Does white dye exist?
If you’ve been dyeing clothes for a time or even if you’re a beginner, you may have wondered about the elusive white dye. There are a multitude of colors to use in the fiber-reactive range, you see all these rainbow colors, but is there anything such as a white dye? We had the same question so we investigated and the answer may surprise you.
It turns out, there is no such thing as white dye. Of all the colors for dyeing clothes, you will not find a dye that is perfectly white. What we found is that tie-dyers use a technique to “dye” parts in white, but it may not be what you think as the trick they found is pretty clever.
Fiber-reactive dyes come in many colors but not in white, simply because dyes do not act like paint does. With paint, you can cover up another color by adding paint on top, but you cannot do that when dyeing clothes. The reason is that fiber-reactive dyes are not pigments, the way they add color is by exchanging a color molecule from the dye carrier to the shirt fiber by a reaction process.
So how do you dye in white?
Especially with tie-dyeing, you may have noticed that some patterns have white on them, or that there are white parts on a tie-dyed shirt. You’re probably wondering, if there is no white dye, how do you get these white parts on the shirt?
The simple answer is that the white parts are non-dyed, they have not received any color on them, and the reason why is surprising. The art of tie-dyeing involves using a variety of techniques to prevent the dye from reaching certain areas. Be it by folding the fabric a certain way or even using tight bindings to compress the fabric you can get the resistance you need to prevent the dye water from reaching too far into the shirt.
Also there is something very important to note, something that you may have learned by yourself or you may not know. It turns out that another way to resist the dye water from reaching certain parts of the fabric is to simply use water. In fact, you can use water in a lot of ways to make the fabric wet beforehand, so that the dye water cannot soak an area that is already soaking wet.
The thing you want to do is to experiment with using water just as you would using a dye. Try squirting it on the shirt to see what effects it will have on the final result. Try this technique to finally discover that white dye can exist by soaking areas with your transparent water.
Can I add white on a shirt that’s already colored?
Sadly, if you wanted to simply add white color to a shirt that already has color on it then I have a bad news for you. You will need to remove this color by using special products. The products you will need to remove dye are tricky to use and if you want a good result you cannot simply use the household bleach that you may have at home.
What you really need to remove the dye and get an area that is the most white you can get is to use specialty color removers. These products are sold by dye suppliers and can help you achieve a whiter area with more safety, since they will not damage the fibers like bleach does. The only way to add white on a shirt is either to use water to act like a white dye or to use a whitening agent to whiten the shirt.
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.