Tie-dyeing is fun until you have a batch of multiple T-shirts in a lot of different colors that you need to wash. If you are worried about whether the colors will bleed together, you are definitely not alone!
Can you wash multiple tie-dye shirts together? Yes, you can wash multiple tie-dye shirts together, but only when you have used a fiber-reactive dye on a suitable fabric such as cotton and only wash similar colors together.
Why is that the case? In this article, let’s take a look at how to safely care for your tie-dye so that the colors won’t bleed in the wash.
When Can You Wash Multiple Tie-Dye Shirts Together?
If you have prepared all the tools and materials needed to tie-dye, chances are, you are not going to tie-dye just one T-shirt.
When it comes time for the first wash, you may wonder whether it is safe to throw all the tie-dye T-shirts together and wash them all at once to save time and water.
You can wash multiple tie-dye shirts together when:
- The tie-dye shirts are dyed with similar colors and motifs, so you won’t mind if the colors bleed
- The T-shirts are made from cellulose fibers (cotton, rayon, or linen) and have been dyed with fiber-reactive dyes
If you are tie-dyeing a cotton T-shirt with an all-purpose dye, you can expect a lot of color bleeding. This is because although dye can be absorbed into the fiber very quickly, it can easily be dislodged in hot water. That’s why a fiber-reactive dye (like this set from Jacquard Procion MX) is often recommended for natural fabrics such as cotton.
Why is this the case? That’s because fiber-reactive dyes are specifically designed to bond to cellulose fibers (such as cotton, hemp, linen, rayon, and even silk and wool) on a molecular level, which means the bond between the dye and the fiber is extremely strong.
That means you can safely wash all the tie-dyes together after rising off the excess dyes from the T-shirts. After the first wash, the tie-dye using fiber-reactive dyes won’t even bleed on your white clothes!
Wash Similar Colors Together
If you are not using fiber-reactive dye, then you should only wash multiple tie-dyes together if they are dyed using similar color schemes so that any bleeding will be more difficult to spot.
If you have a few different color schemes, then you should separate the tie-dye shirts, at least for the first wash, so that all the excess dye has a chance to be removed. After the first wash, you can safely wash all the different tie-dye shirts together because the bleeding will be kept to a minimum.
Polyester and other synthetic fabrics do not hold dyes very well, and they usually require the use of a disperse dye with high heat.
Disperse dye requires boiling water so that the dye can form a strong bond with the fibers of the synthetic fabric. Of course, this is not practical for tie-dyeing, so disperse dye, and synthetic fabrics are usually not a favorite for tie-dyeing.
This is why polyester is usually not recommended for tie-dye.
How To Prevent Tie-Dye From Bleeding
If you are using an all-purpose dye, then there’s a chance that your tie-dye will bleed quite a lot during the first wash.
If you would like to wash multiple tie-dye shirts together, here is the best way to do this so that you can prevent the colors from bleeding.
Allow The Dye To Set For 24 Hours
After tie-dyeing, it’s best to leave the colors to do their thing for at least 24 hours. You may be in a rush and want to rinse the shirt after a few hours, but this time is crucial to allow the colors to set.
Leaving the dye to set for at least 24 hours will allow the dye to work properly, and it will prevent bleeding when it comes time to wash.
Rinse The Shirts Separately
After this 24-hour period, you should remove all the rubber bands from the shirts and rinse them individually.
It’s very important that you don’t mix them together in this step because this is where all the excess dyes will be removed. If you rinse all of them in one water basin, all the colors will be mixed together, and there’s a very high chance that the colors will bleed.
You should rinse each shirt thoroughly so that all the excess dye is removed. Once the water runs clear, move on to the next shirt, and repeat until you have rinsed all of your tie-dye shirts individually.
You should also use cold water at this step. The cold water will disrupt the dyeing process so that the dye won’t stain other parts of your shirt (also known as back staining). Rinsing with cold water will allow you to remove all the excess dye without it bleeding into other parts of your shirt.
Wash Similar Colors Together
After all the excess dye has been removed, it’s now time to wash your tie-dye shirts.
Although the bleeding has been reduced to a minimum after you have rinsed out the excess dye, we still recommend that you wash the tie-dye shirts with similar color schemes together so that any bleeding will be less noticeable.
Some DIYers claim that washing different colored tie-dye shirts together is safe at this step since all the excess dyes have been rinsed out. It’s up to you whether you feel comfortable washing a lot of different colors together at this step.
We also recommend throwing a towel that you don’t mind ruining in the washer along with the tie-dye.
The towel will add some friction to the washer, which can scrub out and absorb all the excess dye pigments that have not been removed during the rinsing process. This addition will also keep the color bleeding to a minimum.
Then, run your washer through a cycle using hot water. The hot water will help the dye to set permanently into the fabric.
Keep in mind that hot water can shrink natural fabrics such as cotton, so check the washing label on your cotton T-shirt and adjust the heat setting accordingly to prevent shrinking your shirt.
Dry In High Heat
After the first wash cycle, make sure to use your dryer on a high heat setting. This setting will allow the dye pigments to permanently bond with the fabric and prevent further color bleeding during subsequent washes.
Again, the high heat setting may only be suitable for certain types of fabric, so you should check your clothing label to see if it can handle the heat before going ahead with this step.
Can You Wash Tie-Dye With Other Laundry?
After the first wash cycle, the colors should be securely locked in, and you should be able to wash your tie-dye with your other laundry without worrying about bleeding.
This is especially true for fiber-reactive dyes since the colors are permanent. You can safely wash these tie-dye shirts with white clothes, and the colors won’t bleed at all.
For other types of dyes, we recommend turning the tie-dye inside out to prevent the colors from fading and washing similar colors together to keep the colors fresh and vibrant.
Can You Wash Bleach Tie-Dye Clothes Together?
Another fun way to experiment with tie-dyeing is using bleach to remove colors (instead of adding colors), also known as reverse tie-dyeing.
If you have reverse tie-dye multiple shirts, you may wonder if it’s safe to throw them all in the wash together.
While this is certainly possible, you should take a few extra steps to neutralize and remove the excess bleach so that it does not affect the rest of the fabric and your other clothes when you wash them for the first time.
Neutralize The Bleach
After you have applied the bleach to your clothes and given enough time (10 – 20 minutes) to remove the colors from the fabric, neutralizing the bleach is a necessary step to stop the bleach from further affecting the fabric.
This step will ensure that you achieve the perfect color for your reverse tie-dye, but it will also help prevent the bleach from bleeding onto other parts of your clothes (and other pieces of tie-dye) when you wash it for the first time.
To neutralize the bleach, mix a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with 10 parts of water. Then, spray this mixture on your reverse tie-dye thoroughly, especially where the bleach has been applied, to allow the mixture to work against the bleach.
Let this solution rest for about 10 minutes before rinsing your reverse tie-dye.
Similar to regular tie-dyeing, you should also rinse your shirts individually to remove the excess bleach. You should rinse each shirt individually so that the bleach cannot get on other pieces of clothing.
This step will ensure that all the excess bleach will be removed, and then you can safely wash all of your reverse tie-dyes together without worrying that the bleach will affect other pieces of clothing in the wash.