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How to Tie-Dye Sheets

by Erica Loop, studioD

While many think of tie-dye as starting in the 1960s, it was only the more modern form involving fiber-reactive dyes that was a counter-culture creation. Other tie-dye-style techniques, such as the Indian Bandhani and Japanese Shibori, have been around for centuries. Whether you want to punch up your bedroom décor or you're looking to get creative and make your own wall hanging, tie-dyeing sheets is an easy-to-do project for all crafters, from novice to pro. Try an old-school technique from across cultures or use the popular '60s style to create your own uniquely designed sheet.

Prewash a white cotton sheet. Dry the sheet thoroughly.

Pick a work space that you can get messy, such as a utility room or an outdoor space. Place a plastic sheet or tarp over the surface where you plan to do your tie-dye project. Be sure that all the necessary equipment is at hand.

Ascertain whether the dye you're using is fiber-reactive dye or all-purpose fiber dye by reading the manufacturer's information and instructions.

Put on your rubber gloves and prepare a soda-ash bath -- if you are using a fiber-reactive dye -- by mixing 1-cup of soda ash per gallon of water in a bucket. Soak your sheet in the bath for at least five minutes to make it ready to accept the fiber-reactive dye's color. Remove the sheet and ring the excess water mixture back into the bucket. Skip this entire step if you are using an all-purpose fabric dye.

Use the Japanese Shibori traditional method of preparation for tie-dye by folding the sheet accordion style and binding it with a band. For a more modern technique, place the sheet flat and pinch it in the middle. Then, swirl the sheet in a tight spiral until the entire piece of fabric is in a circle shape, which will result in a tie-dye spiral pattern. Bind the spiral with a rubber band. For a circled or dotted look, use rubber bands to create a patterned print. Pull handfuls of fabric up and tie off the bottom of each handful with a rubber band. Repeat this to make more circles.

Mix the dye bath by adding water to the dye in accordance with the dye manufacturer's instructions. Stir the dye mix with a rod or stick to distribute the color evenly. Choose one color of dye or mix separate batches of dye for a rainbow tie-dye look. If you are using a general or all-purpose dye -- and not a fiber reactive one -- use hot water in your dye baths.

Scrunch the sheet into one dye bath bucket -- entirely submersing it -- for a mono-toned style, or plunge separate parts of the sheet into separate dye baths for a multi-hued look. Allow the sheet to sit in each color for between four and seven minutes.

Remove the sheet from the dye and place it in a plastic bag overnight, allowing the dye to set.

Take the still-wet fabric out of the bag and run it under cool water until the water runs clear of dye.

Wash the sheet in a washing machine with a mild detergent in accordance with the care-label instructions. Dry the sheet in the dryer or by air drying.

Items you will need
  •  Fabric dye
  •  Soda ash
  •  Plastic buckets
  •  Rubber gloves
  •  Stirring rod or stick
  •  Tarp or plastic sheeting
  •  Rubber bands
  •  Plastic bag


  • Add some of the dye to squirt bottles for a no-dip option. Simply spray the dye directly onto the sheet to add color.
  • Keep the sheet in the dye bath for a longer time to obtain a brighter color.


  • Don't wash your tie-dyed sheet with your other laundry as the dye may bleed and run onto your other bedding or clothing.
  • Even the brightest tie-dyed sheets may fade with washing. It shouldn't surprise you if your red tie-dyed sheet looks slightly pink after repeated washings.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images