Before you start dyeing, you’ll need some supplies, tools and materials. First you’ll need dyes to color with and fabric to decorate. Additionally, you’ll need to grab a few tools such as bottles and rubber bands.
We are constantly testing and trying new things. With time our tie-dye equipment has evolved and is now much better than before. Here I’m sharing with you the best products we’ve found for tie-dyeing at home.
We have linked our favorite picks. When you buy something using these links we may earn a small commission.
These are the tools and materials you need. You can do most things in tie-dye with only a small list of items. Tie-dye kits contain everything you need to get started. They are the best option for beginners.
These upgrades will help you tie-dye more efficiently. They open the door to more complex projects and let you make professional work from your home. If you plan on selling your craft, it’s important to be well equipped. With the right equipment you’ll be one step ahead.
- Wire rack
- Cookie sheet or Foil pan
- Precision bottles
- Large mixing bottles
- Bucket or Wash basin
- Folding table
- Laundry detergent
Did you know can customize your dye cocktail to change its properties? You can thicken your dye, increase the dye solubility, or increase the fabric’s water retention.
Tie-dye experts learn to precisely combine these ingredients. Mix and match auxiliary chemicals to discover the recipe that works best for you.
Tie-dye is generally considered safe and kid-friendly. There are still special precautions you might want to take. For example, while the dyes are themselves non-toxic, you might want to use disposable gloves to prevent staining your hands.
The biggest precaution to take is not to consume or breathe in the raw materials. Dyes are composed of fine particles that can get airborne when disturbed. You should wear a mask to prevent breathing in these particles when handling dye powder.
Cotton clothing for tie-dye
Fabric is your canvas. In the case of garments, it also is something you will wear. With practice blanks this is not important, but you might want to consider it for a special shirt you plan on wearing a long time. An amazing tie-dye design is made even better if you can wear it comfortably.
From cheap and reliable practice blanks to advanced comfort. There is something for everyone. You are not limited to shirts, any item made from 100% cotton will work. Other natural fibers also work (linen, rayon, hemp, flax, jute, ramie), but stay clear from synthetic fibers (polyester, nylon, acrylic).
The right kind of dye for tie-dye
Without a doubt the most important item. Dyes make the magic happen. Without them tie-dye wouldn’t exist. There is a large variety of dyes that exist and each type has its own purpose. Our purpose is coloring clothes. We have compared all available options and determined the best option for tie-dyeing at home.
Best dyes for regular tie-dye
We need dyes that are colorfast, non-toxic and easy to use. Colorfast means that the color stays on the fabric and doesn’t fade. If possible, we need our dyes to work in the comfort of our home without special equipment.
The best dyes to use for tie-dye are commonly referred to as fiber-reactive dyes. They wield all-around better results than other dyes for tie-dyeing. They are permanent when fixed and very bright. They come in many colors and are safe to use at home.
Best dyes for ice-dyeing
The ice-dyeing technique creates unique color gradients as the ice melts. Not only do you need dyes, you also need ice cubes. Sprinkle powdered dyes on the fabric before covering it with dye activator and a bunch of ice. Amazingly, we can use the same dyes for ice-dyeing as we do for regular tie-dyeing.
Best dyes for reverse-dyeing
Reverse-dyeing requires that you first remove color from the shirt. This is commonly done using bleach, a household chemical. Bleach is a strong oxidizer containing chlorine. Please be sure to follow the product’s safety precautions when reverse-dyeing.
After striping some of the color, you fill in the shirt again with new colors. This is best done by using the same fiber-reactive dyes as we do in regular tie-dye.
Best dyes for shibori
One of the oldest school of resist dyeing, shibori is a series of folding, tying, and stitching techniques. Shibori fabric was historically made using the indigo plant. Natural indigo dye gives a striking blue color to the fabric.
Reliable bottles for tie-dye
Bottles are like your paintbrush. Just like there are many paintbrushes, there are many bottles. It’s easy to overlook your bottles, what’s the difference anyway between two bottles?
Cheap bottles are notorious for leaking on your project as you’re dyeing. Invest in quality and you’ll be glad each time you use them. In tie-dye we are looking for resistant, reliable bottles that do not leak and are easy to refill.
- 4 oz needle bottles
- 12 oz squeeze bottles
- 16 oz squeeze bottles
- 32 oz large mixing bottles
- Spray bottles
Squeeze bottles are the workhorse of the tie-dye world. I recommend using 12 oz bottles. They let you mix a good quantity of dye and are easy to hold.
Precision bottles are used to make complex design on the shirt. They produce a small stream of dye that is easier to control.
Large mixing bottles are easiest to refill and allow you to make a large batch of dye. Ideal for artists who wish to make multiple tie-dye shirts at a time.
Spray bottles have multiple uses. Their main use is to dampen the fabric with a fine mist of water. They can also be used to spray dye or bleach
Binding, tying, and resist supplies
After folding the fabric you want it to stay in place for dyeing. For this purpose we can use a variety of items. Most commonly you’ll see rubber bands being used. String is also a good option for intermediate tie-dye artists. Sinew is good to have and is often reserved for complex techniques.
Rubber bands are cheap and easy to use. Quick to set up and are perfect for beginners. You should always have a stockpile of rubber bands.
Kite string can be used for tying the fabric. Let’s you have more control over the tightness of the binding.
Sinew achieves the best result of the bunch. Best used with a sinew puller dowel to achieve incredibly tight bindings. Sinew is useful for patterns demanding tight bindings such as the geode.
A sinew dowel is used to hold and pull sinew. Wrap your sinew around the dowel and use it to get more leverage. Will increase your strength and make tighter bindings.
A sewing kit is essential for anyone looking to spice up their tie-dye. It let’s you modify the fabric itself. Not only can you use the sewing tie-dye technique, you can also create new garments.
Beeswax can be used to waterproof sections of fabric. Commonly used for batik, it has a multitude of uses in tie-dye. Heat it up to melt it then pour it on the fabric. Once solidified it will protect these fibers from the dye.
Batik tjanting tools are used with beeswax. They are the traditional tools used to perform the batik technique. They are ideal for pouring melted wax precisely and safely.
Change the properties of your dyes with auxiliary chemicals
Did you know can customize your dye cocktail to change its properties? You can thicken your dye, increase the dye solubility, or increase the fabric’s water retention. Tie-dye experts learn to precisely combine these ingredients to produce the best result possible.
Soda ash is the fizz in our champagne. Without it our dyes cannot react at room temperature. It also can serve to thicken your dyes.
Alginate is a dried algae powder used to thicken your dye solution. It makes your water viscous and makes it spread less.
Urea is a wetting agent. Add it to your dye mix to increase the absorption of dye and keep your fabric wet longer.
Calsolene oil is a wetting agent useful in making the dye spread more evenly. It also breaks the surface tension of water, letting your dye tightly bound fabrics more easily.
Xanthan gum is used as a thickening agent. It makes your dye thicker and more viscous. It work similarly to alginate.
Glauber’s salt can help you especially with dye baths. It helps pull out the dye particles from the solution and onto the shirt.
Synthrapol is a type of laundry detergent that is often used to pull out excess dye particles when first washing tie-dye shirts.