If you’re a DIY enthusiast, then you know tie dye is a great way to add some color to your wardrobe. But what happens if you leave the dye for too long? Will the colors run and make a mess?
What happens if you leave tie dye too long? If you’re dyeing durable fabrics such as cotton or polyester, then it won’t matter how long you leave the dye. Leaving the tie-dye for longer than the recommended time will even allow the color to penetrate the fabric more deeply, resulting in a more vibrant hue.
However, if you’re working with a protein fiber such as wool or silk, the dye will need to be rinsed away after a few hours. Otherwise, the fabric may become damaged.
In this article, let’s learn more about how long to leave tie-dye before rinsing it out to achieve the best result.
How Long Can You Leave Your Tie Dye?
The process of tie-dyeing is quite simple and straightforward, and you may think that success is entirely dependent on the tie-dye pattern that you create by tying rubber bands around your T-shirt to create beautiful tie-dye swirls and lines.
However, one of the most important things to remember when tie-dyeing is that the dye needs time to set. For the best results, let the dyed fabric sit for at least 8 hours, or even overnight, before rinsing out the excess dye.
During this time, it’s highly recommended that you don’t let the tie-dye dry out because then the dye won’t be able to react and bond properly with the fabric.
That’s why it’s always recommended to leave the dyed shirt in a plastic bag or sealed container to prevent the moisture from evaporating, which will keep the shirt wet for the entire 8 – 24 hours that you need to leave the dye to set.
This time will help to ensure that the color is securely bonded with the fabric fibers and won’t bleed when the fabric is laundered. Once the dye is set, you can safely rinse out the excess dye. With a little patience and care, you can create beautiful tie-dyed fabrics that will last.
For more details, take a look a look at our other article: How Long To Let Tie-Dye Sit Before Rinsing?
If this is the first time you’ve ever tie-dyed a shirt, the tutorial below from Handimania on YouTube may be helpful for planning your next steps!
Factors That Affect Tie-Dye Time
Other factors, such as the temperature, the type of fiber, and the type of dye you are using, can also affect the time that it will take for the dye to set. Let’s take a look at some of those factors below.
Type Of Dye
It’s usually recommended that you use fiber-reactive dyes for tie-dye, and that’s because it’s usually the easiest type of dye for this tie-dyeing method. Fiber reactive dye usually takes at least 8 hours or even up to 24 hours to set.
However, if you are using another type of dye for tie-dye, the instructions are usually a little bit different.
For example, all-purpose dye and disperse dye need to be heat-activated to bond properly with the fabric, so it needs to be set in a dye bath for at least half an hour. This is why these types of dye are usually not recommended for the tie-dye method.
The temperature can also affect how long you can leave the dye to set. The warmer the temperature, the faster it will take to set.
If you live in a warm climate (at 90°F), the dye can set in as little as 3 hours. If there’s sunlight, you can place your tie-dye item (enclosed in a sealed bag or container) out in the sun for an afternoon, and the dye will set by the time the sun sets!
On the other hand, if the temperature is colder, it will take much longer than the recommended time for the dye to set. In these instances, you will usually need to leave the dye for 2-3 days before the dye can take effect.
Make sure to keep your tie-dye in a sealed bag and apply more water to it as needed so that it doesn’t dry out. If the moisture dries out, it can result in uneven, patchy dye.
You can also take advantage of this to manipulate the setting time for tie-dye.
For example, if you are in a hurry, you can use a hair dryer to go over the tie-dye to help the dye set faster. If you want to leave it for a few days, you can leave the bag in a cool area of your home and forget about it for a few days.
Type Of Fabric
Natural fabrics, such as cotton, bamboo, and even silk, are the best choices when it comes to creating vibrant and exciting tie-dye colors. If you want to tie-dye natural fabrics such as cotton, it’s recommended to work with fiber-reactive dyes for the best result.
If you’re working with cotton or bamboo, then you can safely follow the instructions provided by the dye package to tie dye without damaging the fabric.
However, certain types of natural and semi-synthetic fabrics are extremely delicate. Rayon, for example, takes dye very well but can easily become damaged when it is wet, which is why you must take care when rinsing out and washing the fabric.
Silk is another type of fabric that can produce highly vibrant colors when you tie-dye it. However, silk needs to be set in a water bath for at least half an hour rather than in a plastic container.
You can also tie-dye synthetic fabrics, although you should know that synthetic fabrics may not absorb dye as well as natural fabrics like cotton.
For example, polyester will need to work with a heat-set dye (like disperse dye), so tie-dyeing with polyester may be a bit more difficult.
If you want the vibrant colors that natural fabrics produce but also want the durability of synthetic fabrics, then you can look for a poly-cotton blend or even a tri-blend (cotton/polyester/rayon blend).
These blended fabrics usually absorb dye very well, and you can use fiber-reactive dyes to tie-dye them without any special instructions.
When you use these blends, make sure that the natural fiber content (cotton/rayon) is over 50% of the fabric, which will ensure the dye works properly.
What Happens If You Leave Tie Dye For Too Long?
The reason why it’s recommended to leave your tie-dye in a sealed plastic container for at least 8 hours is to prevent the moisture from drying out. If your shirt is completely dried out, the dye won’t be able to react properly with your fabric, resulting in patchy colors.
If you notice that the shirt is dried out before the dye has time to properly set, you will need to spray some water on it to keep the dye working. You can also leave it in a very humid area of your home (like the bathroom or kitchen) so that the moisture will keep the dye from drying out.
As long as you keep the shirt moist, you can leave your tie-dye for up to 3 days without affecting the quality of the colors or the shirt. That is if you are working with a durable fabric like cotton, linen, or a poly-cotton blend.
However, if you are dyeing a delicate fabric like silk (especially if you are working with soda ash to activate the dye), it’s best to rinse out the dye after 3 hours or so before the soda ash has the chance to damage the fabric.
Since silk can be quite delicate, it’s best to follow the instructions closely, or you’ll risk damaging this beautiful and expensive fabric.
How To Rinse Out Tie-Dye
Once you have allowed the dye to set, it is important to rinse out all of the excess dye in order to prevent your tie dye from bleeding or fading over time.
Start by rinsing the fabric with cold water to remove any loose dye. Then, rinse the fabric with very hot water several times. The hot water will help to remove any remaining excess dye and keep the fabric from fading in the wash.
Be sure to rinse the fabric until the water runs clear. Once you have removed all of the excess dye, you can wash the fabric in your washing machine using cold water.
Allow the fabric to air dry or use a low-heat setting on your dryer, and the tie-dye will not bleed on your clothes in subsequent washes. If you’re working with a delicate fabric like rayon or silk, it’s best that you don’t use hot water or wash them in the washing machine.
This is because both rayon and silk can get very weak when they are wet, and rinsing with hot water or washing in the washing machine can damage the delicate fabric.
Instead, you can rinse the fabric several times under cold water until the water runs clear. Then, you can hand wash your item using mild detergent and cold water and air dry your item on a flat surface. These steps will still allow the dye to set properly without damaging your fabric.