Most people don’t think of tie dye as a technique that can be used on synthetic fabric, but what about a natural-synthetic blend? Poly-cotton is popular thanks to its lightweight and durability, as well as its breathability, and tie-dyeing can help you customize your wardrobe even further.
Can you tie-dye cotton-polyester blend? It is possible to tie dye cotton polyester blends, as long as the blend is over 60% cotton. If you are dyeing a fabric that has more polyester content, you will need to use disperse dye for the most lightfast result.
Keep in mind that the result may not be as bright as when you use natural fibers like cotton, but it is still worth giving it a try. In this article, we will discuss how to get the best results when tie-dyeing cotton polyester blend fabrics.
Can You Tie-Dye Polyester Cotton Blend?
Tie-dye usually favors natural fabrics like cotton, because they absorb dye very well, yielding even and super lightfast colors. Cotton can be dyed using all-purpose dye, and the tie-dyeing process is super simple and straightforward.
However, polyester is another story. Polyester fabric is technically plastic, so it doesn’t really absorb dye. If you try to use all-purpose dye with polyester, the dye will slide right off from the fabric, and you won’t get a lightfast result.
That’s why polyester fabric is usually colored with disperse dye, which needs to be heat-set. The high temperature allows the dye molecules to form a strong bond with the synthetic fibers, creating a lightfast result.
But what about polyester-cotton blends? Should we follow the advice for polyester fabrics or cotton fabrics when it comes to tie-dyeing?
It comes down to the percentage of the blend. If the fabric has more than 60% cotton, then you can tie-dye your fabric using regular all-purpose dyes and follow the traditional method for tie-dyeing.
However, if the fabric has less than 60% cotton and more than 40% polyester, the best way to tie-dye the fabric would be to use a type of dye that works well with synthetic fabrics, such as disperse dye.
Type Of Dye To Use For Cotton Polyester Blend
As we’ve mentioned, the type of dye you will need to use depends on the percentage of the blend. Let’s take a look at how to tie-dye in each case.
If The Blend Has More Than 60% Cotton
If the polyester-cotton blend has more than 60% cotton, you can dye it using All-Purpose Dye. The dye that’s often sold in tie-dye kits are all-purpose dyes.
This type of dye will be able to adhere to the cotton content in the fabric, but not the polyester content, so the result will be lighter compared to dyeing 100% cotton. The more the cotton content, the more lightfast the colors will be.
However, since cotton can also bleed in the wash, the dye may wash out even further when you wash the fabric, so you should keep this in mind when checking on the colors when dyeing.
The plus side is that if you use All-Purpose Dye, you can use a very simple tie-dyeing method to dye the fabric. Just apply the dye to the fabric, and let time do its job.
We suggest that you wait a little longer than suggested to allow the dye to become as lightfast as possible. For example, if the instructions say to leave the tie dye overnight, you can leave it for up to two days to achieve the most vibrant color.
When the excess dye is removed, it will look lighter because the dye won’t be able to grab onto the polyester fibers, only the cotton fibers.
If The Blend Has More Than 40% Polyester
If the fabric blend has more than 40% polyester, you will need to use a dye that works with synthetic fabrics, such as
Disperse dye is a bit more complicated to work with, because it needs to be heat-set. This is because polyester doesn’t absorb or hold dye very well, so a special formula is needed to ensure lightfast colors.
Disperse dye works well to color synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon and acrylic. The pigments in disperse dyes are very fine particles that are insoluble in water.
To use disperse dyes, the fabric to be dyed must be first soaked in a hot dye bath. This opens up the fabric’s fibers so that the dye can penetrate into the fabric. After the dye is properly soaked through, the heat works to fix the dye onto the fiber.
However, a disadvantage of using disperse dye when tie-dyeing is that you can only use one color at a time, so the tie-dye will be a bit monotone. However, if this is the aesthetic you want, then using disperse dye is still a highly effective way to tie-dye poly-cotton blends.
How To Tie-Dye Polyester-Cotton Blend
Since 60% cotton fabrics can be dyed using traditional tie-dye methods, we will mainly discuss tie-dyeing poly-cotton blends with more polyester content, using disperse dye.
You will need:
- Disperse dye in a color that you want. Make sure there’s enough dye depending on how much fabric you are dyeing. A bottle of Rit DyeMore is recommended for 2 lbs of polyester.
- A large pot that can comfortably hold your fabric
- A large wooden spoon for stirring
- Rubber bands
First, you will need to make sure that your fabric is clean and free from any contaminants like dirt or grease, which can interfere with the dye’s effectiveness. You can wash the fabric using your regular detergents before dyeing.
After washing, you don’t have to dry the fabric. Go ahead and use the rubber bands to create your tie-dye patterns. The areas where the rubber bands are will create negative spaces where the dye cannot reach.
Then, fill a large pot half way through with water, and bring it to a boil. Once the water boils, bring down the heat to let the water simmer, and add the dye to the pot gradually while mixing well to distribute the dye.
Add the fabric to the pot and let it simmer for half an hour, or until it reaches the desired color. You can use the spoon to stir the pot occasionally to make sure that the dye is distributed evenly.
Next, turn off the heat and remove your fabric – you will need to use large tongs in this step. Rinse the fabric using warm water to remove the excess dye, while removing your rubber bands when the fabric is cool enough.
Finally, wash it in your washing machine using a mild detergent and air dry. Once the cycle is finished, your polyester cotton fabric will be tie-dyed a beautiful new color!