So you want to DIY your own tie-dyed clothes, bedding, or fabric? Brilliant! My How to Tie-Dye Like a Pro guide walks you through all the steps you need to learn how to tie-dye your own beautiful patterns.
This post will walk you through how to rinse and wash tie-dye out to prevent colour bleeding and staining.
View the rest of my How to Tie-Dye Guide here:
- Choosing the best dye for tie-dye
- Essential tie-dye supplies
- Choosing the best fabric for tie-dye
- 10 easy tie-dye patterns for beginners (coming soon)
- Mixing and applying dye (coming soon)
- How to wash tie-dye (right here!)
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How to Rinse and Wash Tie-Dye
OK, here we are at the last step! Now you’ve applied your dye, and waited (im)patiently for the dye to react, you need to rinse and wash your tie-dye.
Although most of your dye has reacted with and bound permanently to the fabric, there’s still free dye sitting there that needs to be removed.
Here’s how to rinse and wash your tie-dye for bright, clean, and colourfast results.
1. Rinse in COLD water
First, PUT YOUR GLOVES ON. Yes, I know all those people on TikTok rinse without gloves, but unless you want stained and dirty-looking hands for days, wear gloves.
Thick rubber gloves are perfect (I use my soap making gloves, but normal dishwashing ones are fine), because you’ll be using hot water.
To begin, leave your item all tied or bundled up, and rinse well with cold water. Rinsing on the grass if fine, it won’t kill it.
You can do this in your laundry sink, or outside with a hose.
Rinse until the water is fairly clear, it doesn’t need to be perfect.
2. Untie, and rinse more
This is the bit you’ve been waiting for – now you can untie and see what you’ve created!
Untie or snip your rubber bands or string, and unwind, being careful
Now keep rinsing in cold, again until the water is fairly clear, but not perfect. Perfect is a waste of water.
Keep your item fairly flat. You still have loose dye, so try not to scrunch dark areas against lighter ones – I’ve found there’s not a high chance of colour transfer, but it pays to be careful.
3. Rinse your tie-dye in HOT water
Switch your water to just hot (if you’ve been hosing outside you’ll need to go in).
Rinse until the water is nearly clear, again.
You’ll be surprised how much more dye comes out.
Again, limit contact between different colours.
4. Wash time! Machine wash your tie-dye
In short – hot machine wash, cold rinse, and use your normal amount of detergent. I’m a greenie so I use biodegradable, greywater-safe powder with no phosphates and it works fine.
If you have a TOP LOADER, fill it with hot water and your detergent, then throw the clothes in and start the wash.
If you have a FRONT LOADER choose a cycle that doesn’t faff around mashing all your clothes together for ages before it adds water.
60 degrees Celsius is fine. Or straight hot water from your hot water service. Don’t overthink it!
I tend to use shorter cycles. After ten minutes or so of washing I manually drain and rinse – I find the soap has done its job by then, and I don’t want it swishing around in muddy-coloured water for longer than necessary.
I’ve washed tie-dye in hot water in a twin tub with no problems.
I’ve also hand-washed tie-dye – I did a double hot wash with cold rinse and had no problems.
How much tie-dye to put in the washing machine?!
Think about it – if you can wash a rainbow spiral without it staining itself, mixing a few items together really doesn’t matter.
My rule is no more than half a load ie. if you have an 8kg washing machine put in a maximum of 4kg. If the colours are very different split them into smaller loads of lights and darks.
I also tend to put in other items that the dye won’t affect (not when I’m washing stuff for sale, of course. You don’t want that anywhere NEAR my husband’s running clothes). Black socks, synthetic work-out clothes, and already tie-dyed towels all get thrown in.
The clothes wash just as well and I feel that the extra water helps the tie-dye wash out better.
What about Synthrapol to wash tie-dye?
Synthrapol is a pH-neutral, professional textile detergent that claims to keep dye in the washing water, preventing it from binding to other areas of the fabric. People say it leads to crisper, cleaner tie-dye, especially when white is involved.
Honestly, I’ve never used it. I was going to buy some when I started tie-dyeing but the added shipping for a liquid detergent to Australia made me hit the Remove from Cart button real quick.
If you want to use Synthrapol, and can afford it, great. But it’s not essential. Just make sure you rinse well.
What about a Blue Dawn rinse for tie-dye?
Blue Dawn dish soap is commonly recommended for rinsing and washing tie-dye. Again, the claim is that the pH-neutral soap will pull the excess dye away from the fabric and lead to crisper results.
I can’t buy Dawn in Australia, so I experimented with equivalent pH-neutral dishwashing liquids.
I can’t see any difference – it didn’t seem to make the rinsing process quicker, or to remove the dye more effectively.
Again, if you want to use it, go for it. It won’t hurt.
But I think rinsing tie-dye well is the key, not how many different products you use to rinse.
As an example, here’s a white onesie I overdyed in black and washed without Blue Dawn, Synthrapol, or any additional steps. The white is still white, and the edges are as defined as I’d expect – it doesn’t need anything fancy.
Eek! Why is my tie-dye lighter?
It’s normal! When you first unwind your item it’s wet and full of excess dye, so it looks a lot darker than the final result.
Expect it to finish up a fair bit lighter than it looks when you’re rinsing it out.
A positive of this is that often details and subtle colour gradients in the dye become visible.
How to wash tie-dye for the first time
After you’ve washed and dried your tie-dye you’ll obviously want to wear it!
90s accessories are completely optional.
But when you throw it into the wash for the first time, you may feel a little paranoid – you know you rinsed and washed it well, but did you do it WELL ENOUGH?
Just to be safe, I always do the first wash with other stuff that doesn’t matter. Just like above where I mentioned chucking it in with our black socks, workout gear, and already tie-dyed towels.
If any dye DOES leak, it won’t show on blacks or synthetics.
After the first wash I treat it like everything else – it all goes into the same pile and the same wash.
But I don’t own anything white, or even pale (I have five children and that stuff is NOT PRACTICAL) – keep it separate from whites and pales.
Well, there is no next step – except to find some more blanks and keep on tie-dyeing!
If you need to know anything else about how to tie-dye please just ask and I’ll update the instructions.