Can you tie-dye outside?

Can you tie-dye outside?

If you think that tie-dye mixes well with summer, sun and great weather then you are right! You probably are thinking about going outside in the warmth, tie-dyeing as you please, bathed in the sun.

We absolutely recommend that you do it outside. It’s a lot more fun to spend time in the sun in great weather and breath the fresh air while doing an activity that we love. Perfect for gatherings, the open air gives you more room to move about and maneuver. The added space and lack of furniture will also remove a lot of the risk associated with spilling the dye or otherwise staining a precious object.

It’s even better if you use equipment such as a table and containers for water and dye. We always recommend that you do the tie-dye process on a suitable work surface, but if it’s not possible, you can tie-dye directly on the ground. You need to be careful of a few things if you want to leave the environment pristine.

Be careful of not spilling dye unnecessarily in the grass or elsewhere because concentrated dye can affect its immediate environment and doesn’t degrade readily. It will probably stay there until the rain washes it away. It isn’t toxic per say but it’s always better to be sure not to introduce foreign substances in nature. If you happen to spill dye, try to keep it contained and try to remove it from the environment.

Try to contain the dye and try to scoop it up if possible. The dye takes time to degrade naturally and can react with its environment. Plants probably will get permanently stained if exposed to dye and this can affect their photosynthesis and harm them.

Let’s say you spilled some on the grass or on the pavement, you can easily spray it down with the hose and it will dilute and spread it to a point where its concentration is negligible. 

Tie-dyeing outside in winter

There is a big consideration if you want to try the elusive winter dyeing. This can be a difficult technique to learn. The temperature has a huge impact on the final result. The colder it gets, the slower the dyes will react. Another thing to consider is that the colder the water gets, the slower it moves and the less it spreads. Science tells us that cold water is more viscous than hot water. The viscosity can be further enhanced by using sodium alginate.

If the air is too cold outside you may encounter an interesting situation where the water starts to freeze. You shirt can freeze and your dye water can also freeze. When dye is frozen it cannot react with the fibers and will not color them until the water thaws. The effects of cold temperature on tie-dye are best described by the famous ice-dyeing technique.

Will the sun affect the colors on my 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.

About us

We are Samuel and Francis. About two years ago we bought our first tools and supplies for tie-dyeing. Ever since then we’ve been learning the skills of folding and dyeing in intricate ways. We’ve learned from our experiences on the field about what techniques works and what doesn’t. This is the site were we share everything we’ve learned.

Samuel and Francis

We are the sole owners of this site, we live in Canada where we work everyday on making tie-dye more accessible to everyone. We are always looking forward to teaching you something new.