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How to Tie Dye Shirts

by Andrea Martelle
July 10, 2023
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Learn how to tie dye shirts with kids. This fun outdoor activity has become a family summer tradition for us!

Updated July 2023

I love tie dye! I love the process, and I LOVE the results! And the best part is that something I used to love doing before I had kids has now become a really fun summer activity that I get to do with my kids. 

Each summer, my family gathers for a getaway in the woods and while we are all together, we make sure to get some tie dyeing in. Now the kids join in, too. It’s become a little tradition for us and we end up with some bright summer gear to wear!

And it’s so easy these days, with a plethora of tie dye kits to choose from at every store you visit.

tie dye pinterest
Photo by Andrea Martelle

How to Tie Dye Shirts

MATERIALS

  • Tie dye kit (we really like Tulip One Step kits, as they don’t require any other ingredients for the dyeing process) 
  • White shirts (or anything white that you’d like to dye)
  • Plastic bags or plastic wrap
  • Plastic bin

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Prepare your shirts

    Make sure to wash your shirts before you begin dyeing (or use shirts you already have in your drawers).

    I made the mistake of skipping this step once, and the shirts ended up more white than dyed. 

  2. Choose your design and twist your shirt

    The instructions contain lots of suggestions on how to twist and tie your shirt to get different designs, but I always fall back on the tried and true: the spiral.

    twisting shirt to dye

    Simply use two fingers to twist the shirt in a spiral starting in the center. Then use 3 of the provided rubber bands to secure the twisted shirt. 

    tee shirt tied with rubber bands

  3. Mix your dye

    Tie dyeing is so easy these days with the kits available. They contain everything you need, and the dye powder is already pre-measured and only requires water.

      mixing tie dye

    Add water to the line on the bottle and shake well (make sure there isn’t any powder left at the bottom).

    tie dye materials

  4. Tie dye!

    Use the squirt bottle to fully cover a section of the shirt with dye. Each section of the shirt can be a different color.

    adding dye to shirt

    Make sure you get dye in all the nooks and crannies! 

    squirting blue dye to shirt

    Pro Tip: we’ve learned that if you tie dye over a big plastic bin, it makes for an easier and less messy experience! The adult can hold the shirt (wearing gloves!) while the child squirts the dye all over it. The bin catches the excess dye and contains the mess.

  5. Wrap your shirt up

    Use a plastic bag to wrap your wet shirt up tightly. Let your shirt sit for 8 hours (or however long the directions say). The waiting is the hardest part!

  6. Rinse

    Once your shirt has soaked in the dye for the set amount of time, rinse until the water runs clear.

    Then wash and dry your shirt according to the directions. We washed shirts that had similar color combinations together, to avoid bleeding.

    drying rack with dyed shirts

Our favorite part of this whole process is the moment we remove the rubber bands and see the design for the first time. No matter how many times we do it, the results are always amazing!

If you haven’t tried tie dyeing yet, you should put it on your summer bucket list. And if you are looking to try something beyond shirts, we dyed bucket hats, aprons, and tote bags this summer and love the way they came out!

Most craft stores these days have a tie dye section full of white canvas items just waiting to be dyed! Just remember that if you are dyeing canvas or thicker cotton items, wet the item in water before dyeing, so the colors are more vibrant.

bucket hat at the beach
Photo by Andrea Martelle

More Tie Dye Crafts for Kids

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Photo by Andrea Martelle
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