Make It Last: How to Wash Tie-Dye Shirts

Even though it screams Summer of Love, tie-dye is in in a big way. Whether you have a favorite tie-dye shirt that you’ve had forever or you just brought a brand-new one for the summer, keeping it vibrant is probably one of your primary concerns. The good news is that most commercial dyes do a pretty good job of sticking to clothing and tend to hold up well through repeated washings. The bad news, though, is that if you make certain washing mistakes, your favorite shirt could start fading much sooner than you’d like.

Tie-dyed clothing is a bright and colorful addition to any wardrobe. To keep your colorful shirts looking their best, keep reading to discover how to wash tie-dye shirts so they won’t fade.

woman wearing tie die shirt

Taking Care of Newly Dyed Shirts

If you’ve recently made your own tie-dye shirt, the way you wash it the first time is extremely important. Washing it incorrectly could cause it to fade significantly before you even have a chance to wear it! Here’s how to do it:

  • Let The Dye Marinate — Don’t wash your shirt for at least 24 hours after dying it. The longer you wait, the more time the dye will have to set into the fabric.
  • Wash it On Its Own — When you’re ready to wash, put it in the washing machine by itself or with other tie-dyed shirts in similar colors. Wash using the hot water setting and mild detergent.
  • Dry on High Heat — Dry in your dryer on high heat. Leave it in for a full cycle. The heat helps set the color and prevents it from fading during future washes.

Keeping Your Tie-Dyed Shirts Looking Great

  • Wash with Care — The next few times you wash your tie-dyed shirts, you may want to wash them separately just in case any of the color continues to bleed. Turn your shirt inside out prior to putting it in the washer. This can help reduce the amount of fading on the outside of the shirt. Wash using cold water as this helps prevent dyes from bleeding and be sure to use a gentle detergent that is formulated to work in cold water.
  • Wash On the Gentle Cycle — Avoid washing your tie-dyed shirt with heavy items like jeans. Heavy items can cause friction in the wash which can make other fabrics fade. Consider using short or gentle wash cycles to minimize friction.
  • Don’t Give it the Chance to Bleed — Don’t leave your wet shirts in the washing machine for too long after the cycle has completed. This can give colors time to bleed out. When possible, dry on a clothesline indoors or in the shade since sunlight fades bright colors. Laying them flat to dry works, too. Avoid drying in the dryer after the first washing, if possible.

tie dyed shirts hanging on clothes line

Treating Stains

If you get a stain on your tie-dyed shirt, you have to be careful when selecting a pre-treatment product or spot remover. Using the wrong one could remove both the stain and the dye on your shirt. For best results, use a pre-treatment spray that does not contain bleach. Any product that contains even a small amount of bleach will ruin your shirt.

When applying a pre-treater, follow the instructions carefully. Do not leave it to soak any longer than recommended. Wash your shirt immediately after in cold water.

Additional Considerations

Always be mindful of the fabric content when washing tie-dyed shirts. While 100 percent cotton t-shirts are most commonly used for tie-dyeing, shirts made from different materials and blends are sometimes used. Before washing any garment for the first time, always check the care instructions. If you accidentally damage the shirt itself by washing it correctly, it won’t matter whether the color fades or not.

Also, keep in mind that, despite your best efforts, every tie-dyed shirt will eventually start to fade. You can prolong the life of your shirt by washing it with care, but there is no way to completely eliminate fading. If you have a shirt that has already started to fade and you would like to preserve the color for as long as possible, consider handwashing in cool water with a mild detergent.


tie dyed shirts drying on hangers

Tie-dye shirts are a colorful addition to any wardrobe. Keep yours looking their best by washing and drying them with care. Give your shirts the TLC they deserve and they will look great for several years to come. And when you’re ready to make a new one, The Adair Group has the plain white tees you need!

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