Tie Dyeing

In Class

  1. Soak the shirt in a bucket containing 0.3M-0.5M Na2CO3 (sodium carbonate, or "soda ash") solution for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Put on a pair of safety goggles. (You must wear goggles for steps 3 and 4.)
  3. Use pH paper to measure the pH of the Na2CO3 solution. (This is so we can claim that it's a lab!)
  4. Thoroughly wring the Na2CO3 solution out of the shirt (into the bucket). The drier you can get the shirt in this step, the brighter your colors will come out.
    Wear gloves and goggles for this step! Na2CO3 is a base and will dissolve your skin!
  5. Tie up your shirt with cotton string/twine in a pattern of your choosing.
  6. Apply dye.
  7. Place your shirt in a 1-gallon Ziploc bag and take it home. (Make sure the bag is sealed so it doesn't leak dye all over your backpack!)

At Home

  1. Leave your shirt in the Ziploc bag, preferably in a warm place (300 K, which is about 80ºF) for 24 hours.
  2. Rinse the shirt with cold water until the water runs clear.
  3. Untie the shirt. (You can cut the strings instead, but be careful not to cut the shirt!)
  4. Hand wash the shirt with shampoo (use about as much as you would use for your hair) in a bucket or your sink. (If you use your sink, be careful to rinse off all of the dye so it doesn't stain the counter!)
  5. Rinse the shirt in the sink and check that the water runs clear. (If not, repeat steps #2 and #4 until it does.)
  6. Machine wash the shirt by itself with shampoo (not laundry detergent) in hot water.
  7. Dry normally.

Once you have done all of the above, your shirt is ready to wear and can be safely washed with your other laundry.

Remember to wear your shirt to your chemistry final exam for a mole point of extra credit!


  • Classroom Tie-Dye: a website created by Nancy Gilman about tie dyeing with elementary school children.
  • Dharma Trading Co.: a company that sells tie dyeing supplies, including plain white clothing.
Last modified: Sunday, 3 June 2012, 1:19 AM