washing vs. Hand Washing Tie and Dye Shirts
Should you wash a tie-and-dye shirt in the washing machine or by hand? Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a quick look and compare the two, shall we?
It can be convenient and mess-free to wash tie-dye shirts in a washer. It will do everything from rinsing to washing to drying without staining your fingers. The water and dryer temperature will also be under your control.
Hand-washing tie-dye clothes are messy and need gloves and tongs. But it needs less water. It’s also a lot gentler on the clothes. You can control whether the shirt is getting wrung or squeezed – as overdoing these can damage the fabric.
You can, however, reduce the friction caused in a washer by turning the shirt inside out. It would be best if you also used the gentle wash cycle when completing any washing machine steps to minimize harsh movements. However, hand washing is the best for tie-dye shirts.
Washing Tie Dye Shirts: Cotton Fabric vs. Polyester Fabric
Cotton and polyester react differently to various dyes. Cotton is a super-absorbent fabric, while polyester is hardly absorbent by itself. So cotton can handle water-soluble dye that must rest for 8-24 hours to set. But polyester needs acrylic paint or dispersed dye, which may require 30-240 minutes, along with heat, to set before washing.
After the first rinse in cold water, cotton shirts will need a vinegar-water solution for a soak to set the colors. But if you use polyester, you’ll need to use synthrapol instead of vinegar for the soaking mixture after the first rinse in warm and cold water.
While it’s ideal to use hot water and detergent for the final wash of the tie-dye cotton shirt, I suggest only a cold water wash for polyester in the last step. Remember that the water turns murky while rinsing or washing, more evident in cotton than polyester.
How to Rinse Tie Dye Shirts Without It Bleeding
The first wash after dying a shirt involves two steps of rinsing. The first rinse takes place right after letting the fabric steep in dye. It helps in preventing the excess dye from adhering to the fabric fibers. It gives you prominent colors and defined edges instead of dark shades and blunt patterns.
For the first rinse, it’s a good idea to rinse cotton shirts in cold water. But for polyester, it’s better to start with hot or warm water as the previous dying step likely involves a boiling dye bath! Eventually, switch to cold water. Doing so will lock the color while removing the extra dye.
This step is followed by a soak – which is often ignored. But using vinegar solution for cotton shirts and synthrapol for polyester shirts helps the dye color cling to the fabric’s fibers. Don’t forget to use cold water for this step to lock the color and prevent it from bleeding later.
Bleeding is a common problem where the color leaves the fabric and gets transferred to other clothes. The color can also move out of the lines and patterns, making the designs look blurred. You’d want the edges of the beautiful patterns to look distinct, right?
After the soak, you need to give the shirt another rinse. For cotton shirts, use hot water and small quality of mild detergent. Only cold water is sufficient for the final rinse of your polyester shirt. This step can be repeated multiple times until the water stops looking muddy.
Don’t be scared when you see the water turning dark. If you have dyed the shirt properly and allowed it to set, the only thing that rinsing can remove is the excess dye. You must get rid of it. Otherwise, the color will continue running during future washes and destroy other clothes.
How Prevent Fading While Washing a Tie-Dye Shirt
You should follow a few simple steps while washing to prevent tie-dye shirts from fading. Firstly, allow the colors to set properly while steeping in dye or soaking in vinegar/synthrapol. Secondly, try to use cold water as much as possible to lock the colors – unless you’re washing extra dye with detergent from cotton shirts.
When you use detergent, always use a mild one that will be gentle instead of treating the dye like a stain! I’d also recommend that you wash the shirt by hand so you can gently handle the fabric and its fresh colors instead of twisting and stretching it.
But how do you want to wash a tie-dye shirt in a washer – and ensure that there’s no fading? Always use a gentle wash/rinse cycle and keep an eye on the temperature of the water and in the dryer. A great way to prevent colors from fading due to friction is turning the shirt inside out.
Also, remember to avoid bleach and fabric softeners. If your dye suggests drying at a particular temperature, a washing machine’s dryer can be helpful. Set the shirt to dry immediately after the final rinse instead of leaving it moist or wet. But if you hang it up for air-drying, avoid direct sunlight as it can fade tie-dye shirts.
Now you know precisely how to wash tie dye shirts for the first time. I’ve tested these steps several times and have always found that the final results are vibrant shirts that don’t bleed.
You might be inspired by the Hippie culture to fill your wardrobe with rainbow colors. Or, jazzing up boring old shirts with a dash of colors could be your lockdown hobby. Either way, those bright shades, and unique patterns can last forever- if you wash them right! On a side note, I have a dedicated article on the best tie-dye kits.
How To Wash Tie Dye Shirts FAQs
How long after the tie-dye process can you wash a shirt?
Depending on the dye and fabric, you may need to wait for 4-24 hours after the tie-dye process to wash a shirt. Generally, water-soluble dyes need at least 8 hours of rest, while fiber-reactive dyes are set much faster. Polyester requires more time than cotton before the first wash.
How do you wash a tie-dye shirt for the first time with vinegar?
A vinegar solution is a color-setting agent for your new tie-dye shirt. Make a concoction with about a gallon of cold water and two cups of vinegar in a pail. Let the shirt soak in it for half an hour before taking a detergent bath. Remember to use it only for cotton shirts.
Do you use detergent when washing tie-dye shirts for the first time?
Washing tie-dye shirts for the first time involves rinsing them after soaking them in water and vinegar. While rinsing, you should use a small quantity of detergent and hot water – and nothing else. This will help remove any residual dye stuck to the shirt’s fabric.
Should you let a tie-dye shirt dry before you wash it?
The drying process will be uneven if you allow a new tie-dye shirt to dry while steeping before the first wash. The still-damp portion of the fabric will develop darker spots. So you should always rinse the item in the water right after letting it rest in a sealed bag or container.
Should you leave tie-dye shirts in the sun?
Leaving tie-dye shirts in the sun for too long may cause the colors to fade. But if you want to use the natural heat to set the dye colors, you put the newly-dyed fabric in a container during the resting phase and place it where the sun’s heat is potent.
How should you wash a store-bought tie-dye shirt?
Store-bought tie-dye shirts are similar to other clothes and can wash them like other items in the laundry lot. For the first time, it’s a good idea to wash the shirt all by itself, lest it bleeds. Pair cold water with a gentle cycle or hand-washing and air-dry the shirt.
Should you wash multiple tie-dye shirts together?
If you want to wash several tie-dye shirts together, you must rinse them properly to stop them from bleeding. So avoid it for the first few washes. You can also wash them with other clothes after the colors are set. But try to wash only tie-dye shirts of similar colors together.
Do you wash tie-dye shirts with hot or cold water?
The first wash of a tie-and-dye shirt involves both cold and hot water – at different stages. Cold water with vinegar helps to set the colors. On the other hand, hot water with detergent removes excess dye to prevent bleeding in the future.
How do you remove a stain from a tie-dye shirt?
Removing stains from tie-dye shirts without fading the colors is a challenge. Soak the area in water in a pail or sink, and add a dash of mild detergent. Then, rub the spot gently and rinse. Avoid using a commercial stain remover or heavy scrubbing to protect the dye.
How can you remove dye stains from your hand?
Getting your hands stained while handling or washing tie-dye shirts is quite common. To remove dye from your hands, you need a simple ingredient from your pantry, i.e., baking soda. Mix a thick paste with a bit of water – and rub your hands with it! If you enjoy this guide, you’ll probably like: How to Upcycle a Shirt and Make a Tote Bag.