Top Tip: Soaking Your Shirt in White Vinegar and Water Makes Tie-Dye Last Longer

Amanda Garrity

From Good Housekeeping

For one reason or another, tie-dye recently went from a tried-and-true summer camp activity to a TikTok-worthy trend. The multi-colored design, inspired by the psychedelic styles of the 1960s, is now becoming, for lack of better words, cool again. Popular retailers like Nordstrom, Madewell, and Free People are selling everything from rainbow-inspired loungewear sets to muted tie-dye swimwear. But according to Pinterest, many people are also taking matters into their own hands: Searches for "tie-dye at home" were up nearly 462% this spring.

Even if you typically steer clear of craft projects due to your questionable artistic skills, you can still successfully tie-dye because the abstract designs are pretty forgiving. Our rule of thumb: When in doubt, just add more dye. The step-by-step guide on how to tie-dye outlined below works for just about anything: socks, sweatshirts, shorts, t-shirts, scrunchies, pants, shoes, pillowcases, towels, you name it. It's also extremely easy to tailor your design — spiral, crumple, sunburst, stripes, and more —and color palette to achieve your desired look.

A Step-by-Step Guide for the Perfect Tie-Dye

Before you bust out your dye and rubber bands, decide what look you're going for: classic tie-dye, two-toned designs, or something muted. Once you have a specific pattern in mind, round up old clothes that would benefit from a second life, or anything new in need of a color fix.

Check this list to make sure that you have all the necessary tie-dye materials:

Once you've gathered all of your supplies, follow this how-to guide:

  1. Prepare your work space: Cover your work surface with a plastic tablecloth, old sheet, or garbage bag to protect it from any spills and stains. While it's best to tie-dye outside, you can get the job done in your tub or shower.
  2. Get the dye ready: Follow the instructions on the tie-dye kit’s packaging for the best results. For a homemade dye option, fill a squeeze bottle with water and add 8 drops of food coloring.
  3. Increase the dye’s staying power: Lay a shirt (or whatever else you're dyeing) flat in a large plastic bowl and cover with ½ cup of white vinegar and ½ cup water mixture. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Pick your design: After the full soaking time has passed, wring out the shirt and lay it flat, with the front of the shirt facing up. For a classic spiral design, place your finger or dowel rod in the center of the shirt and start turning clockwise until the entire shirt reaches a spiral design. Remove the dowel or finger from the center. For a crumpled design, simply crumple the item with your fingers. For a striped design, accordion pleat and fold fabric either vertically or horizontally.
  5. Secure the shape: Place rubber bands horizontally, vertically, and diagonally around the shirt.
  6. Start dyeing: Wearing rubber gloves, dye sections with your chosen colors. Keep it as precise as you’d like. Just make sure you dye with light colors first (yellow, for example), so you don’t cover it up by mistake.
  7. Flip it over: When you finish dyeing one side, turn the shirt over and repeat the same process on the back.
  8. Let it sit: Place the completed item in a plastic bag and seal shut. Let it sit for at least 8 hours — the less time it rests, the lighter the dye will be. However, waiting 24 to 36 hours will give you the most vibrant results.
  9. Remove excess dye: Wearing rubber gloves, remove the item from the bag and stick it in the washer on a regular cycle with detergent. Then tumble dry.

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