How to Keep White on a Tie-Dye Shirt

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Experienced tie-dyers can maximize the white that appears in their patterns.
Experienced tie-dyers can maximize the white that appears in their patterns. (Image: tie-dyed shirts image by Jim Parkin from Fotolia.com)

Tie-dying is a process by which an article of clothing or cloth, usually a t-shirt, is folded and tied with rubber bands. Dye is then put on the white cloth. The idea is that the dye will not penetrate the areas that are tied off. Thus, the resulting item has a pattern of different colors and shapes. Expert tie-dyers can successfully manipulate the dyes to get the colors and patterns they want. Those that are attempting to tie-dye a shirt without covering too much of the white can follow a few easy steps to preserve the white in their patterns.

Things You'll Need

  • Dye
  • White shirt
  • Rubber bands
  • Colored shirt

Use more rubber bands. The rubber bands keep the dye from spreading into the other sections of the article of clothing. When you tie up a shirt to be tie-dyed the die will not go under the rubber bands unless you force it there. To leave more white on a shirt, simply cover more cloth with rubber bands.

Tie the rubber bands tight. Many people who complain that there is not enough white on their tie-dyed shirts do not tie the rubber bands tight enough. The bands need to be tight enough to prevent the spread of the dye. Tie the bands as tight as you can get them to keep sections perfectly white.

Use less dye. Generally, the less dye you put on a shirt the more white will show. To highlight the white in the shirt, simply put less dye on it and avoid areas where you want white to remain.

Instead of using dye and a white shirt simply use bleach and a colored shirt or a shirt that has already been tie-dyed. Follow the same instructions you would to make a tie-dye shirt and saturate the areas between the rubber bands with a bleach solution that is 75 percent water and 25 percent bleach.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember to use 100 percent cotton cloth when tie-dying. Polyester will not accept the dye. Some special dyes can be used to dye silk and other specialty fabrics.
  • Be careful to not use too high a concentration of bleach as it can damage the shirt and is toxic to breathe.
  • Wear protective clothing whenever tie-dying.
  • Cover your mouth and wear gloves whenever mixing and working with dyes.

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