A Beginner's Guide to Ice Dye: A Complete Tutorial

✨So you want to learn to ice dye✨

Ice dyeing is the perfect activity to allow your colorful creativity shine! But sometimes, it can be overwhelming to get started. 

That's why I decided to share this step-by-step guide with some tips and tricks for those ready to get started on their own ice dyeing journey. I've also linked some of my favorite products that I use as part of my process!

I'm breaking this tutorial down into a few key parts to ensure your adventure is successful, and calling out some items that will help make your journey easier.

I'll teach you how to:

    • Pick dyeable items (and avoid costly mistakes!)
    • Prepare them for dyeing
    • Get your space & safety gear ready to go
    • Rinse & properly set your newly dyed apparel!

➡️ Been around the block before and just need a process reminder? Check out my simplified tutorial here.

    What You Need:

    Here are some items you'll need to complete your ice dyeing journey. Don't know where to get them? Don't worry! I searched for some of the best deals and have options linked in the instructions below!

      • Items to dye
      • Gloves
      • Mask
      • Synthrapol or Blue Dawn
      • Soda Ash (or Sodium Carbonate)
      • 2 Bins (one for soaking, one for dyeing)
      • Ice (enough to thoroughly cover the item you're dyeing)
      • Cooling Racks
      • Fiber Reactive Dye
      • Hot Water (at least 130 degrees, or as hot as you can stand)
    SAFETY ALERT: Anything you use for dyeing should not be used for food storage or food prep moving forward. 

      Selecting Your Items

      Find items with high percentages of natural fibers (cotton, rayon, modal, etc.)

        • Fiber reactive dyes will not adhere to synthetic fabrics like polyester, spandex, or nylon
        • Try to ensure your garment has at least 50% natural fibers, but the higher the natural fiber content, the more vibrant your finished product!

      Your local thrift store is a great place to find items to learn! However, I've also made a list of dyeable items with which I've had success:

      Preparing Your Items

      Pre-wash: always pre-wash your items before dyeing to ensure any chemicals, fabric softeners, dirt, oil, or anything else from the manufacturing process have been removed. 

        • A professional detergent like synthrapol is perfect for this purpose
          • While nothing beats synthrapol, Blue Dawn is a good alternative

      Soda ash soak: soda ash, or sodium carbonate, is vital to ensuring your items have the correct PH to allow the dye to adhere to the garment.

      SAFETY ALERT: Make sure to use waterproof gloves when handling the solution, as it can be hard on your skin! You'll also want to wear a mask when working with soda ash and dye powder to avoid inhaling and irritating your respiratory tract.

        • While you can buy soda ash directly from dye suppliers, I've found it a bit more affordable to buy Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, with identical results. 
        • How to use:
          • Add soda ash to water (typically 2 cups of soda ash per 1 gallon of water) in a bin of your choice
            • I love using 5 gallon buckets for soda ash soaks - you can also get them for pretty low prices at your local hardware store!
          • Add your garments, ensure they're thoroughly submerged in the soda ash solution
          • Let soak for at least 15-20 minutes
          • When done, ring out your item to remove as much of the soda ash solution as possible. 

      Preparing Your Space

      Decide whether or not you would like to dye racked or mucked (racked = dye drains below item, mucked = item sits in dye runoff). For beginners, I recommend dyeing racked, as dyeing mucked has an added layer of factors to consider. 

      For racked dyeing, take a storage bin and place a cooling rack inside. 

        • Place a cooling rack inside a storage bin, and then scrunch up your dyeable item on top of the rack
          • To minimize the chance of rack lines, add a thin towel or piece of cloth between the item you're dyeing and the rack

      Dyeing Your Items

      Selecting your dyes: always use fiber reactive dyes to ensure your item stays vibrant and colorful for as long as possible. Other types of dye may be more prone to bleeding, even when set correctly. Fiber reactive dyes are truly permanent, and when set correctly, can also be baby safe.

      Above, I linked some Jacquard Fiber Reactive Dyes available on Amazon that will work for this project and are excellent to start out. When you're ready for larger orders, you can check out Dharma Trading Company, Pro Chemical & Dye, Grateful Dyes, or Custom ColorsNote: shipping may be more expensive on some of these sites, so keep an eye on the final price!

        • Place ice on top of the item you wish to dye (should be scrunched on a rack, per the previous step)
          • Use enough ice to thoroughly cover the item. If you're dyeing something thick, like a sweatshirt or sweater, apply a layer of ice at least 2" thick
        • Apply dye over the ice
          • While some people apply dye with a spoon, I prefer using spice shakers with lids for easier application and storage between uses.
        • Now it's time for a l̶i̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ ̶b̶i̶t lot of patience as we let our items sit for 18-24 hours in an area that's at least 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius). While it's super tempting, don't touch it. Just let the ice do its thing. If you're extra patient, you can even let it sit up to 48 hours, however most dyes reach their most vibrant within 24 hours.
          • Note: did all the ice melt but it doesn't look like it finished soaking through your items? When in doubt, add more ice.

      Rinsing & Setting Your Items

      The hardest part is over. You made it the 18-24 hours without disturbing your piece! This means the dye should have set long enough to properly adhere to your item. 
        • Take your dyed item and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear
        • Depending on the colors you used, this could take numerous rinses. But the clearer it runs, the better it'll turn out in the end!
        • Once it's running clear, rinse the dyed item out with hot water (at least 130 degrees, or as hot as you can handle)
        • Put your item through a hot water wash with synthrapol (or Blue Dawn), rinse and then let it soak in hot water with synthrapol (or Blue Dawn) for at least an hour. To be extra sure it set, repeat hot water soaks (at least 1 hour) until the water stays clear. 
        • Rinse out any remaining synthrapol (or Blue Dawn) and hang dry your item, or tumble dry on low.

      Show It Off

      There you have it! You now have your own one-of-a-kind, ice dyed item! Excellent work! Share it on social media with the hashtag #colorfulcommunity to show off your artwork!

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