Beginners Need Help
  • We tie-dyed t-shirts and were disappointed with the results. The colors were vibrant when we untied the T-shirts but after washing them in the washing machine the t-shirts looked faded and pastel colored. Help!!! This is how we did our process: prewashed and dried t-shirts. Tied or rubberbanded t-shirts. Soaked t-shirts in soda ash water. Wrung shirts out the best we could. Dyed t-shirts using squirt bottles. Wrapped t-shirts in plastic and let sit for 24 hours. Rinsed t-shirts in cold water until water ran clear. Washed t-shirts in washing machine with laundry detergent on cold.

    I read the instructions on the Jacquard web site and it said to begin wash with cold water and gradually get hotter. It also suggested washing in washing machine with hot wash, cold rinse. Is the hot water important for the dying process? We tied before putting the t-shirts in soda ash water because the soda ash dries the skin. Is it important to soak in soda ash before tying? If so why? Can the mixed dyes be save in lidded containers? If so for how long?
  • Hi Chris,

    The most important question is, were the shirts 100% cotton? If they were a poly cotton blend that would explain the pale colors, as the Procion MX dye will not have any affect on polyester fibres. Aside from that, it sounds like you did things correctly.
    My next question would be, what kind of laundry detergent did you use in your wash out? It may have been too harsh for the freshly dyed shirts.
    Another thing to consider is water quality in your area. If you have hard water you will not get vibrant colors. The website has instructions for adding softener to your water.
    Were you using the Tie Dye Kit? If not, how much dye did you put in how much water and what colors were you using? Perhaps the concentrations are off.

    Hot water does help the colors pop.

    It doesn't matter when you soak the shirts in soda ash (before or after tying) as long as they soak for at least 15 minutes before you apply the dye. Soda ash is pretty rough on the skin, so it's a good idea to wear gloves if you decide to soak before tying. You could have tied the T-shirts right out of the washing machine without drying, the shirts are easier to tie when damp and you save a bit of energy by not using the dryer.
    You can save the mixed dyes for about 2 weeks in a cool place, but don't put them in the fridge! Dyes should never be around food or kitchen utensils. You could get an ice chest filled with ice and stick it someplace out of the way. You can also save the soda ash solution in a lidded container. It will keep indefinitely. Always label your dye stuffs to avoid unhappy accidents!

    I hope this helps. Give it another try--you can even re-dye the shirts you just did (as long as they are not a blend). If you have any other questions be sure to write back or call us here at Jacquard 1-800-442-0455.

    One last note: we just watched a great video here on tie dye from the folks at The information is well presented and they have some great tying techniques in their advanced videos, with good instructions for mixing chemical water (if you are dealing with hard water this will improve your results)

    Good luck!

  • Noelle,
    Thank you so much for your quick response and helpful information. We washed the shirts, after dying in Arm and Hammer clothing detergent. The t-shirts say 100% cotton. I believe we used the correct proportions when we mixed the dye, but some of it was previously mixed more than 2 weeks before. Can you get the Calgon at a grocery store? What amount should be used per gallon of water. Should the Calgon be added to the Soda Ash mixture, to the dye mixture, the washing machine when washing the dyed shirts or what? What are washing instructions after the first wash?

  • Hi,
    You should be able to get the Calgon at a grocery store or jacquard stockist. If that doesn't work call Jacquard on 1800 442 0455. Pre mixing the dyes could be one of the causes of the faded color as well as the hard water. Ideally mix the dyes fresh before dyeing for the best results. Pre soak the shirts in the soda ash disolved in water. 1lb to about 2 galons should be sufficient. Let them dry and then tyedye them. The calgon should be added to the dye mixture to soften the water. About a table spoon to 1pt. You should also let the shirts dry completely before washing them, ideally by hand for the first wash in a gentle detergent.
  • Hi Chris,

    So, there are a couple of things to do different, given the new information. For washing after dying we generally recommend a mild liquid detergent(from the grocery store), or Synthropol. I think the Arm and Hammer is a pretty strong detergent and probably drove out some of your color. The older dyestuffs are one of the reasons you got lighter colors.
    You should be able to get Calgon at the grocery store and I believe it is basically the same as what we sell--read the label, it should be sodium hexametaphosphate. (If the stuff at the grocery store is different check with the place you got your dyes from or go to carry it in powder form and they don't have any order minimums) Add it to the water you mix with the dyes. Use about 1/2 tsp per 1 1/2 cups water.
    After the first wash you can wash your dyed shirts normally but if you have any concerns just wash them in a separate load.

    Happy dyeing!

  • I'm a little worried, because after spending hours helping kids tie dye shirts, I found out that the woman who prewashed the shirts used a dryer sheet and possibly fabric softener. I just got done dying, so the items are in the plastic bags waiting for their set time (8 to 24 hours, right?) I'm wondering how much this will affect the dye...any ideas? Could this have been a problem with this user (beginner posted dyes faded significantly)?
    I also dissolved dyes in about 100 degree water, and am wondering if this is also going to affect the color darkness, since I read somewhere that this may affect things...
    I am going to leave them at least 24 hours in hopes that more will "stick."
    Another thing~I'm not sure we had the right proportion of soda ash. We had to add more water to accommodate several extra shirts that I didn't account for...
  • Dryer sheets and fabric softeners are definitely to be avoided when preparing garments for dyeing. :( Too bad you didn't find out sooner. The diluted soda ash might affect things--kinda depends on how much more water you added.

    You will probably still get some results, though less vibrant than they might have been. But don't despair too much! My experience with kids is that they are pretty excited about making stuff in general and tend to be less critical of the results than we, as adults, are (not always mind you, but often). If you can find the beauty in their results, they will usually see it too. It can also be a good lesson for them in trying again--good for art making and life in general--things aren't always perfect the first time!

  • Hi... Do I have to pre wash the t-shirts?..... It doesn't say so in the instructions. But I want to make sure.... I have to do the activity with kids tomorrow so I don't have that much time. All it sais is to soak in the ash... So could someone help me....
    Thank you so much
  • Hello, I am very new to this. I used the turquoise procion mx dye for a silk scarf project for school using the tub dyeing method. It came out pretty well so far, I am wondering how long the dye will last now that I have added the soda ash. I made it this morning before work and wanted to do some tests on some other fabrics before I dispose of it, seems a waste to just throw it all out. I am also wanting to do an ombre effect on the silk scarf, are there any tips you may have for doing this? I used acid dyes before for this effect but couldn't find any to purchase in a short amount of time before the project is due. Thanks for your help!
  • Hi MissPeenyo,

    Once you have added the Soda Ash to the Procion MX dye it is only good for about an hour. Even though there is a lot of color left in the bath that color is no longer able to bond to your fiber so would only stain it and would not be wash fast.
    There is a great tutorial for ombre dyeing here: