Can You Tie-dye Outside? Yes, Here’s How

Sunny American backyard in the middle of summer, showing neatly trimmed grass, white fences, and beautiful floral arrangements.

What better way to enjoy the sun and the good weather than to spend the day playing outside. A popular activity that people like to do in the summer is to tie-dye in the sun. You might be wondering if that’s a good thing. Are there consequences to dyeing outside? Are there precautions to take? In this post we’ll explore the most common scenarios and go over everything you need to know in order to make your next summer project a success.

Why Tie-dye Outside

We absolutely recommend that you tie-dye outside. Not only is it more fun, you also get to spend the day bathed in the sun. Great weather and a breath of fresh air is all you need to feel reinvigorated. Doing tie-dye outside is especially great when practicing it in group. The added space and lack of carpet means that you don’t have to worry as much about making a mess. Gather your friends, it’s time for a tie-dye party!

How to Tie-dye Outside in the Summer

Wether you do it outside or in the comfort of your home, using some equipment will make your life much easier. Dyeing on the ground is a wild experience, but is not suitable for everyone. Having the right tools makes it easier for you and for the environment.

Use a table to hold your tools and materials. A suitable work surface will be able keep everything neat and tidy and will insure you from unforeseen accidents. Use a tray or a shallow container to dye your shirt in, this will contain spills and will prevent dyes from getting on your table. Having a bucket of water is always a good idea. It let’s you clean your hands and makes it possible to rinse your shirts directly outside.

Precautions to Take When Dyeing Outside

Be careful not to spill dye unnecessarily on the ground. While the dyes are non-toxic, they can still affect the environment. A little dye on your grass is not a big deal, but spilling a full bucket of dye is something you want to avoid. Dyes can take a while to wash away once they are in the environment. A high concentration of dyes can even degrade plant life by covering them in color and affecting their photosynthesis.

What if You Spill Dyes on the Ground?

Try to keep dye away from the environment. It takes time for it to degrade and come out by natural means. Dyes can stain plant matter and even animals. This is something you want to avoid. Dyes are not toxic, but they are a foreign substance that shouldn’t be introduced unnecessarily in nature.

The dyes will stay on the ground until they wash away. This can take a long time if you wait for the rain to come. The easiest solution is to pour fresh water on the affected area in order to weaken the dye. Use your hose or a bucket of water to dilute the dye that’s on the ground. If the spill is large then you should seek other solutions. A large spill should be contained and smothered with dirt, sand, or cat litter in order to absorb most of it.

Tie-dyeing Outside in the Winter

There are special considerations to dyeing in winter. Dyes form bonds with fabric during a chemical reaction. The reaction needs heat in order to happen with any degree of success. Modern dyes are able to react at room temperature, but the reaction slows down greatly as the temperature plummets. The colder it gets, the longer it takes for the dyes color the fabric.

Dyeing outside in winter is absolutely possible, but only if you take certain precautions. You can do most of the process outside without problem, but should bring your shirt back inside for the batching process. Cold temperatures will have an impact on the dye reaction, slowing it down to a crawl. In order to avoid this you should bring your shirt to an area where the temperature is suitable. In winter, this often means bringing the shirt back inside.

Does the Sun Affect the Colors of Your Tie-dye?

In the short term it won’t do anything to change the color.  The color from a dye sets permanently in the fabric and is very resistant. You can assume that normal use and wear will not do anything to touch the quality of the color. The process of tie-dye is well engineered and will stand up to almost any abuse. On the other hand, nothing compares to the power of the sun and you can trust that after enough direct exposure it can cause damage to almost anything.

The radiation from the sun in the form of light directly hits the fibers and produces chemical changes in the bonds of the molecules. This can degrade both the fiber and the color over time. With a long enough exposure it can permanently degrade the dye and cause the colors to whiten and to soften. This effect can also be called sun bleaching. Do not be afraid, with normal use you can expect your color to last for the whole life of the shirt. This effect is only noticed on pieces of fabric that have been left for months at a time in the outdoors.

Can Dyes Stain Concrete?

Try to avoid dyeing over concrete. While the dyes cannot react with and form bonds with concrete, they can still stain it semi-permanently. Small dye particles are able to get stuck in the pores of the concrete and are very hard to get out. If you happen to spill dye on your concrete you should try and rinse it off to remove most of the dye.