How to Tie-Dye Sheets

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Tie-dye bedding can be pricey, but you can dye your own and achieve the same eye-catching results for a fraction of the cost. There are many ways to tie-dye fabric, but for beginners, a kit is a good place to start. Most craft stores sell tie-dye kits by various manufacturers, or individual dyes from which you can choose your own color combinations. The fabric reactive dyes included in kits, and the individual colors sold alongside them, are formulated to achieve colorful, permanent results in one step, without additional ingredients.

Things You'll Need

  • 100-percent cotton twin sheet set
  • Tie-dye kit, or 3 fabric reactive dye colors, 1 bottle each
  • Squeeze bottles (optional)
  • Disposable vinyl gloves
  • Rubber bands
  • Plastic table cloth
  • Paper towels
  • Cooling rack
  • Trash bags
  • Large tub (optional)
Tie-dye your sheets for colorful look.
Tie-dye your sheets for colorful look. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 1

Gather your supplies and set up your work area. Choose a mess-safe work area like a basement, garage, laundry room or backyard, weather permitting. Cover your work surface with a plastic tablecloth or a sheet of painters plastic. Place a layer of newspaper or paper towels over the plastic to soak up drips and prevent the dye from running off the table. Remember, the dye is permanent so wear appropriate clothing and protect the entire work area.

Have all the supplies ready to go.
Have all the supplies ready to go. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 2

Wash the sheets in a washing machine to remove the sizing. Use regular laundry detergent and no fabric softener, as it interferes with the dyeing process.

Put the washing machine to work.
Put the washing machine to work. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 3

Fold the damp flat sheet in half vertically, bottom to top and then half again. Fold each end into the middle and accordion fold in 2-inch pleats from the edge to the center from each side. Place rubber bands about every 2 inches along the folded sheet from end to end.

The flat sheet is the simplest to fold.
The flat sheet is the simplest to fold. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 4

Fold the damp fitted sheet with all four corners fitted together. Bring the sides into the middle and accordion fold them from the ends in the same manner as the flat sheet. Place rubber bands about every 2 inches along the folded sheet from end to end.

Do the best you can with the fitted sheet.
Do the best you can with the fitted sheet. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 5

Lay the pillowcase flat and pinch up an area near the middle. Twist in a spiral pattern. Keep twisting until you have a roughly circular shape. Place a rubber band around the circumference to keep it together. Place an additional three to four rubber bands across the face, dividing it into wedges.

A pillowcase can twist into a nice spiral.
A pillowcase can twist into a nice spiral. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 6

Put on the disposable vinyl gloves, fill the dye-filled squeeze bottles to the marked line with warm water and shake for 1 minute. Do not mix the dye until you are ready to use it; its working life is about 45 minutes.

Note: Kits and individual colors come with the powdered dye in a squeeze bottle. With refill kits you'll need to put the powder into a squeeze bottle.

Sheet set tied and ready to dye.
Sheet set tied and ready to dye. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 7

Set the pieces on a cooling rack over the prepared work surface. Placing the tip of the bottle close to the fabric, saturate each banded section with the dye in a pattern of your choice. Start with the light colors first, work from one end to the other, changing colors as desired. Flip the pieces over and repeat the pattern.

Distribute dark and light colors evenly.
Distribute dark and light colors evenly. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 8

Place the dyed sheets in a plastic bag. Seal it and leave the sheets overnight for the color to set.

Seal the bag to keep the fabric from drying out.
Seal the bag to keep the fabric from drying out. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 9

Put on the disposable gloves. Put the sheets in a deep laundry sink, bathtub or a large outdoor tub. Rinse each piece with cold water until the bleeding of the dye slows. Cut the rubber bands and open the sheets and pillowcase. Rinse each piece separately. Continue rinsing until the color stops bleeding.

Rinse each piece thoroughly.
Rinse each piece thoroughly. (Image: Debbie Williams)

Step 10

Return the sheet set to the washer and run it with laundry detergent at the hottest temperature recommended for the fabric and the largest amount of water. Set the machine to extra rise, if available. If your washing machine doesn't have an extra rinse setting, rinse the sheets again after the first cycle. Dry the sheets in the dryer.

Set the washer for the largest load possible.
Set the washer for the largest load possible. (Image: Debbie Williams)

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Tips & Warnings

  • Double the dye amount for a full- or queen-size sheet set, and triple it for a king-size set.
  • Wash the sheets separately from your other laundry for the first couple of washes to be sure the dye is set.
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