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How to Achieve the Tie-Dye Trend at Home

Tie dye shirts, hanging on a clothes line.
Nancy Bauer/Shutterstock

If tie-dye brings back memories of summer camp crafts and questionable style choices, it might surprise you to learn that it’s one of this year’s hottest fashion trends. Not only is tie-dye chic right now, but it’s also the perfect quarantine craft—even for adults.

Tie-dye was already starting to show up in fashion before we all got quarantined, but the timing of social distancing made it skyrocket. Unlike most trends, this is one you can easily achieve at home with stuff you probably have already, so it’s perfect for right now.

Whether you’re wanting new-feeling clothes, trying to stay on trend, or just bored, tie-dyeing your old clothes is the next Instagram-friendly hobby to try. Here’s how to do it!

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Tie-Dye

Today’s tie-dye trend involves monochrome and pastel palettes that give the old pattern a modern look. But as with any home tutorial, you’re free to tie-dye your clothes in any way you like. Just use your creativity and follow these steps!

Find Some Old Clothes

Your first step is to pick out some clothes to work with. You can always buy new items to use, but one reason this trend is so big is that it can breathe new life into old stuff. Jeans, sweats, and T-shirts you already have are great candidates for tie-dye.

We recommend starting with pieces you don’t like that much, so you can perfect your tie-dye technique. Because you can’t take old clothes to the thrift store right now, you can turn anything you were going to get rid of into tie-dye practice.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, though, you can upgrade just about anything with tie-dye. People often start with solid, neutral-colored items, but tie-dyeing graphic shirts or bright pieces can also make a fun statement.

Get Your Supplies

While you can buy tie-dye kits online, their newfound popularity means they may be sold out. Luckily, you probably have all the components of a tie-dye kit at home already.

You’ll need:

  • Bleach or dye: Bleach removes color from bright or dark clothing, while dye adds color to white or light clothing
  • Rubber bands
  • Gloves
  • Empty squeeze or spray bottles
  • Dye fixative: Optional, but it will help your results last

You might also want old towels, a plastic tarp, or other coverings to put on the ground so you don’t get bleach or dye everywhere.

Find a Workspace

Tie-dye can get messy. So you don’t accidentally bleach your couch or carpet, you might want to take this activity to the yard or garage.

However, you can also tie-dye in your home; you’ll just need to be more careful. Use a plastic bucket or your tub (just put down a covering to protect it from dye) as your workspace. Make sure whatever space you choose is well-ventilated, especially if you’re using bleach.

Create a Pattern

A shirt bundled up with rubber bands and dipped in tie-dye.

One of the best things about tie-dye is that every piece you’ll create is different. You’ll use rubber bands to twist and hold the fabric in different shapes, controlling where the bleach or dye ends up.

For example, twisting the fabric, then holding it in place with a rubber band, can create a spiral design. However, you can experiment with shaping and securing the fabric in different ways with your rubber bands to get all kinds of abstract and interesting patterns.

Add (or Remove) Color

Now, it’s time to add the dye or bleach.

First, put on gloves to protect your hands! Consider changing into old clothes first, too, as this can be messy work.

If you’re using dye, just follow the directions on the package, and apply the colors you want wherever you want them. Some dyes come in packaging that serves as an applicator, but if not, use your squeeze or spray bottles to apply it. Make sure to flip the clothing item over so you dye every side.

You’ll typically need to let the dye sit for between one hour and one day before removing the rubber bands, depending on how vibrant you want the results to be—but check the dye directions to be sure. You can put each item in a Ziploc bag while you wait for the dye to soak in, if you want.

If you’re using bleach, consider wearing glasses and even a mask to protect yourself from the fumes, as well as gloves. Dilute the bleach with water and add it to your spray or squeeze bottles—the more diluted it is, the subtler the effect will be. Bleach removes color much faster than dye adds color, so just keep an eye on your project for up to 10 minutes, and move onto the next step once you’re happy with how it looks.

Rinse and Dry

Once your creation is complete, untie the rubber bands and give it a thorough rinse to remove excess dye or bleach. Treat dyed items with dye fixative, if you’d like. Then, wash and dry your tie-dyed clothes like normal, and they’ll be ready to wear!

If you don’t love your results on the first try, don’t get discouraged. It can take a little practice to get the technique right, so just try it again! This fun, easy, satisfyingly messy project will give on-trend results you can wear long after social distancing ends.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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