Why You Can’t Find White Dye (Best Alternatives)

Tie-dye fabric featuring a red, white, and black spiral.

If you’re new to tie-dye you may have noticed that white dye is nowhere to be found. No dye supplier seems to be carrying white dye.

As 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.

Dyes come in a near infinite palette of colors. All the colors of the rainbow can be found and many more. You can also find anything from light grey to black, but no white.

Why is that the case and what are some alternatives for leaving white on your tie-dye?

Difference between dyes and paints

Fiber-reactive dyes as used in tie-dye are quite different from paints.

Paints stay on the surface of your canvas and create a colored coating. Paints are able to cover other colors.

Dyes soak into the fiber and change the color of the fiber itself. Dyes mix together and their colors too.

With paint, you can cover up another color by adding paint on top, but you cannot do that when dyeing clothes.

Use White Fabric as Your Canvas

Since we cannot use white dye, we need an alternative. Luckily, we can start off with white fabric.

Using a white blank, any area that isn’t dyed will stay white.

All you have to do is leave white spaces on the shirt and they will stay white on the final design.

Using Water as White Dye

Water can also be used as a sort of white dye. It’s not a dye but its bulk will help you keep the fabric white.

When dyeing, pour water on areas you want to keep white. Water saturates the fabric and prevents the dye form penetrating as much.

Be careful not to pour dye directly on these areas.

Can you add white over another color?

Unlike paints, dyes cannot cover up existing color.

You cannot add white over an existing color. The alternative is removing the color with bleach or other discharge agent.

Once the color is removed, you will be left with a paler color, but usually not entirely white.