Ice-Dyeing Magic: Creating Stunning Tie-Dye Effects with Ice

Ice-dyed t-shirts made using ice cubes

Dyeing with ice is one of the most spectacular twist on tie-dye. Sprinkle dye powder and on a folded shirt and cover with ice. Ice-dyeing is a variant of tie-dye, but what is it exactly?

Ice-dyeing is a way to let nature dictate the dyeing process. It consists in using ice cubes to transport the dye instead of water. As the ice melts and flows, it deposits dye randomly around the crests and in the valleys of the fabric.

Quick Guide

This technique trades liquid water for ice cubes. Ice-dyeing is very easy to do. All you need is to put dye powder on the shirt, cover it up with dye activator, lay down a few layers of ice on top and wait for the magic to happen.

  1. Freeze 2-3 trays of ice cubes
  2. Wet, then wring out a cotton shirt
  3. Fold and tie the shirt
  4. Apply dye powder on the fabric
  5. Apply dye activator on the dye
  6. Stack 2-3 layers of ice cubes on the shirt
  7. Let the dye react for 8-24 hours
  8. Rinse out the shirt
  9. Wash your new ice-dye shirt

How to tie-dye a shirt with ice cubes

We created this guide with the help of our tie-dye experts so you can ice-dye at home on the first try. We’ve had a quick overview of ice-dyeing. Now let’s tackle the steps one by one.

1. Plan your project

Think about how you want the finished product to look like. What colors would you like better? What design would fit best with your wardrobe? Browse our collection of tie-dye patterns for ideas.

2. Get your ice-dye supplies

For ice-dyeing at home you need a cotton shirt, an ice cube tray, dyes, dye activator, and rubber bands.

This process only works on cotton or other natural fabrics. You can ice-dye any garment; t-shirt, hoodie, sweatpants, socks, scarf. Aim for 100% cotton items for best results. Get good quality dyes and results are guaranteed.

3. Freeze some ice cubes

Make your ice cubes before starting. Use a large container to store the ice cubes in. It takes around 3 to 4 hours to fully freeze a tray of ice cubes in a home freezer. Alternatively you can buy a large bag of ice cubes.

How much ice do you need for ice-dyeing?

You need 2-3 trays worth of ice cubes to for a single large shirt. A large hoodie require 4-5 trays of ice cubes.

T-ShirtIce cube traysHoodieIce cube trays

4. Dampen the shirt

Soak, then wring out the cotton shirt. A quick wash and spin in the washing machine is ideal. Soaking it in water for 2 minutes and wringing it out by hand is quicker. We want a slightly damp shirt. It helps with folding and dyeing.

Locate a flat space for folding the shirt and dyeing the shirt. A kitchen table makes for the perfect workspace. A cookie sheet, towel or plastic tablecloth will help prevent spillage.

5. Fold the shirt for ice-dyeing

There are many ways to fold a shirt for ice-dyeing. All the tie-dye folding techniques work with ice-dyeing. The most common techniques for ice-dye are the crumple, spiral, fan fold, and geode.

We’ll start by using the crumple technique. Follow these steps to fold your shirt:

  1. Start with a damp cotton shirt flat on a table
  2. Place both hands at the center of the shirt, 5 inches apart
  3. Using both hands, crumple up the fabric
  4. Move your hands outward a few inches
  5. Crumple in more fabric towards the center
  6. Continue until the whole shirt is crumpled loosely
  7. Tie the crumple-folded shirt with rubber bands

6. Create a cardboard enclosure around the shirt

Rip up a long rectangular piece of cardboard. Fold it around the shirt and hold it in place with duct tape or clothespins. The purpose of a cardboard fence is to keep the ice from falling off the shirt.

7. Lay down dye powder on the shirt

With a spoon, place a thin layer of dye powder on the shirt. You can use a single color or use many. Lay down the powder directly on the fabric. You can place it according to your preferred design. Lay it in lines, in sections or randomly.

How much dye do you need for ice-dyeing?

You need 2-3 teaspoons of dye for a typical ice-dye shirt. Ice-dye uses more dye than normal tie-dye. You can use as little or as much as you like. The more dye you use, the more saturated and brilliant the colors will be.

8. Cover with a layer of dye activator

Sprinkle down a layer of dye activator on top. Use about the same amount of activator as dye powder. Place enough activator to cover the dye.

9. Stack ice cubes on top

Stack 2-3 layers of ice cubes on top of the shirt. Place down a few layers so that the shirt is entirely covered in ice.

You can use less ice for a shirt, about 1 trays worth. It will result in less color saturation and less movement in the design. You can use more. It will create a washed out look in the design with the added liquid. The water flows and grabs the dye particles with it.

10. Wait for the ice to melt

As the ice melts, the water flows, creating motion in your design. Dye powder placement is entirely up to you. You can make designs you dye powder or lay it in sections. Do you want to cover all the shirt with color? Do you want to leave white areas? Let your best judgment be your guide.

11. Rinse out your ice-dye shirt

You have waited hours for this moment. The excitement is high. It’s now time to open up your little treasure.

Bring your shirt to the sink. Rinse the shirt under cold water from the faucet. Rinse out every nook and cranny of the shirt. Turn it over under the stream to exposed its many faces to cleansing water.

Open up the shirt while rinsing it. Undo the rubber bands while continuing to rinse the shirt. Manipulate the fabric, turn it inside-out, rinse out its every fiber. Stop when the water starts to run clear.

12. Washing and caring for your ice-dye shirt

Run the freshly rinsed shirt through a complete wash cycle. Set the washer to cold water. Use a small amount of detergent. Hang dry or tumble dry.

Can I wash multiple ice-dye shirts together?

Yes, you can wash multiple shirts in the same load. Assuming they have all been properly rinsed this is not a problem.

Can I wash my ice-dye with regular clothing?

Yes, but only after the ice-dye shirt has been washed at least once. After this you can wash it like any normal garment.

Ice-dye Patterns

Winter Wonder Tie Dye Pattern

Winter Wonder

Mindscape Tie Dye Pattern


How long to the shirt set after the ice melts

You should leave your ice-dye to set for 8 hours. You should wait until the ice is completely melted before starting your timer. Waiting at least 8 hours is recommended, but waiting 4-24 hours is also acceptable.

Why colors split when ice-dyeing

Using ice cubes as the vehicle for your dye creates a marvelous effect. Dye powder is made up of millions of extremely fine particles. The melting ice transports and moves these particles randomly on the fabric.

As the ice melts, the water pushes the dye powder along the folds of the fabric. Splitting often occurs when using mixed colors.

Mixed colors are made of different dye powders mixed together. The melting ice can separate the mixed color into its components.

The split is random and creates color gradients, with each area receiving different amounts of each dye particles.

Can you ice-dye without soda ash?

No, you shouldn’t ice-dye without soda ash. You need soda ash for the dye reaction process to work. You can use either soda ash on top of the ice or under it.

Soda ash fills in an essential role. You need to use an alternative to soda ash. Other alkaline compound can be used but they all have drawbacks. Use either washing soda or waterglass.

Can you ice-dye any fabric?

Yes, you can ice-dye natural fabric such as cotton, linen, hemp, and silk. Stay away from synthetics like polyester and nylon. Any fabric you can tie-dye you can also ice-dye.

Can you speed up your ice-dye?

Yes, you can make the ice melt faster by placing the shirt in the sun or in a warm room. Blowing heat directly on the ice with a heat gun is a more hands-on approach. This will only make the ice melt, you should still wait a few hours for the dye to set after the ice has gone.

Ice usually leaves enough time for the dye powder to flow slowly at the bottom of pleats, giving a nice water-washed, swept, blurred look.

The low temperature of the ice slows down the reaction of the dye a lot. Ice will deposit the dye all about the shirt. When the shirt warms up again the dye will set where it was deposited.

With speeding up the melting process, you will get bolder colors and less flowy patterns.

How long for the ice to melt

It takes half an hour to prepare your supplies, the layer the dye, soda ash, and ice cubes. It then takes 8 to 12 hours for the ice to melt. Once the ice melts and the shirt regains a normal temperature, you can start the countdown for batching. It takes about 8 hours for the dye to set.

How to ice-dye a hoodie or sweatshirt

You should first prepare 4-5 trays of ice cubes. Soak, then wring out the hoodie. Fold and tie the hoodie according to your favorite technique. Lay the folded garment down on a rack.

Put 2-3 teaspoons of dye powder on the fabric. Add on 2-3 teaspoons of dye activator. Finally, stack 4-5 layers of ice cubes on the hoodie.

Let the ice melt and wait 8-24 for the dye to set. Rinse out the hoodie in cold water, then cold wash and tumble dry the hoodie.

  1. Freeze 4-5 trays of ice cubes
  2. Wet, then wring out a cotton hoodie
  3. Fold and tie the hoodie
  4. Apply 2-3 tsp of dye powder on the fabric
  5. Apply dye 2-3 tsp of activator on the dye
  6. Stack 3-4 layers of ice cubes on the hoodie
  7. Let the ice melt and the dye react for 8-24 hours
  8. Rinse out the item under cold water
  9. Wash and dry your new ice-dye hoodie