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How to tie dye at home

Your step-by-step guide to tie dye.

Our favourite trends are the ones you can recreate at home with what you already own – and that’s why we’re such big fans of tie dye.

Whether it’s your loungewear, socks or t-shirts, the tie dye technique can be used to transform worn out garments already in your wardrobe.

You don’t need to be a fashion designer to get involved. It’s quick and easy, meaning anyone can give it a go.

Here’s your step-by-step guide to tie dying at home.

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You can buy tie dye kits, which have everything you need to get upcycling. For complete beginners who want to remove any stress from the process, we recommend this affordable tie dye kit.

However, you may already have some of what you need at home.

What you need

Your clothing item of choice: T-shirts, hoodies, sweats and socks work best if they’re 100% cotton. You can also use 50% cotton and 50% polyester, but the results won’t be as vibrant.

Dyes: You can use natural dyes, such as turmeric or beetroot, or dye powders. We recommend using Dharma Dyes and following the instructions for how to mix them.

Rubber gloves

Rubber bands

Laundry soap if dying an old garment

Synthrapol (this is a laundry soap specifically designed before dyeing fabrics)

Buckets and pots for your dye

A squirt bottle

Cling film or zip-lock bags

A space to dry your finished product

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Step 1: Collect your materials

Collect all your materials and lay them out clearly on a large table.

We recommend putting down newspaper to avoid staining.

Step 2: Mix the dye

Choose which dyes you’re going to use, then add them to a squirt bottle or bucket with warm water and mix together thoroughly. We recommend wearing a mask to do this, so you don’t inhale any powder.

Follow the instructions on your dye. Some dharma dyes require soaking in a solution of warm water and soda ash for about 10 minutes, but this isn’t the case with all dyes.

If you’re dying cotton, add some salt to the mixture as a mordant.

Ensure there’s no lumps of powder sitting at the bottom of your bucket as this can create an uneven look.

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Step 3: Wrap your item in rubber bands

At this stage, you’ll need to think about what tie dye pattern you want your garment to have.

There are plenty to choose from, so do some research beforehand to get the best from your upcycling. Watch this video for some inspiration.

You might knot the garment, use a wooden stick to twist it, or simply tie it up with rubber bands. Each pattern creates a different effect, but they all come under the same umbrella of tie dye.

Step 4: Soak your garment

Next, you need to soak your garment in water to prepare the fibres to take the dye.

Add some laundry soap and Synthrapol, a laundry soap specifically designed for use before dyeing fabrics, to warm water for 20 minutes.

If you’re using an old garment, it’s important it’s been washed before use. Any chemicals need to be rid from the fibres before dying.

Step 5: Add the dye

Next, put on your rubber gloves and either dip your item into your dye or pour it with use of your squirt bottle.

The longer you leave the garment to soak, the darker it will be – so adjust the time accordingly.

Step 6: Let it sit

When you’re happy with the dye, remove it from the bucket or pot and wrap it in cling film or a zip-lock bag to keep the moisture in.

Let it sit in a warm place for at least 24 hours. This gives the dye the chance to bond with the fabric.

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Step 7: Unwrap

The following day, put on your gloves again to unwrap your cling film or zip-lock bag.

Remove your rubber bands and run your garment under cold water. There will be a lot of dye in the sink, but this is perfectly normal. Let it run until the water runs clear, and remove your bands.

You can now wash your item in the washing machine on a cold wash, but make sure you don’t put any other garments in with it as the dye may transfer. We recommend waiting a few washes before doing so, just in case.

If you’ve knotted your garment, wash it like this to preserve the pattern. Then unknot it and wash it again – both on cold washes.

For more help, watch this in-depth video on YouTube, or for those who aren’t in the crafty mood but love the look, see our favourite tie dye loungewear sets here.

For fashion advice and general chit-chat, join our Facebook group What To Wear Next.

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