How to Get Tie-Dye Colors to Stay Bright

by Erica Loop
Use fiber-reactive dye rather than all-purpose dye when tie-dyeing clothes.

Use fiber-reactive dye rather than all-purpose dye when tie-dyeing clothes.

Whether you're going for a hippie-chic look, getting crafty with your clothes or helping a child create her own 1960s-inspired style, tie-dyeing is a relatively easy way to add some pizazz to your plain white T-shirts or sweatpants. Unless you're aiming for a faded or pastel look, you'll want your tie-dye colors to stay as bold and bright as they look when you mix them up. Before you rinse away all your hard work and let your tie-dye masterpiece fade, take the time to ensure that your colors stay bright.

Select the right fabric for your project as a criteria for keeping your colors bright. Opt for 100 percent cotton, wool, linen or rayon pieces, which will accept and hold the dye better than polyester or acrylics.

Presoak your fabric in a sodium carbonate, or soda ash, bath to prep the material to better accept the dye.

Use the appropriate amount of dye for the weight and dimensions of your tie-dye project. Mix up a batch of dye using more powder or liquid color for larger pieces such as sheets, blankets or oversized shirts; double the amount of the dye to create an ultra-bright hue.

Keep your garment in the dye bath for a longer time than what's on the dye label instructions. Let your garment soak for up to one hour to fully saturate it with color and create a brighter shade.

Wash your tie-dyed clothes with a mild detergent only. Choose a gentle laundry soap that doesn't contain harsh chemicals or bleach.

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Items you will need

  • Soda ash
  • Mild detergent


  • Start with a brighter color to begin with. If you are looking to create and maintain a bold tie-dyed T-shirt, opt for a fire engine red or grass green instead of a pastel pink or muted moss.


  • Use caution with soda ash during your tie-dye process. Wear rubber gloves and never allow children to come in contact with the substance.
  • Don't overwash your tie-dye fabrics. If you are constantly washing a dyed shirt, it is more likely to fade and show wear than one that you wash less often.

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

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images