Tie-Dying Instructions

Brenda Groelz
Cadette Troop 728
Aurora, Nebraska

If you wish to have wash and light fade resistant dyed items, you need to use a fiber-reactive dye like Procion MX, NOT Rit dye from the grocery store. It is also best if your bandanas, shirts or whatever you're dyeing are 100% cotton, because this dye only bonds with natural cellulose fibers.

Last year we dyed pillowcases, but we couldn't afford to purchase 100% cotton pillowcases, so we bought 100% bleached muslin and stitched up our own. If you use a blend fabric, only the cotton part dyes, and your results will be substantially paler than you hoped for.



Note: You can purchased the dyes, soda ash and urea, and receive very good instructions for immersion dyeing and tie-dyeing from Dharma. They're on the web: http://www.dharmatrading.com/ If you're ordering from them, you might wish to buy a detergent called Synthrapol. This is specially formulated for scouring the fabric in the beginning, and for removing the excess loose dye at the end of your project. It's worth having. You use it instead of Tide.



  1. Scour your fabric by washing it a couple of times in hot water and detergent in your washing machine. This helps remove the sizing and other fabric finishes that the manufacturers put on the fabric, but which repel the dye.
  2. Make a solution of soda ash and very warm water. Soda ash is obtained from a swimming pool supplier. You'll need about a half cup of soda ash per gallon of water.
  3. Soak the fabric in the soda ash water solution. We put them in a five gallon pail, and pull them out when the girls are ready to dye.
  4. Wring out the fabric, and give to the girls for rubber bands, scrunching into balls (held by wrapping nylon net around them) or for pleating or other fabric manipulations. Have them write their names on an edge or corner with a permanent black marker such as a Sharpie or a Pigma pen.
  5. Lay the manipulated fabric onto a plastic covered table, and give the girls concentrated dye solutions in squirt bottles (such as ketchup and mustard bottles). Tell them to squirt carefully on top of the fabric, and to put some squirts of dye down into the various folds.
  6. Allow the dyed fabric to sit for at least 1 1/2 hours in a warm place. It would be better if it could sit over night, but if you do, cover with another layer of plastic to keep it moist. Dye needs moisture, warmth, soda ash and time to fully fix to the fabric molecules. But, once they're fixed, they're permanent...no bleeding and not much fading.
  7. Uncover, loosen the bindings, and let the girls ooh! and aah! Then rinse repeatedly in buckets of water or in a big sink, or by running a hose or hydrant over them. The dye and soda ash will not harm the grass or sewage or septic systems.
  8. Tell the girls to wash their dyed items in very hot water with a strong detergent (such as powdered Tide) in the washing machine when they get home. This will remove any residual dye that did not bond with the fabric. After this, the item will not bleed. If you're doing a day camp, send them all home with a leader, and return them to the girls the next day.


Linda St. George, Girl Scouts of Genesee Valley, Brockport, New York: We just tie dyed t-shirts at camp and had a wonderful time! One of my troop volunteers brought the materials and showed us how to dye with the least messiest method I have ever seen!

Save old shampoo bottles, plastic ketchup bottles, salad dressing bottles, anything made of plastic with a small opening.

Fill the bottles (one for each color) with water, nearly to the top.

Put a squirt (I estimate about 1-2 tablespoons) of REGULAR CRAFT PAINT in the bottle. Shake well!

That's it! Now, after you have wrapped your garment in rubber bands, just squirt the paint onto the shirts. A little gives you some color with a lot of white. A lot gives you more color. Each girl's shirt came out unique and interesting! There wasn't a bad one in the crowd!

For a sunburst, lay the bandana out flat. Starting in the middle, twist the fabric clockwise. This should make a flat spiral. When all of the fabric has been twisted, secure in place with rubber bands. A nice effect is to put four different colored paints in each of the four "corners" of the twist.