Tie-Dye Party and Soda Ash Soak
  • Here's my dilemma: I'm having a tie-dye party for a bunch of 8-year-olds in our local park meadow (meaning: no hot water nearby). So, I'm wondering if I can bring damp shirts, have the kids fold them, and add a little soda ash to each dye bottle on site and just before they start dying in lieu of the pre-soak. Will this work a) at all and b) with jacquard dyes? Thanks!!!
  • The better way to proceed is to dissolve the soda ash in warm to hot tap water, soak shirts for at least 20 minutes (overnight is fine too), pull out of soda ash/water mixture and put in buckets/garbage bags and then transport them to the site. Then the children can bind them and then squirt the dye on them.

    The hot water is mostly for easier dissolving. The dye setting process occurs best at temperatures over 80 degrees F, so keeping them in a sunny spot during the party is helpful.

    If you were to mix the dye and the soda ash together in the squirt bottle, then the chemical reactions starts in the bottle-not on the shirt-so the "life" of the dye solution is drastically reduced.

  • Thanks. Will the soda ash be okay for the kids' hands or does everybody need gloves? And if we did put it in the bottle and used up all the dye within an hour would that work? Would it have to be hot water in with the dye and soda ash? and how much soda ash?
  • The soda ash can be a little drying to the skin so its best to use the rubber gloves. They'll need to be on when the kids put the dye onto the shirts too.

    The method where you mix the dye and the soda together is often called the "activated dye method". We don't feel that this method gives the dyer the best results, so we don't provide directions for it. An hour might be pushing it, so if you're going to do it, then you shouldn't add water to the mixture until all the children have bound their garments.

  • I did tie dye with 6 cub scouts (7 year olds) last spring for a father's day project.

    Since you are dealing with a mildly caustic substance and other people's kids, you'll want to use gloves. Order "extra small" medical gloves in a box of 100 for about $7 to $10. Tell the kids to wear clothes that they don't mind getting ruined or buy throwaway aprons (Dharma carries these). Have them go barefoot or wear flip flops (because kids will get the dye everywhere and you don't want a pair of ruined shoes...).

    As someone else said, they'll need gloves for the tie-dye part anyway.

    I have done it both ways - with the soda ash in the dye and without. The solution with the soda ash has a VERY short shelf life - a couple hours. To do this for a group, I filled the dye bottles with the dye powder and about 1/2 the water. Then I made a concentrated solution of the soda-ash solution and topped off the bottles with the soda ash solution right before I handed them over to the kids.

    My problem was that it was just me with the knowledge to mix the stuff. I had 6 kids staring at me, just waiting for their project and I was pouring and mixing dye. My husband had to step in and help them tie their shirts because of the time senstivity of the dye.

    The problem with pre-soaked shirts and soda ash is that the kids will have to tie the shirts with gloves on.

    In the past, I have soaked the shirts, let them line dry and then let
    my own kids tie them dry. The soda ash is already on the shirt. The problem is still that they should wear gloves to handle them.

    Have the kids tie the shirts dry. Bring a large bucket and gallon containers (save your milk jugs) of the soda ash solution for soaking.
    Help them tie them, recruit a parent to help soak them in the soda ash and squeeze them out.

    You'll need more plain water for a hand washing station.

    Then, glove up and apron up for the dyeing part.

    Lay out several layers of newspaper so that when a layer gets saturated with dyes, you just peel it off and you have a fresh layer. If you are worried about newspaper ink, bring lots of paper towels and put a layer of towels on the newspaper and throw them both out when they become unworkable.

    Keep the designs simple - about half the kids that age will not have the patience to make sure that they get dye in all the nooks and crannies. Stripes or circles (rings) might be better than a spiral because it will be easier to get a good amount of dye on each section. (My scouts had a lot of white areas because the spirals were very tight and they did not work the dye into the cracks very well.)

    Good luck,