How to tie dye pants

Tie-dye is a technique of coloring fabric that involves folding, twisting, and scrunching the fabric and then tying it tightly with string or rubber bands. Then, you dip the fabric in dye. The areas that are twisted and tied will receive little to no dye. Once you remove the ties, you will find unique patterns on the fabric based on the way it was manipulated and bound.

Tie-dyeing is a quick and easy project, and it's even great for kids. However, it can be messy, so you should wear protective clothing and cover your work space with newspapers or other items for easy cleanup. You can tie-dye a wide variety of items, including articles of clothing, sheets and pillowcases, curtains, and more. Tie-dyed items can even make excellent customized gifts.

How to tie dye pants

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Apron/old clothes that you don’t mind accidentally getting dye on
  • Rubber gloves
  • Large pot or bucket (one per dye color) and/or squeeze bottles

Materials

  • Item to dye that’s at least 60% cotton
  • Dye enhancer, such as soda ash or sodium carbonate (optional)
  • Fabric dye (in one or more colors of your choice)
  • Rubber bands or string
  • Plastic bag/plastic wrap

Instructions

Prepare Your Item and Work Space

Before you dye your item, wash it to ensure that the fabric is clean for best dye adherence. Then, if you wish, treat the item with a dye enhancer following manufacturer's instructions.

Cover the area where you will be tie-dyeing, so splashes of dye don't accidentally stain anything. Put on your protective clothes.

Prepare the Dye

Prepare your dye as directed by the manufacturer. You can either mix dye directly in a large pot or bucket, or you can mix it in a plastic squeeze bottle for more targeted dye application. The instructions on your dye will typically state which method is best.

Tie Your Item

Now it's time to twist and tie your item. You can choose to tie parts of the fabric in an irregular manner or aim to form a specific pattern.

For instance, to make a spiral pattern with the dye, lay out your fabric completely flat and find its center. Then, using a fork or your fingers, grab the center and swirl it until the fabric is rolled in a circular shape. Use your rubber bands or string to secure the fabric in this shape. The ties should meet in the middle of the fabric, forming an asterisk.

Start Dyeing

Now your item is ready for the dye. Either dip it in your dye container or apply the dye from the squeeze bottle. Aim to fully cover the fabric in dye.

If you are using multiple colors, it's usually best to start with the lightest one. Check your manufacturer instructions for how to proceed to the next color; you might have to rinse the fabric or pause for a period of drying time.

Wait and Rinse

Follow manufacturer instructions for how you should allow the dye to set on your item. In many cases, you will have to wrap the item in a plastic bag or plastic wrap for several hours.

Then, remove the ties from the fabric. Rinse it in warm water that you gradually turn to cool water. Stop rinsing once the water runs clear and you no longer see dye coming off any part of the fabric. Finally, hang your item to dry. Be aware it might still drip some dye, so protect the surface under where it's hanging.

Tie-dyed items should typically be washed in cold water. The first few times they are washed they might bleed, so wash them with like colors or alone. The exact care instructions will vary depending on which brand of dye you use.

Before you wear and wash your tie dye projects, use this how to set fabric dye tutorial to ensure that all your beautiful colors do not run.

How to tie dye pants

Since tie dye projects involve lots of wear and tear after the fact, the aftercare of a tie dye project is almost as important of a skill as those crazy, cool tie dye techniques you use to create stunning tie dye designs. If you cannot keep your tie dye from fading, it can be hard to show off those artistic skills. While it is important to learn how to wash your tie dye shirts after the fact (and for the rest of their brightly-colored lives), these techniques can prove fruitless if you do not know how to set fabric dye into your tie dye projects after you’ve learned how to tie dye.

In general, if you are using quality tie dye product for your projects, fading should not present too much of an issue. Despite this, it is still a smart idea to take precautionary measures. This is especially true if you are creating tie dye projects with kids. Kids can wear out clothing quickly and with gusto. They also become attached to things they created on their own. Using these methods to prevent tie dye from fading can save you some heartbreak down the line.

Luckily for you, this process is insanely easy and takes minimal effort. Follow the instructions below to learn How to Set Tie Dye in Fabric and prevent your tie dye patterns from fading. The full tutorial below tells you everything you need to know about post-tie dye rituals. In addition to setting the dye, be sure to check out some of our favorite tie dye techniques here.

For the last year or two, there’s been a constant stream of tie-dye in my Instagram feed, and the 90s kid in me is A-okay with that. More time at home = more people looking to try that new bread recipe or DIY craft they never got around to, so the trend won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

Hailey Bieber, Dua Lipa, and loads of other A-listers have been papped in the psychedelic print. People started documenting their WFH outfits, and the matching tie-dye sweatsuit became (and stayed) a regular guest star. And with many socialising opportunities off the table for now, it seems like everyone I follow is DIY-ing their own rainbow socks in their kitchen. If you’ve not yet succumbed to the siren song of hand-dyeing, never fear – this trend is a year-rounder.

Of course, you can buy pre-made tie-dye items on the high street, but let’s be honest, it’s way cooler to make your own. And more sustainable, especially if you’re giving new life to a ratty old t-shirt. Plus, it’s a fun (and cheap) way to spend a Saturday that doesn’t involve another walk around the park.

You can dye bed sheets, underwear, socks, hoodies – almost anything really, with these techniques. Note: it is recommended to dye natural fabrics like cotton or linen, as synthetic fabrics like polyester may not take the dye as well. Once you start, you might find yourself hunting for all your white items to dye, if you’re anything like us.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to tie-dye your clothes at home.

Whether it’s a tie-dyeing project gone wrong, or a red shirt unknowingly washed with a load of whites, a case of accidental dye can seem like a headache to remove! But even though the dye may seem widespread, it’s actually not that difficult to get rid of a dye stain. We’ve found that with some speedy action and Persil Biological Washing Powder for whites, or Persil Small & Mighty Colour for coloured clothes you can tackle those troublesome dye stains and rescue any laundry casualties.

How to Remove Dye from Clothes: Basic Tips

Before you start, be sure to follow these basic tips for removing a dye stain, regardless of your clothing’s fabric. You’ll find specific instructions for treating different types of clothes listed later on in this article.

Always act as soon as you notice a dye stain. The longer a stain has to set, the more difficult it is to remove.

Read the garment’s care labels. These should indicate the correct water temperature and method for washing your clothing.

Before you try to remove a dye stain, spot-test your stain remover solution on a hidden area of the stained fabric.

Do not tumble-dry any stained clothes before you treat them, as the high heat can set the dye stain.

If the dye stain was caused by a non-colourfast item in the load, make sure to remove that item and hang it to dry. Keep it separate from other clothing so it won’t stain again.

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How to Get Dye Out of White Clothes

White clothes may appear temporarily ruined by a dye stain, but the good news is that the solution for treating white clothes is simple. Dye stains respond well to hot water, so check the garment care labels first to find out the hottest temperature you can use.

Mix a solution of Persil Bio Washing Powder and the hottest water possible for your fabric.

Soak your clothes in this solution for at least 30 minutes up to a few hours.

Rinse in hot or warm water.

Wash as normal in your washing machine.

If the dye stain remains, repeat Steps 1 to 3.

You may also want to try a commercial colour run remover. Be sure to follow both the product instructions and the garment care labels.

For particularly stubborn stains, you can also try a non-chlorine bleach (or oxygen bleach) – but only if the garment care labels allow this, as bleach can damage certain fabrics. Mix a solution of cool water and non-chlorine bleach, and soak your garment for a few hours in this. Remember: use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.

After you’ve soaked your item, wash as normal.

How to Remove Dye from Coloured Clothes

For colour fast clothes, you may be able to follow the steps as for white clothes. However, we do not recommend this unless you are sure your garments are colour fast – try our simple colour fast test to check. If you discover that your garments are not colour fast, follow these steps:

Take a white cloth and dampen it with a commercial stain remover, rubbing alcohol, hairspray, or any clear solvent that is 90% alcohol.

Dab the stain with the white cloth repeatedly, and the dye should keep transferring from your garment onto the white cloth.

Afterward, rinse in warm water.

Proceed with normal wash.

If the dye stain persists, repeat Steps 1 to 3.

If the dye stain is still there and your garments original colour hasn’t faded, you can try soaking it in a solution of Persil Small & Mighty Colour and the hottest water possible (according to garment care labels). Soak for at least 30 minutes (checking that the garment’s original color isn’t fading whilst soaking).

Afterward, rinse and launder as normal in the washing machine.

To prevent accidental colourbleed in the future, remember to always sort your laundry according to colour. However, sometimes you just can’t predict a dye stain – at least now you’ll know how to get dye out of clothes! You can also find out how to keep your coloured clothes looking vibrant with our guide on colour care here. Have you experienced a colour run nightmare? Share with us your suggestions on how to remove dye from clothes.

How to tie dye pants

Cotton takes readily to common dyes found at the grocery store. There are a number of ways you can dye cotton pants, but the two most used are the washing machine and the stovetop method. Of the two, the stovetop method gives a more vibrant color, especially when dying a dark color. Either way, both are simple to accomplish and the process can be performed in an hour or less.

Washing Machine Method

Dissolve the dye into 2 cups of hot water in a bowl, if using powdered dye.

Fill the washing machine half full of hot water.

Add the pre-dissolved dye or up to one bottle of liquid dye to the water.

Wet the cotton pants thoroughly with hot water and place in the dye bath.

Set your washer for the longest cycle. The pants should remain in the dye for at least 30 minutes. If needed, stop the machine before the rinse cycle and restart the cycle to get the time needed.

Rinse light colors in cold water until the water runs clear. Darker colors should be re-washed in warm water with detergent and rinsed in cold water.

Dry as normal by either using a dryer or clothesline

Stove Top Method

Fill a stockpot or other large vessel with hot water. You will need 3 gallons of water for every pound of clothing you will dye.

Dissolve powdered dye in 2 cups of hot water and pour into the stockpot. If using liquid dye add 1/2 bottle of dye for each 3 gallons of water.

Wet the cotton pants in hot water and place in the stockpot.

Bring the dye solution to a simmering boil and stir with a wooden spoon for 30 minutes.

Rinse in warm water until the water runs clean and rinse a second time in cool water. Dry as normal or hang on a hanger, clothes rack or clothes line to dry.

Thanks for this awesome tutorial. I cannot wait to come home this weekend and try it out. I will try it with my red jeans and an older pair of blue jeans!

Thank you for this!! I can't wait to try this out! 🙂

I wasn't so jazzed about the tie dye trend, but I think you sold me. Those jeans look great. I'm actually going to try this myself!

Ladies I'm anxious to see the outcome and your experiences. Do share when you can

Ooo I can't wait to try this! I'll let you know how they turn out!

What a creation! I need to try this.
Great blog, new follower for sure.
Im a fan! 😉

II know this is an old post, but I just found it looking for dye for jeans. Anyway, will this work with any pants? I don't necessarily want to risk any of my jeans but I have a few pair of old capris and shorts that I'd like to do.

Also, do you have any recommendations on dying jeans to restore color? I can't seem to find any specific dye for jeans and RIT dye is awful and fades quickly. I have a dark jean jacket that is in great shape- just faded and I want it back to its original dark color. Thanks!

@imaNYgirl Thanks for your question! I highly suggest you try an old pair of jeans first before moving on to your best pair as this will give you an idea of the outcome on the first try. If you try other colored jeans use less bleach. As for keeping the richness of color in your clothes washing in cold water and hang dry helps tremendously in keeping colors rich and for a long period of time. Hope this helps!

I tried this not with but with dye it turned our brilliant so thank you for sharing it with us!! I will certainly try the bleach though!!

Want to learn the best tie-dye techniques? Follow these instructions for mixing dye and creating groovy patterns.

Tie-dye makes an excellent and low-key DIY project for kids. "It's virtually impossible to tie-dye incorrectly," says textile artist Shabd Simon-Alexander, author of Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It. To help parents out, we rounded up two techniques you need to know: using a store-bought tie-dye kit and making your own tie-dye bath.

Read on to learn the step-by-step instructions for how to tie-dye a shirt. And don't sweat it if you make a "mistake" or two—some of the best designs have come from happy accidents, says Simon-Alexander.

  • RELATED:8 Tie Dye Patterns and Step-By-Step Instructions

Using a Tie-Dye Kit

Want to make a groovy, colorful tie-dye shirt? Then you'll want to follow the instructions for this classic tie-dye technique!

Find a workspace. Start by locating a workspace for your project. Tie-dye can be messy, so we recommend arranging garbage bags or plastic sheeting outside, in the garage, or on a craft table.

Prepare your T-shirt. Choose a pre-washed, 100-percent cotton T-shirt. Immerse the shirt in lukewarm water, wring out the excess, then lay it flat. (You don't need to wet the T-shirt before dyeing it, but the color won't spread as far on dry fabric.)

Alternatively, soak the T-shirt in soda ash (sodium carbonate) for better color absorption. Soda ash might come in your tie-dye kit, and you can also find it at craft stores and online. Follow the instructions on the soda ash packaging; you'll need to mix soda ash with warm water, then soak your T-shirt for several minutes. 

  • RELATED:How to Get Tie Dye Off Your Kid's Hands

Prepare your dye. Grab a tie-dye kit and follow the package instructions. The highly-concentrated dyes will come in partially-empty squirt bottles. You'll probably fill the bottles with warm water and shake to combine. Simon-Alexander recommends adding a little salt to enhance the color. (You can also make your own dye; most instructions require you to mix powdered dye with water.)

Plan the design. Check out this slideshow for pattern ideas, choose one you like, and tie your shirt tightly with rubber bands to make the desired design.

Tie-dye your shirt. Squirt dye from the spray bottle onto the shirt, following the tie-dye pattern of your choice. Make sure to apply only one color at a time. Work with lighter colors first (pink, yellow, lime green, etc.), since darker colors can be layered over the top of them.

  • RELATED:11 Easy Craft Ideas for Kids to Make With Stuff You Have at Home

Let it dry. With the shirt still rubber-banded together, place it in a plastic bag or cover it with plastic wrap. Let it sit for 12-24 hours so the colors set. You can also take it out sooner to achieve pastel-like colors.

Wash the shirt. Unwrap the shirt and take off the rubber bands (wear gloves!) Rinse it in cold water until the run-off is clear. Then wash it in the washing machine with cold water; don't put any other clothing in the machine. Dry the shirt and it's ready to wear!

Grab a Tie Dye kit. There are plenty of them out there now days, we got ours off of Amazon. Make sure you use 100% cotton clothing items as it works best with dye. City Threads has an amazing selection for kids items! Stay clear from polyester as it won’t hold dye well.

First, pre-wash garments to make sure you are starting with a clean pallete! Put down a plastic table cloth or something to protect your work area. (I highly recommend doing this outside because. kids) Wear an old t-shirt that you don’t mind getting stained. What’s great about the kits is that they already have the dye pre mixed in squeeze bottles ready to go for you!
Now you want to fold and scrunch your items! There are so many different patterns you can follow by simply googling Tie Dye patterns. Or you can wing it and it will still look cool because like I said. It doesn’t have to be perfect! Secure your items with rubber bands. Make sure the bands are tight so the colors don’t bleed through the each section. We decided on folding our dresses in half from the stomach and slightly twisting it. I secured rubber bands about 3 inches apart. My girls wanted the classic bright vibrant rainbow colors. Keep in mind that colors used next to each other may bleed together, so use colors that when mixed make a different color and not brown. Make sure put your gloves on at this point, the Dye is hard to get off of your hands. Shake your Dye so it’s all mixed up. Squeeze your 1st color Dye on the first section of your item. Make sure you are turning it and getting all sides! We saturated our sections so not a lot of white would show through, but some like that look more! If you want more of the white, saturate it less. The more Dye you use, the less white will show. Next, wipe your gloves and plastic down. Do this in between each color so it does not mix!! Repeat for each section. Accidentally squirted a bit in the wrong section? That’s OK! Say it with me. It doesn’t have to be perfect!

Now it’s time to let the dye set. Let it sit out for at least 8-24 hours. The longer it sets, the more vibrant your colors will be! We placed ours in a zip lock bag and laid them in sunlight for 24 hours.

After your Dye has dried, it’s time to rinse! Keep the rubber bands in and rinse under cold water for 1 minute. Switch it to warm water and take out the bands until the water runs clear. Now turn the garments inside out and run through a normal cycle in the washer with a Dye safe detergent. For the first few washes, wash separately from your other clothes to prevent bleeding on them. I recommend hang dry or delicate to prevent shrinkage of 100% cotton items.

I think this activity is really fun for kids because they can do a lot if it themselves. Let them be messy and show their creativity with this fun activity! It’s art they can show off and be proud of.

The art of tie dying is intrinsically sustainable. It encourages people to reuse and up-cycle old articles of clothing to create a new masterpiece that’s full of vibrant creativity. And with natural and eco-friendly tie dye, it can be even better for the environment.

At MADI Apparel, we love sustainable fashion — but we also love making a statement. We work with natural dye artists in our local community to create fashion-forward colors and designs that feature flowers and plants from our area and make our bamboo fabrics a real statement piece in any wardrobe.

Do you have an old MADI t-shirt you want to up-cycle? Or maybe a pile of worn-out socks that could use a little refresh? Before you run to the store and grab synthetic dyes and cheap cotton clothing, check out this helpful guide for how to tie dye sustainably.

History of tie dye

Most people think that tie dye started in the 1960s, when Woodstock first started and Abbey Road was released by The Beatles. But the truth is, the colorful history of tie dye can be linked back to ancient Asia, during the T’ang Dynasty between 618 and 906 C.E. This was before synthetic dyes were released, and Asians made their own natural tie dye using things like:

In America, the rise of popularity in tie dye started actually around the 1920s as a means of creating low-cost home decor items using cotton and flour sacks. And then in the ‘60s, it came back to life with the hippie movement because of its bright colors and unique designs.

Today, tie dye is back in style and can be seen in a variety of clothing options, from tie dyed sweatsuits to socks and handbags. In fact, we think everything is better tie dyed.

How to tie dye sustainably

Tie dye is very on trend right now. But unfortunately, bad dying practices can be extremely harmful for the environment. For example, in 2011, Greenpeace released photos of rivers in China and India that were turned magenta and green from clothing dye that seeped into the water supply from textile factories. Here’s a full CNN article about how colorful clothes are killing our environment.

Today, more and more companies are starting to realize that dying fabric can actually be really harmful to the environment and the textiles we wear. With huge innovations in the $7 billion textile dyes market, we are starting to see a shift in the way colors and clothing are produced.

At MADI Apparel, the goal of sustainability is woven into the very fabric of our being . Not only are our fabrics made from the highest-quality sustainable materials available today, we also practice very sustainable and eco-friendly tie dying practices that keep our cities and our practices as clean as possible.

So when you want to stay on trend this summer with a new tie dye set, we recommend these tips for how to tie dye sustainably.

Click here for our behind the scenes of how to dye using avocado pits and skins. We contracted natural dye artist Alyx Jacobs to create a blush collection for us, hand dyed from avocados.

Click here for our dye artist’s tutorial of how to dye using natural indigo.

Make your own natural tie dye

The textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, with synthetic dyes being linked to nearly 20% of all global water pollution.

Using natural tie dye can be a great way to combat this global problem, while also using up old fruits and veggies you have laying around the house.

Plants and flowers can be combined and played with to create a truly one-of-a-kind natural tie dye that is as beautiful as it is sustainable. For example, avocado pits, when soaked in water, will turn clothes into a lovely pink color. Utilizing bright yellow marigolds can create a lovely golden hue, like our Marigold collection! Reusing natural materials like plants is a sure-fire way to practice eco-friendly tie dying.

Here are a few of our favorites from Clever :

How to tie dye pants

Here are some examples of Hand-Dyed Natural Dye Collections by MADI Apparel: