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. Bonjour, est-il possible d’utiliser cette méthode sur une echarpe en pure soie colorée sans risquer de faire des trous. Merci.

    1. “Hello, is it possible to use this method on a colored pure silk scarf without risking making holes. Thank you.” Actually I did do that as well with a silk scarf I found. I am not sure if it was a natural dye or not but it did become quite light, a beige colour after this method.

      1. Bonjour Barbara. Merci pour votre réponse. Je ne trouve pas ,en France , votre out white brite. Y aurait il un autre produit ? Si je peux acheter de hydrosulfite de sodium , est ce que cela conviendra pour ma soie? Merci. Cdt.

  2. Love this idea! I have some scarves that I previously dyed and are too dark and drab. Going to experiment and see what happens! I appreciate your sharing your work. What a great resource your blog is…thanks so much.

  3. A chemist in our midst! Diagonal design works; wonder what it would look like with a diagonal stripe of either black or treated and dyed across the middle?

  4. My sister & I are trying the color pulling with the white bright as I am writing this. So far the black garment has not changed to more than a light orange color. How long did you leave the white brite on? Have you ever done this without using the microwave?

    1. I have read that some people just use boiling water so some form of heat is needed. It may take longer to get even more white. Black always tends to go orange first even when using bleach. Moving it and adding a bit more will strengthen the colour removal Good luck.

  5. I was planning to overdye a shirt and washed and pre-soaked it in soda ash. Now I have decided I should use color remover on part of it. Will the soda ash affect my color remover’s effectiveness? I’m using Dharma’s deColourant on 100% cotton, commercially dyed fuchsia. Thanks if you can advise.

    1. Make sure to rinse the soda ash out well. I’m not sure if they would react. I do use soda ash to scour my fabrics. I have not used this product but found not commercial dyes can be removed. A small test section would be a good idea as that chemical prob wasn’t that inexpensive. Best of luck.

  6. Barb, I love this. I have a shirt I dyed several years ago; in fact I overdyed it. I never wear it because it’s ugly. Maybe this will redeem it. If not, I’ll try some other pieces I have.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


  7. Hello, 🙂
    I have a pair of cotton cargo pants that were originally supposed to be a neutral light grey. When I received them they looked more of a light khaki and I was disappointed.

    I decided to dye them with RIT all purpose liquid charcoal grey to darken them which made them even worse! The dye did darken them but the color was still a warm grey. What a mess! 😆

    Will Out White Brite completely remove all the color so they turn white? I’m trying to bleach the pants and start over.

    I would really appreciate any help or information.
    Thanks! Stephen

    1. I do not think they will do a great job at it. It needs heat and I’m afraid you may get a mottled affect from it. I have read much on this site and respect her answers. Here is an answer It does sound about right. I have used bleach on some fabrics for fun and they do not always go white, sometimes they will be a light orange… Bleach will weaken fibres. Good luck, let me know.