Tie-Dye TShirts: Tips for Success

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Kids wearing their new tie dye shirts.

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See that little guy on the left, the one who’s not sure if he’s smiling? Well, the other day we were driving down the road and he said, “Could we paint tshirts today?”

It was one of those moments when I could have said, “Not today.” But, I took a moment to think about it. It was on our list of things to do this summer. I only had two kids in the car; a stop at Walmart would be easy. We didn’t really have other plans. The girls were ready to take naps. So I said, “Sure.”

Yes, I even amazed myself.

In one of my better “Yes Mom” moments, we ran into Walmart and grabbed this tie dye kit. We headed home, searched for white tshirts, put the girls to nap, and got going.

Tie Dye Tips for Success:

  • Use stained white tshirts. Don’t go buy new shirts, just tie dye ones that are no longer good as “white” shirts. Save new ones to wear as new.
  • Buy a kit. Sure, you can go get individual boxes of Rit dye but I was amazed at how much easier it was to work with the kit. It came with everything we needed, plentiful directions, and the dye came in convenient squirt bottles. No need for plastic tubs or buckets of hot water. Easy peasy.
  • Read the directions. I am notorious for doing things without reading the directions first. Drive my husband batty. After jumping  right into this project, I found myself consulting the directions multiple times anyways. Read the directions first and avoid making unnecessary mistakes. Which brings me to my next point….
  • Use the plastic gloves that come with the kit. Yes, there’s a reason why they included them in the box. Thankfully, blue hands only last about 24 hours. (Ask me how I know.)
Holding a hand dyed blue near the tie dye project.
  • Buy more rubber bands than you think you will need. We tie dye on an almost yearly basis and we never have too many rubber bands. You want your kids to be free to create, so don’t be hampered by a lack of supplies.
  • Do this outside. You could certainly do this craft inside on a newspaper covered surface. However, weather permitting, I recommend outside on the grass as the perfect location. Mom needs to be relaxed during this operation. It will be more fun that way — for everybody. Don’t worry needlessly about staining something other than tshirts.
  • Find entertainment for the toddler. A true SuperMOM might have included the almost 2-year old in the experience. However, I’m just not that super. Naptime was the ideal time to do this craft. But, do what works for you and your family.
  • Let your kids be creative. This should go without saying. But sometimes Mom (aka me) has a picture in her head of how the craft should go. Let that go; be flexible and roll with the punches. FishBoy6 wanted his shirt to be “like a Clone Trooper’s,” thus, the blue stripes. He wasn’t into swirls or traditional tie dye-ing. And that’s okay. He is soooo happy.
A little boy sitting on the grass with tie dye shirt on the ground near him.

This is a great craft to do — in green — when you’re doing fun things as a fam on St Patrick’s Day.

Have you ever tie-dyed? What works for you?

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  1. Hi
    I am not a mom, but a Pre-K teacher and I am here to say that these kits work well with 4 and 5 year-olds, except I use 1/2″ strips of cotton (from an old pillowcase, sheet or old t-shirts)instead of rubber bands. The children cannot manipulate the rubber bands, but they do learn to make ties. The results are fabulous and every child is so proud of the art work they create.

  2. Love to tie dye! Did a super easy kind of tie dye activity with DD8s dance team. Use Sharpie markers to make small dots in a circular pattern, then drip rubbing alcohol onto the area and the colors spread/mix into round tie dye like patterns. Here’s info: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/experiment/00000032
    We didn’t buy the kit as we had all the supplies already! Super fun and super easy!

  3. We have also tie dyed over the bathtub (Have your plastic grocery bags ready and/or a bucket to let the shirts sit before you wash them out.) and the dye eventually washes away!

  4. Love the kits! My older sister told me that it was way worth it to buy one, especially if you use a 40% off coupon for your local craft store. We made them for a family project last year and then again this year. I had this for some youth girls from church and there were leftover colors mixed, so the next morning the kids and I made more shirts. We ended up with a lot of purples, so today we wore them for “Purple Day.” It is easy to see my walking kids (4 and 5) in them at the zoo, though on our last trip there was a field trip of older kids in purple tie-dye shirts!

    P.S. Last October, we copied friends who got the idea from Family Fun to use rubber bands to create lots of circles around the shirt, then dye only orange. Once the shirts were dry, we used sharpie markers to add faces and stems for jack-o-lanterns. Super cute!

  5. This was just what I needed to read. I was wanting to do this with my boys, but was a little hesitant. We will definitely do this later this summer!

    1. @Susie’s Homemade,


      We are having some friends down to visit us in the new digs; this looks like it would be a lot of fun & I think it would make enough for 4 kiddo’s & maybe 4 adults (at least us 2 moms)
      Thanks for the idea & the reminder that sometimes you need to say “Yes”

  6. This looks like so much fun! What a great use of stained clothes… giving them a new life in such a great way! Thanks for the tips.

  7. I love it! What a great project and the kids look like they had a blast!!!

  8. Fun idea! I was thinking about going to buy special shirts to wear to the 4th of July parade, but this sounds like a lot more fun and inexpensive! I also have a problem with letting go of how I think a project should go. I am already hoping that my almost-4-year-old’s shirt doesn’t come out with too much purple from all the red and blue! 🙂

  9. If you have a latex allergy watch out for the kits as they come with latex gloves! I did this with my art classes every year towards the end of the year and the kids loved it! (high school, middle school) Good job going with the flow. It is so easy to just say “No” sometimes. I really have to get out of the rut and say yes!

    1. @Karen, our gloves didn’t look like they were latex. I obviously didn’t use them. But, they looked like the clear plastic bags that the sandwich maker wears at Subway. Not sure if those are latex?

  10. LOL My oldest is looking over my shoulder & said that the white with blue stripes shirt looks like a storm trooper outfit…wanted to know where the pants are.

    I gotta ask, how many shirts were you able to do with the kit?

    1. @cheryl, Everyone in the family has one and the baby has two. Plus, I poured out a lot of dye. So, depending on how colored you’re going to make each shirt, it does a lot. The package said 8 shirts.

      I wasn’t sure how far the dye would stretch, so I used a cookie sheet to catch the drips and then we used those drips so we didn’t waste any.

  11. Thanks for motivating me to do this fun project with the kids. Now I’ll just need to motivate myself to blog about it when I’m done. 🙂

  12. Recently, my husband bought a new, plain medium blue t-shirt. Guess what? Somehow it got a few bleach spots on the front of it. He was rather upset since it was brand new. Of course, superhero mom says “never fear! I’ll just tie dye it!” So, I knotted it up with rubber bands as tight as possible and threw it in the washer with some bleach. Low and behold, it’s full of awesome! The shirt is now light blue with dark blue patterns all over it. And now? It’s his FAVORITE shirt. I didn’t need any dye at all!


  13. We tie-dyed shirts just a few weeks ago. It was such a fun thing to do with my children. I had been fearful to try it thinking of all that was involved, but my sister picked up one of those kits and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
    I am just curious how you got the rest of the shirt to stay white? When I washed ours (in cold water) the white parts were stained a light blue from the bleeding of the dye.

    1. @Stephenie, I didn’t do anything special, except that many of the shirts were not wet before we dyed them (because I didn’t read the directions). I let them sit overnight in separate plastic grocery bags and then I washed in hot water. I think ours are a light blue sorta, too, though.