How to Tie-Dye Without Soda Ash

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Things You'll Need

  • Stock pot

  • Salt

  • Liquid fabric dye

  • Spoon

  • Rubber bands

  • Cotton T-shirts

Shibori, or dye-resist techniques including tie-dye, have been in use for more than 6000 years.

Traditional tie-dyeing methods involve using soda ash to help adhere the fabric dye onto the fibers. However, most people do not have access to soda ash. One solution is to use salt instead of soda ash to encourage the dye to bond to the fibers. When you use salt instead of soda, the dye bath solution is safe for the skin, making it appropriate for younger children to work around.


Step 1

Fill a large stock pot with water. Select a stock pot that is large enough to hold the T-shirts so that they will be completely submerged into the water.

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Step 2

Pour 1 cup of table salt into the water. The salt will help the fabric dye adhere to the cotton in the shirts. Heat the stock pot over high heat until it boils, then reduce the heat to medium-low to simmer.

Step 3

Pour in 4 oz. of liquid fabric dye per 1 gallon of water. Stir the fabric dye into the water with a spoon until the solution is evenly saturated with color.

Step 4

Place a white cotton T-shirt flat onto a table top and pinch a section of the shirt in your fingers. Twist the section and tie a rubber band tightly around it. Repeat this process until the entire T-shirt has been twisted and tied. Repeat with as many shirts as you want to be tie-dyed.


Step 5

Submerge the prepared T-shirts into the dye bath and push them down with a spoon so that they are completely submerged in the solution.

Step 6

Allow the shirts to simmer for 15 minutes, then remove them and place them into a sink. Run warm water over the shirts until the water runs clear, then run cold water over the shirts.

Step 7

Take out the rubber bands, and hang up the tie-dyed T-shirts to air dry.


Use several pots filled with different colored water and dip sections of the t-shirt into each to achieve a multi-colored tie-dyed shirt.


When doing this project with children, instruct them to use caution with boiling water.


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