How to wash tie-dye shirts?
It can be a nerve-wracking experience to wash your tie-dye shirts for the first time, I know because at the beginning I didn’t have a clue what would happen if, let’s say, I put a freshly bought shirt in the washing machine. Or what about when you’re just done dyeing a very nice shirt? You want to be sure to follow the best care instructions to achieve the best result and make sure you will not stain anything in the process.
The real answer is that is depends about how far along the tie-dye shirt is in its process. The washing instructions will be different depending on if the shirt is freshly made or if the tie-dye shirt in question has already been washed before. Simply put, a new tie-dye shirt is more risky while an old tie-dye shirt that has already been washed has no risk of running or bleeding in the wash if the proper instructions are followed. We will see together what the easiest and most effective ways are of washing tie-dye shirts, depending on where they are in their life cycle.
Let’s first get into the scenario in wish you’ve freshly dyed your tie-dye shirt and you are wondering how to wash it for the first time and you want to prevent staining. At this point the shirt has been dyed, has had enough time to cure, and has been rinsed in fresh water. Let’s say that the rinsing process was successful and the shirt does not dye the water anymore when you are rinsing it. In this case, when the shirt has been completely rinsed and it doesn’t release dye anymore, you can consider that it will not run, at least not enough to make a difference.
Let’s keep in mind that we need to be careful when rinsing, we need to really work into the shirt to open every fold to release the dye. We also need to use warm water in the final stage to open up the fibers and release any non-reacted dye that could still be trapped in the fabric. Assuming we’ve correctly rinsed the shirt, we can assume that it will not stain and not be a problem at all. In this way we can safely say that during tie-dyeing the first washing is done by hand during the rinsing process of the tie-dye shirt.
What our experience tells us is that as long as the shirt as been rinsed sufficiently, it is safe to put it even with regular clothes and other tie-dye shirts. The fact is, we regularly make shirts that have white sections in their pattern and we are able to keep the white clear and perfect every time by following the rinsing instructions and then washing them in the washing machine. The shirt will not back stain itself or other clothing if the rinsing has been performed correctly.
Do tie-dye shirts run/bleed in the wash?
Freshly made tie-dye shirts will run the most then you are rinsing them. The moment wen you are done rinsing the shirt and you have washed it a bit by hand there should be no risk of bleeding or running in the wash. The time where it is the most risky to put a fresh tie-dye shirt in the was is if you are trying to put a tie-dye that has not been rinsed at all. In that case, there would still be plenty of dye that is still ready to react with any fibers it can react with.
What we recommend people is to use their best judgment and if you are not sure wether or not you should put a particular shirt in the was with your clothes, you can try quickly to put the shirt under the sink and soaking it a bit to see if it will release dye or not.
Another way it could stain is if you haven’t used warm water in the rinsing process, and the shirt has never been washed in hot water. If you use hot water in the washing machine in this situation, you could find out that some dye is still trapped inside the fibers. This is why we always recommend that you wash a tie-dye shirt in cold water, and that during the tie-dye process you should rinse the shirt in warm water before washing it in the machine.
Can I wash multiple tie-dye shirts at the same time?
Following the same example we talked about and the tie-dye shirts have been rinsed correctly, then you can absolutely wash then together, even if they have different colors, and even if they have white parts on their pattern. After having properly rinsed the shirts, you can actually wash many of them at the same time with no ill effect.
It is actually the recommended way to wash them if you have a tie-dye business and need to wash many shirts each day. It has many advantages because it saves time and water.
Do tie-dye shirts need to be washed separately?
After the shirt has been washed one time you can wash it with regular clothes without worry. You do not need to wash the tie-dye shirt separately assuming that the shirt has been properly rinsed. You can wash them with regular clothes and you can wash them with other tie-dye shirts.
Do you wash tie-dye with soap/detergents?
Yes, using detergent is a good practice as it helps remove the last remaining bits of runoff dye. There are even specialty detergents that are made specifically for the purpose of washing tie-dye shirts with extra protection from back staining and color fading. What we recommend is to use a small quantity of regular clothing detergent when washing the tie-dye shirt.
Can tie-dye shirts go in the dryer?
Yes they can. The dyes we use are the same as many industrial clothing manufacturer. It means that if you do it for a regular shirt, you can do it with a tie-dyed shirt! Once the shirt has been washed it is just like a regular shirt in the sense that you can then wash it and dry it the same way you would for any other similar piece of clothing. Let’s say you tie-dye shirt is made from cotton, then you will dry them the same way you dry your other cotton shirts.
Will tie-dye ruin my washer?
No it won’t! The dyes are perfectly fine and safe. The washer will drain out any dyed water and you should be good to go. If you want to be extra careful, do not put in white clothes right after washing a large batch of fresh tie-dyes. We have seen rarely that some colored water droplets may stay on the surface of the washing machine drum, and can possibly stain other clothes.
If you see colored water droplets in the washing machine after you have washed a tie-dye shirt, you should try not to put in white clothes, and rather should make the next washing batch be with dark colored clothes. This problem does not typically happen and will only be seen if you have not rinsed the shirt enough during the tie-dye process.
Best practices and care instructions for tie-dye
Simply wash inside-out with cold water. Tumble dry at medium to low heat. This is it, you don’t need to do special tricks to keep your tie-dye looking good, the dyes you use are professional grade and permanent, they will stay bright forever.
There are some things that can affect the brightness of the colors, those things are typically chemical processes that can affect the fibers themselves. For example, if you leave a tie-dye shirt outside in the sun for days at a time, the ultraviolet rays of the sun will affect the fabric and can cause a washed and faded effect on the colors. Some people use this effect to make tie-dye shirts that have a nice softer color scheme.
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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.