Colour Removing & Tie Dye

Give me colour! I NEED colour. Give me design and make my heart sing! Can you believe this was a black T-shirt?! Alright my friends; I’ll share my secret to Colour removing & Tie Dye.

The Secret Ingredient

Did you know there is a product available in the laundry isle, a powder that helps ‘whiten’ clothes. White Brite is not a bleach or oxy. It only has three ingredients: sodium metabisulfite, sodium hydrosulfite, and sodium carbonate. The sodium hyrdosulfite is the same ingredient found in commercial colour removers like the Rit brand. Thiox, another colour remover has Thiourea Dioxide – a replacement for Sodium Hydrosulfite and can also be used. I liked the fact that I can get it locally and quite inexpensive.

As with any kind of chemical reaction there may be vapours that are released so working under well ventilated conditions is key. I put it under the fan-hood to suck out all the vapours, or work outdoors.

The Fibres:

Just as Fibre reactive dye does not take to synthetic fibres this will not work on anything that is not a natural fibre. It is also best that it is 100% of the fibre mix. The dye used nowadays in clothes is much stronger (so our clothes do not ‘grey out’) than in the past, so complete colour removal is not always possible. It is also not guaranteed to get a white. Sometimes the colour leaves but the expected result is not relating to the original colour.

I am using black t-shirts and black rayon scarves. My prior attempt with regular bleach did work in some instances but completely ate holes through the rayon. Lesson learned…

Tieing it Up!

The fabric is dampened and for better results a good cleaning without fabric softener is ideal to remove any grime (if not new) or sizing from the factory.

Since my purpose is to keep a fair amount of the original black, I tie it really well and then the portion to keep black is tied tightly in a plastic bag to prevent any accidental spots of the colour removing (see the right right side). Use your favourite method of tying remembering it is a negative version though. Make sure the sinew is pulled especially tight so it will keep tight through this long process. My usual is a ‘geode’ type of tying as it is pretty irregular.

Use a heat-safe vessel and sprinkle the White Brite liberally on top. This powder reacts to the heat of the water so get some boiling water ready. Slowly pour small amounts of the boiling water onto the fabric.

You will see it bubble and immediately start to change colour. It will work in small sections and as I observe, the concentrated areas of the powder and heat work quicker. For that reason I do not think immersion of the fabric would work as well.

To finish off any remaining areas I popped the vessel into my Microwave (for dyeing) and heated it some more. It will get to the point of complete (as complete as the colour will come out) and even colour removal.

Keep Tied or Not

Depending on your desired outcome you can keep it tied or untie and proceed. The Rayon scarf was untied to see the pattern that was left. The T-shirt was left tied and then rinsed. Make sure to rinse really really well. (another reason the tying needs to be good & sound)

Once it is well rinsed you can go onto your method choice of dyeing. In my case it’s Fibre Reactive Dye

The rayon scarf was soaked in sodas ash & retied. ‘Just some quick squirt application of dyes. My go-to combination has been ‘Razzle-Dazzle, ‘Raven’ and ‘Navy’ lately. They work great together and since the colour families are similar I do not get any mud colours.

Tip; the fuscia colours do need extra rinsing! After rinsing in cool water soak in very hot water with some ‘Dawn’ dish soap to keep the excess dye from attaching back to the fabric.

Since I quickened up the process of dyeing by using my microwave to heat it this was done in a flash. I love the fact that the rayon is quite thin so tying will give very sharp lines. Also Rayon is super soft and drapes so nicely! Be careful though as it is more delicate when wet.

Check out the awesome colours and unique shapes!

I much prefer a more random design to traditional tie-dye patterns. This looks more like a modern art painting than a ‘groovy’ shirt!

Since rayon and viscose are man-made fibres they are usually quite inexpensive, but it can quite resemble silk when wearing.

T-Shirt Love!

The T-shirt was left tied throughout the whole method. It was also soaked in soda ash solution after a good rinse and then dyed with a strong ‘Razzle-Dazzle’ fibre reactive dye.

When I untied the t-shirt I just about fell off my chair! The amazing pattern that developed from keeping it tied after colour removing and then dyeing is even better! The edges of the shapes stayed light and some colour crept in. As you see I did use a bit of a ‘fan-fold’ and a diagonal line of design.

I’m thrilled as the rest of the shirt is a nice pure black. That’s the reasoning for colour removing & Tie dye, otherwise dyeing a whole white shirt makes more sense.

The ‘Razzle-Dazzle’ does always throw (colour splits) a teal colour and that made it even better. I love it and also that it is assymmetrical. I do not attempt symmetry as if it goes wrong it looks wrong… so why try?!

Oh, I just noticed; it looks like a bunch of people talking to each other. Haha! It’s about time that the warm weather arrives and I can wear this! I hope you will join in the fun of colour removing & tie dye!

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  1. Lovely glad to know about this product, hope I can find it … dunno if you are located in the States and is it a supermarket item? The color breaking looks very artsy, not hippy which is a nice upgrade. BTW you should proofread better you have several errors in the text. I know this is commonplace and often spellcheckers but this just needs proofreading to match the quality of the rest of your offerings.

    1. Hi Barb – do you have links to the items you used (like the rayon scarf or sarong) so I know it’ll be a great item and you get an Amazon kickback?

      Just a suggestion….

  2. Wow wow wow wow. I have never seen this product. Can you tell us which specific laundry aisle you found it in please? I’m a huge tie dye fan as well as a fan of your work. Many Thanks!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your inspiration and knowledge. I always love getting to see your art. Keep it up.

    1. I’m always reading labels too as 100% cotton or other natural fibre is rarer all the time. Sometimes I resort to just revamping a mens huge t-shirt to my style of shirt. Enjoy!

    1. I agree, I am not a fan of the too colourful swirls, much too ‘hippy-like’. There’s just too many colour choices. Keep colour theory in mind as some colours will mix to create muddy colours. I always say simple is better.

  4. Wow! These are fantastic (as is all of your work). I was very excited to see a focus on colour removal. I have so many dark fabrics that I wanted to experiment with changing the colours on, but bleach has so many drawbacks. I have some Rit dye remover, but this looks like it will work much better. Also, as a fellow Canadian I’m excited to see products that can be found in this country. So encouraging. Would you mind sharing where the rayon scarves are from? I can think of so many friends and family who would love scarves like this. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas, talent and methods.

    1. I have collected the scarves from various places even dollar stores. Try the Rit dye remover as I think the ingredients are the same or similar. Just look at fibre content first…