How to Keep Tie-Dye From Washing Out

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Things You'll Need

  • White vinegar

  • Mild laundry detergent

Use fiber-reactive dyes for cotton tie-dye.
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Tie-dye isn't just a relic of the hippie days. Today's tie-dyed clothes are bright and vibrant, and you can keep them that way by washing and drying correctly. The key to bright, fade-resistant tie-dye is using the right dye in the first place. When dyeing cotton and other plant fibers, fiber-reactive dye with soda ash fixative is preferable to all-purpose dye, which washes out much faster. Whatever fabric and dye you use, hand-washing will keep your colors bright longer than machine washing.


Step 1

Allow tie-dye to set for 24 to 48 hours after dyeing. Rinse out as much of the dye as possible and hang the items to air-dry.

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Step 2

Add 1 cup of white vinegar to a sink full of cold water and immerse the tie-dyed item for 30 minutes before washing it for the first time. The vinegar helps set the dye in the fabric.

Step 3

Drain the sink and refill it with enough cold water to cover the tie-dyed item. Add 1 teaspoon of detergent formulated for delicates while the water is running. Swish the item in the water, squeeze the suds through and allow it to soak for 30 minutes to one hour.

Step 4

Drain the sink and rinse the item in cold running water. Squeeze out as much water as possible, then take the item outdoors and shake it out to help prevent wrinkles.

Step 5

Hang the item to air-dry in the shade. Direct sunlight can cause fading, so it's better to dry indoors than outdoors on a sunny day.


When dyeing animal fibers such as wool and silk, use acid dyes instead of fiber-reactive dyes. All-purpose dyes will be brighter on animal fibers than plant fibers. Polyester blends do not take dye as readily as plant and animal fibers. When tie-dyeing T-shirts, always choose 100-percent cotton shirts.


Fiber-reactive dyes and fixatives contain harsh chemicals. When using them to tie-dye, always wear a mask when mixing the powder and rubber gloves when touching and mixing the dye and fixatives.


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