Washing Tie-Dye? Don't Make a Mess of Your Machine: Follow These Simple Steps

To make our creative projects last longer, it’s essential to take care of them to the best of our ability.

Rayna Skiver - Author

May 8 2024, Published 10:57 a.m. ET

A tie-dye shirt hanging upside down on a clothesline outside with a blue sky and a green palm tree in the background.
Source: ISTOCK

Is there as fun a summer activity as making some tie-dye? However, the prospect of a new tie-dye wardrobe might make you hesitant if you’re concerned about mixing colors in the washing machine. Don’t worry, though, we got you covered.

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When it comes to cleaning tie-dye clothing, everything from the pre-washing routine to the type of soap you use is important. To learn all of these details and more, keep reading.

Here's how to wash tie-dye:

A few tie-dye shirts in a washing machine after a cycle.
Source: ISTOCK

First things first, you should always wash a newly tie-dyed shirt by itself. If you ignore this crucial step, you run the risk of ruining the other non-tie-dyed clothing items in the washing machine.

Before you throw the shirt into the washer, make sure you let it set for 24 hours and then thoroughly rinse off the excess dye. Not only will this maximize the life of the dye, but it will also ensure that the cleaning process is less troublesome, according to PureWow.

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Once your tie-dyed items are in the washing machine, Colorado Wholesale Dye Corp. suggests purchasing a Synthrapol detergent. This is a special type of laundry soap that helps expel loose dye. If you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry — a very small amount of your everyday detergent will work just fine. Be sure to select cold water when washing tie-dye.

Remove the items from the washer as soon as the cycle is finished. If using a dryer, it’s best to always choose a low-heat setting, according to HGTV. When air drying, make sure you keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent fading.

As a precaution, you should avoid washing tie-dye with other items for the first few cycles. This extra step will ensure that your clothes remain dye-free.

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Here's what not to do when washing tie-dye:

Person touching and looking one tie-dye shirt that's hanging up among other tie-dye shirts and tote bags.
Source: ISTOCK

When washing tie-dye, you should initially avoid using hot water. If you use hot water, the colors may bleed together, which will ruin all of your hard work.

Drying your newly dyed clothing can be just as meticulous. As mentioned earlier, you should never let your tie-dye air dry in the sunlight — the sun can fade the colors. You will want to avoid the high heat setting on the dryer for the same reason. For the best results, you should air dry the item in a cool, dark place.

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Keep your tie-dye nice and bright with these simple steps.

Two folded up tie-dye t-shirts on top of other clothes in a cardboard box.
Source: ISTOCK

One of the best things about a tie-dye shirt is how bright and colorful it is. However, after some time, the dye begins to fade, and the shirt loses a bit of its original shine. Luckily, there’s an easy way to slow the fading process.

Before you wash your tie-dye for the first time, it’s important to set it. Letting your item sit for a long period allows the colors to bond with the fabric, which makes the dye more permanent, according to Sarah Maker.

Ideally, the item should sit for at least eight hours, but the longer, the better — this will make the colors nice and bright. If you want great results but don’t want to wait as long, make sure your item is in a room that’s at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

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