Web www.pburch.net
Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing
Overview Fiber Reactive Dyes Direct Dyes All-Purpose Dyes Acid Dyes      Food Coloring      Lanaset Dye      Acid Levelling (Kiton) Natural Dyes Vat Dyes Disperse Dyes Basic Dyes Naphthol Dyes Fabric Paints
Index How to Dye with
    Fiber Reactive Dye
How to Tie Dye How to Batik Low Water
Dip Dyeing Washing Machine
How to Tie Dye
    with Kool-Aid®
How to Tie Dye with
     All Purpose Dye
How to Dye and
    Paint Fabric
    with Light
cellulose fibers:     cotton     rayon and
protein fibers:     silk     wool synthetic fibers:     acrylic     nylon     polyester     spandex other materials...
acetic acid alginate ammonium sulfate baking soda citric acid ludigol mordants salt soda ash sodium silicate temperature synthrapol urea vinegar water softener
Index Batik Mandalas &
    Peace Signs
LWI dyeing Watercolor Rainbow
Tie Dyeing Spray Dyeing Fabric Paints and Markers
The Dye Forum Book Reviews Find A Custom Dyer Old Q&A Blog Blog of Questions
     & Answers (new)
Search Contact me Link here About This Site
Where to Buy
    Dye & Supplies
Mailing Lists Other Galleries Other Informative
Additional Links
Index General Dye
Fixing Dye Synthetic Fibers Color Choice Dye Auxiliaries Bleaching and
Safety Procion Dyes Acid Dyes Problems Tying Miscellaneous
Facebook: All About
    Hand Dyeing
Twitter @HandDyeing Google+
Procion MX Dyes Jacquard Acid Dyes Other Dyeing
Fabric Paints, Dyes,
    Books, and DVDs

You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > FAQ > Fixing Non-reactive Dyes > How can I tie dye with RIT® dye?

Affiliate link

Learn How to Tie Dye
"Learn How to Tie Dye"
complete 3-DVD set

Order directly from
True Tie Dye
(international orders, too!)
or click here to order from Amazon

How can I tie dye with RIT dye?

Are you sure that's what you want to do?

If you want brightly dyed cotton shirts, you should always use fiber reactive dye, rather than all-purpose dye. All-purpose dyes, such as Rit® Tint And Dye, Tintex® High Temp Dye, and other brands, can never be as bright or long-lasting as fiber reactive dyes, when used on cotton or other cellulose fibers.

Rit® brand dye, like all brands of all-purpose dye, is a mixture of two kinds of dyes - an acid dye, which will just wash out of cotton, since acid dyes work only on animal fibers such as wool, or on nylon (but not on other synthetics) - and a direct dye, which is duller in color and bleeds a bit with every single washing, forever, unless a mail-order permanent dye fixative such as Retayne® is applied.

This is a fine idea for nylon fabric, though! The acid dyes in all-purpose dye are more satisfactory than the cotton dye in all-purpose dye, and acid dye can usually dye nylon.


Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Contains fiber reactive dyes, which are easier to use than all-purpose dyes, work better, last far longer, and even cost less per garment!

Rit Tie-dye Kit

All-purpose tie dye kits do not work as well as other kits.

All-purpose dye
fades quickly in the
wash, compared to
fiber reactive dye.

Acid Dye:
the best choice for dyeing wool or nylon, and works great on silk, too

Jacquard Acid Dyes .5 oz. jar brilliant blue

Jacquard Acid Dyes

Jacquard Acid Dyes are concentrated, powdered, hot water dyes that produce the most vibrant possible results on protein fibers including silk, wool, cashmere, alpaca, feathers, and most nylons.

How to do it, anyway

All-purpose dye requires a completely different recipe from fiber reactive dyes. Do not follow the recipes found elsewhere on this web site! They work only with fiber reactive dye.

All forms of all-purpose dye, including Rit® Tint and Dye, Tintex® High Temp Dye, DEKA L® Hot Water Dye, and Dylon® Multi-Purpose Dye, require a considerable amount of moist heat to attach to fabric. This means that the usual tie-dye squirt bottle technique is right out: it simply will not work properly. For instructions, see the Rit Dye web site - but be sure to first acquire some Retayne® or a similar product to make the color permanent! (See below.) Instructions are also given below, as the Rit® web site was unavailable for most of 2002. They are much more cumbersome than using fiber reactive dye, but if you insist on using all-purpose dye, you'll be far better off using the correct instructions:

can fix Rit® dye
Retayne Dye Fixative
Buy from Amazon

  1. Tie. First tie the shirt as usual.
  2. Gloves and tongs. Wear thick rubber, vinyl, or silicone gloves for the following steps, to protect you from the potential toxicity of the dye and to help protect you against the scalding hot water. Use tongs to hold the garment partially submerged in the scalding hot dyebath, but be sure that they are rustproof, as rust can ruin your project. Chrome-plated kitchenware is particularly prone to rust.
  3. Prepare dyebaths. Following the package instructions carefully, prepare a separate dyebath, by mixing dye with water and salt, in a cooking pot (which is NOT to be used for food again, as the dye is not safe for human consumption) for each color of dye.
    Heat. Each pot must be heated to be quite hot, preferably to a simmer (190-200° Fahrenheit, or 87-93° Celsius), not as hot as a full boil, for the dye to make its best association with the fiber.
    Salt. Include the full amount of salt recommended, ideally an amount that weighs half as much as the weight of the fabric being dyed.
    Vinegar is neither necessary nor helpful for dyeing cotton with all-purpose dye, but should be used when dyeing nylon or dyeing animal fibers such as wool. The manufacturers of Tintex® High Temp all-purpose dye recommend the use of 1 cup (250 ml) of white vinegar per 10 liters of water when dyeing wool, silk, or nylon.
  4. Dipping the fabric in the dyebath. For multiple colors on one garment, the garment must be only partially submerged in each dye color. Dip the tied disk of the shirt partially into the simmering dye + water mixture. For pastel colors, you can hold the disk of fabric partially submerged for as little as four minutes, but for bright or dark colors, up to thirty minutes is recommended. BE CAREFUL - hot water can inflict serious burns! Cooler water will not provide long-lasting or bright results, however.
  5. Rinsing. After the fabric has been partially immersed in one color for long enough, remove it from the dye bath and rinse the freshly dyed portion with cool water until you see no more dye in the water that runs off. Use a towel to squeeze out as much of the remaining water as you can.
  6. Repeat the above steps with another portion of the shirt, to apply a different color of dye, overlapping partially, if you like, to get a mixed-color region. Alternatively, traditional tie-dye involves dropping the tied garment into the simmering dyebath for the full recommended time, then untying, washing out and applying ties in another design, and dropping into a different color of dyebath.
  7. Finishing. Remove the ties or rubber bands and rinse the shirt out with cool water. Finish by washing with a special dye fixative such as Retayne, as otherwise the dye will gradually wash out every time you wash it. For best results, anything dyed with all-purpose dye should be considered hand-washable in cool water, though machine washing is okay after Retayne has been used.

(Are you sure you wouldn't rather use cold water fiber reactive dyes, with the safe, quick, easy squirt bottle technique?)

Alternatively, you may apply your all-purpose or direct dye mixed with a small amount of water, allow to dry, then wrap in unprinted newsprint and steam your shirt over boiling water for half an hour or longer (after the water comes to a boil), in a covered pot, just as you would steam vegetables. Do not bake or use other dry forms of heat; dye requires the presence of moisture in order to bond to fiber. Note that even after heat-setting, both all-purpose dye and direct dye will tend to fade badly in the wash unless finished with a cationic dye fixative such as Retayne. Note that some color bleeding is inevitable in the first rinsing and during the Retayne treatment, if the dye is not sufficiently set; it is difficult or impossible to get truly bright results with contrasting colors, when tie-dyeing with all-purpose dye. For the brightest and clearest results, always use fiber reactive dye for tie-dyeing.

After dyeing with all-purpose dye, be sure to finish your dyeing by applying a product to prevent it from running with every wash. Such products include Retayne®, Dharma Dye Fixative®, and Aljo Pro-fix PCD® after-treatment. These products are sometimes available at your local quilting supply store, but usually must be purchased by mail; see Sources for Supplies. Retayne® is a cationic bulking agent that essentially glues the dye into the fiber, making the washfastness of even direct dyes quite acceptable after it is applied.


see more answers to dye FAQs

All of the pages on this site are copyright ©1998‑2024 Paula E. Burch, Ph.D.

Last updated: July 29, 2008
Page created: August 8, 2002
Downloaded: Sunday, July 14, 2024