How to Keep Red Tie-Dye From Turning Pink

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Set red dye with fixative and salt.
Set red dye with fixative and salt. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The perfect tie-dyed shirt is your reward after painstaking hours of rubber-banding, twisting and dipping. When red is the standout color in your swirl design, one or two washes may be all that it takes for that crimson hue to turn into a pastel pink. Preventing tie-dye fade starts while you’re still dyeing the fabric. After the fact, a few pantry ingredients and proper washing methods will stop the bleed in its tracks and keep your masterpiece looking like a psychedelic dream.

Things You'll Need

  • Dye fixative
  • Laundry detergent for delicates
  • Salt

Rinse the tie-dyed object in warm water immediately after dyeing, until the water runs clear. Rinse it in the washing machine or in a sink full of water.

Fill a top-loading washing machine with just enough hot water to cover the dyed object. Add a teaspoon of dye fixative for every one yard of fabric. Insert the tie-dyed fabric into the washer and close it. Set the washer to a 20-minute cycle and wait until the washer stops running. Remove the item. Do not apply color fixative in a front loading washing machine, as it will not use enough water to ensure even coverage.

Fill the washer with cold water and start it again to rinse the dyed object and set the fixative.

Look at the care label on the dyed object and determine the hottest temperature allowed for drying. Insert the dyed object into the dryer and set it to the highest recommended setting. Set the appropriate drying time and start the dryer.

Wash the tie-dyed object in cold water and a cap full of detergent designed for delicates. Add 1/2 cup of salt to the first two to three washes to further set the red dye and prevent fading or bleeding. Always turn the dyed object inside out before placing it into the washer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Buy dye fixative at fabric and craft stores.
  • You may apply the color fixative in a sink rather than in a washing machine. Wear disposable gloves to protect your hands from the chemicals and the hot water.
  • Although the red dye shouldn’t fade after treatment, it’s a good idea to wash it separately for the first few washes to ensure that the dye doesn't transfer to other clothing.

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