How to Wash Tie-Dye T-Shirts So They Won't Fade

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First you agonized about how to position the rubber bands and what colors to use, and now that you have a finished shirt, you're nervous about washing tie-dye for the first time. For a fun and simple DIY project, using a tie-dye kit to make your own trendy tie-dye projects can be surprisingly stressful. It's good to be cautious about how you wash your tie-dye shirts; dyed fabric fades quickly when washed incorrectly. The groovy new addition to your wardrobe might still fade gradually over time, but there are a few things you can do to keep the colors vibrant for as long as possible.

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Washing Tie-Dye for the First Time

Even if your shirt is made of cotton, which is prone to shrinking when exposed to high temperatures, it's advisable to use hot water when washing tie-dye for the first time. Just like the heat of the dryer sets stains in fabrics, hot water will help set the dye in your T-shirt.

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Hot water will also wash out any excess dye so the shirt doesn't bleed onto other fabrics during future washings. Because that excess dye will stain other garments, put the T-shirt in the washing machine alone when you're washing tie-dye for the first time or wash it by hand. (If you dyed a few T-shirts at the same time using the same shades of dye, you can wash them together.)

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Ideally, you'll want to use a detergent made for dyed fabric for the first few washes of your freshly dyed T-shirt. Your regular detergent is also fine in a pinch. You may want to wash the shirt on its own in hot water a few times to make sure all the excess dye is gone before washing it with other garments.

Tip

If you're tie-dying your own shirt, take steps during the dying process to ensure colorfastness. Some people soak tie-dye in vinegar at the end of the dying process. You can also soak freshly tie-dyed T-shirts in dye fixative, which is specifically designed to reduce fading and bleeding in dyed garments.

Washing Tie-Dye Shirts Over and Over

After you've gotten out any excess dye during the first few washings, tie-dye T-shirts should always be washed in cold water to prevent fading. Use your washing machine's gentlest cycle or make a habit of washing dyed T-shirts by hand to protect them from the agitation of the washing machine. It's OK to wash dyed shirts with regular detergent.

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Drying Tie-Dye Shirts

The best way to dry tie-dye shirts is generally air-drying them. It's not a disaster if you're too crunched for time and have to toss your dyed T-shirt in the dryer, but repeatedly drying shirts this way may speed up fading. (Always turn dyed T-shirts inside out before putting them in the dryer and use the lowest heat setting.)

Line drying tie-dye shirts and other garments on a sunny day isn't advisable either. Prolonged sun exposure may fade your dyed garments faster than anything else will. Line dry tie-dye fabrics indoors or outdoors in the shade.

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