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The Rit Studio: How to Tie-Dye Using the Bucket Method

How to Tie-Dye Using the Bucket Method

Tie-dyeing is based on the traditional art of folding or tying fabric to create resists that stop the dye from being absorbed into parts of the fabric, thereby forming unique patterns of color. Often people use tie-dye to create a design on white fabric. Using the bucket method is a quick way to tie-dye several items at one time.


Prep, dye and rinse time: 1 hour

You’ll Need

  • Item(s) to dye, usually something white
  • Rit Dye, liquid or powder
  • Hot Water
  • Rubber Bands
  • 3-gallon container for each dye color
  • Salt or white vinegar
  • Large metal spoon
  • Rubber gloves
  • Scissors
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic table cover
  • Old towels
  • Cleanser or Bleach

Step by Step

  1. Protect your work surface with a plastic table cover.

  2. For best results, prewash and dry item to remove any finishes that may interfere with dye absorption.

  3. Select your dye colors. One to three colors can be used. When using more than one color, it’s usually best to start with the lightest color.

  4. When tie-dyeing with two or more colors, it’s best to put adjacent primary colors (red, yellow, blue) or secondary colors (orange, green, purple) next to each other. In the areas where they run together, they will create a third, great-looking color. For instance, Scarlet and Golden Yellow will produce Orange; Royal Blue and Kelly Green will make Aqua; Fuchsia and Royal Blue will create Purple.

  5. There are many ways to create tie-dye patterns and designs. For example, to create a basic marbleized tie-dye design, scrunch fabric into a ball and wrap it with rubber bands in different directions. The tighter the fabric is wrapped, the more white areas there will be. To make stripes, fold the fabric vertically or diagonally, like an accordion or fan, in 2” to 3” wide folds. Wrap with rubber bands every 2” – 3” or as desired.

  6. Prepare all the dye baths before starting to tie-dye. Wear rubber gloves before handling dye. They prevent colorful fingers and offer protection from the hot water in the dye bath.

  7. Shake all liquid dye bottles before pouring the dye. Measure and mix ½ cup liquid dye in about 2 – 3 gallons very hot water (at least 140ºF). If using powder dye, dissolve 1 box in 2 cups very hot water; stir well before adding to water. If water is not hot enough, heat water in a tea kettle or the microwave. The hotter the dye bath, the stronger the colors will be. For dark or bright colors, double the amount of dye used. Note: If dyeing multiple items at once, the amount of dye and water should be increased based on the weight of the shirts. As a guideline, 1 bottle of dye or 2 boxes of powder will color up to 2 pounds of dry weight fabric (about 6 – 8 size small t-shirts).

  8. For cotton fabrics, add 1 cup of salt to each dye bath to help intensify the color. For silk, wool or nylon, add 1 cup white vinegar. Stir well to be sure salt or vinegar is dissolved.

  9. To begin, immerse your wrapped fabric in the lightest color dye bath for 4 to 10 minutes or as long as 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer the fabric is in the dye bath, the darker the color will be. Remove when the color is a little darker than desired (color looks darker when fabric is wet).

  10. If desired, continue dipping wrapped fabric in another color or unwrap fabric, cutting rubber bands. Rinse well in cool water, squeeze out excess water and wrap again. Then immerse in the next darkest color. Repeat until you have used all your colors.

  11. Remove fabric from dye bath. Using scissors, carefully cut away the rubber bands. Rinse in cool water until water runs clear.

  12. Wash garment in warm water with mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly in cool water. Gently squeeze out excess water by rolling shirt in a clean old towel. Machine dry or hang to dry.

  13. Clean-up work surface and dye utensils using soap and bleach or cleanser.

Try our FAQs, or Ask The Dye Doctor

  • SavageMomma

    I followed the directions, but after the washing it, the white where the rubber bands had been was a lighter color of the dye. How do I keep the white area of the t-shirt to stay white once the rubber bands are removed?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello, The best way to help set the dye and reduce color bleeding into the tie dye design would be using the Rit Color Stay Dye Fixative. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  • rrather

    Can I use the powder dye to tye dye in squeeze bottles? I have twenty girls that are going to tye dye.

  • Yellow&412

    Hello, I am needing to tie dye (spiral pattern) 23 children’s shirts and would like to use purple. Can I combine red and blue liquid Rit dye with approximately 6 gallons of hot water and end up with purple? Also which color blue would you recommend, there was a dark blue and light blue color I could choose from. Thank you

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello, first we make the color Purple in liquid and powder form. but if you were to mix your own we would think Royal Blue and Cherry Red would be a good choice. Joann’s Fabrics and Michael’s craft stores usually have most of our colors. Hope this information is helpful.
      p.s. Check out page 16 on this link:https://www.ritdye.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ColorRit_FINAL.pdf.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hello, So sorry to hear the colors bled and ruined the patten. You can use the Rit Color Remover to remove the color from the fabric and give it another try. We would strongly suggest using the Rit Color Stay Dye Fixative prior to rinsing if the material is cotton. It can then be saran wrapped and microwaved on high for 1-2 minutes. Be sure to rinse the fabric really well in cold water prior to removing the rubber bands and then again after the rubber bands are removed. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

  • Kellie

    Hello, I need to tie-dye 35 kids shirts. I have 6 boxes of RID purple power- is this enough? Also, do you have any tips of preferred method when dying so many shirts at once! The shirts are already banded by each student- should I still try to pre-wash with the bands already attached?
    Please help! 🙂

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Kellie, Thank you for reaching out. One box will do between 3-5 shirts, so you may want to pick up a few more boxes to ensure there is enough dye. The tie dye bucket method would be the easiest way to apply the dye. It would be best to set up a few different buckets ensuring you are starting with the hottest water possible. If the shirts have never been washed before, we would recommend hand washing them with some detergent since they are already banded. Hope this helps! Let us know if you have any other questions.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Meranda, So sorry to hear your project did not go as planned. Please e-mail us at help@theritstudio.com and we would be happy to try to figure out what happened and how to fix the shirts.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Carolina, The liquid would be more cost effective. One box of dye does about 3-5 shirts and one bottle will do between 5-10. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  • C Smith

    I am dying 26 t-shirts (mostly kid size) teal. I picked up two bottles of dye and plan on using a large storage container to allow them to sit overnight because I want the color to be pretty deep. Is two bottles enough? The container I have is 56 qts. and do you think I would need more than one bucket? Also, what temperature water should I be using?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello, Two bottles would be enough for 4 pounds of fabric or 2 pounds of material if you are looking for a deep color. When tie dyeing one bottle will do about 5-10 shirts. We do not recommend soaking overnight. We suggest using the dye bath until it cools off and then rinsing the items. Make sure you are stirring occasionally during the tie dye process.

  • Amanda

    Make sure to rinse with the rubber bands on first and then once there is no color bleed take off the rubber bands and rinse with cool water.
    When washing, wash without detergent the first time to let the color set and then wash with detergent.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Shea, They do not need to be pre-soaked, but we would recommend wetting the shirts before putting them in. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Marcia, Thank you for reaching out. Yes, you can mix them to create a purple color. Be sure to dip in a piece of paper towel before adding the clothes to make sure it is the correct color. Hope this helps!

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Marcel, If you would like to add the dye to bottles, we would suggest using these directions: https://www.ritdye.com/techniques/creative-techniques/how-to-tie-dye-using-the-squirt-bottle-method/ One box does between 3-5 shirts and one bottle does between 5-10 shirts. You should be fine with 1 bottle per color. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.ritdye.com Trevor Tabor

    Hi, So I was trying to make an American Flag tie dye shirt for Flag Day/4th of July. I did all the steps but when I went to rinse it in the sink the white sections were white…but after I washed it in the washing machine ALL of the white sections came out a pink color. I’m not sure if I did anything wrong.
    First, I washed and dried the shirts after opening them from the bag. Secondly, I tied the shirt in the pattern with rubber bands. Then, I dyed using the standard Cherry Red and Royal Blue liquid dye. I put my shirt in a plastic bag and put it outside (where it is hot) for about 24 hours. The next day I took the shirt (still in the plastic bag) and put it in the microwave for 3 minutes. I then rinsed the shirt with the rubber bands still in place then after I took the rubber bands off and rinsed it again. One again at this stage, the white parts were still white. Lastly, I washed the shirt in the washing machine by itself with a little bit of detergent. I took it out but the white sections turned pink.
    I DID NOT use any kind of soda-ash wash before or any other method of color “lock in”.
    I really hope someone can help me because I see tons of shirts like this that come out flawless and I would hope to try this again.

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Trevor, So sorry to hear your shirts did not turn out as expected. Please e-mail us at help@theritstudio.com and we would be happy to further assist you with your issue.

  • Doug

    Hi, I am a djembe drum builder. I’ve seen tye dye goat skin heads on drums and would like to learn how to do this. Can you help?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Doug, Those look really cool! We would suggest trying out basic tie dye method in a bucket. Please keep in mind that the product contains salt which can cause skins to become brittle, dry or crack. Be sure to use a leather conditioner after dyeing if you decide to give it a try. Hope this helps!

  • riham

    hii, i hope to ask about the box . how many grams does it contain??

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Riham, Thank you for reaching out. One box contains 31.9 grams. Hope this helps!

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Sarah, Rit offers instructions for tie dyeing using either the bucket method or the squirt bottle method. For your project, we would recommend the squirt bottle method and those instructions can be viewed at https://www.ritdye.com/techniques/creative-techniques/how-to-tie-dye-using-the-squirt-bottle-method/ Hope this information is helpful and let us know if you have any other questions we might help you with.

  • Deana Stroer

    How much RIT dye do I need to use to dye 100 t-shirts? We are using 2 colors (liquid dye)

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Deana, thank you for reaching out. We recommend using 1 bottle for every 5-10 shirts depending on sizes of the shirts. 5 would be adult shirts and 10 would be youth sizes. Hope this helps!

      • Deana Stroer

        Thanks for your reply. What size bottle are you referring to when you say 1 for every 5-10 shirts?

        • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

          Hi Deana, it is an 8 ounce bottle. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hello, We have two different dyes to choose from, depending on the material. Our original dye, all-purpose Rit, dyes natural fibers well, such as cotton, rayon, ramie, linen, silk or wool. Our new synthetic dye, Rit DyeMore, dyes polyester, nylon, acrylic, acetate, and many plastics, like ABS and poly-based plastics, beautifully.
    We would suggest checking the fabric care label to ensure you are using the correct dye line for your project. Yes, if you put the socks into the washer without rubber bands, you would achieve an even color result. One of Rit’s color specialists posted a project at The Rit Studio that you might find helpful: https://www.ritdye.com/2014/04/28/accordion-tie-dyed-onesie-in-coral/ This method could be used in a washer as long as you use rubber bands. Your other option would be the squirt bottle technique. When tie-dyeing, we recommend using Rit Color Stay Dye Fixative to help lock in the dye. https://www.ritdye.com/techniques/the-basics/dye-fixative/ Hope this information is helpful.

  • Jane Punzal

    HI! I have a blue and red tie dye, I want to make purple. Can I mix them both? also how would i go about making pastel purple?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Jane, You can experiment by mixing equal parts of blue and red to create a purple. To create a lighter purple, just add more water to the dye bath to dilute the purple hue. Hope this helps!

  • mariewinnett

    i wont to dye a few thing for a 70 night can i have tips please thanks in advance x marie .

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello, Thank you for reaching out. You will achieve the best color results using the hottest water possible (160-180 degrees is ideal). Be sure to rinse the fabric until the water runs clear with the rubber bands on and off and we would strongly suggest using the Rit Color Stay Dye Fixative to help set the dye and reduce color bleeding. Hope this helps!

  • Jessie

    My son came home from camp with a tie-dyed shirt. I’m afraid it will bleed & don’t want to wash it with the regular laundry. What can I do at home to permanently set the colors before washing?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello Jessie, Thank you for reaching out. We suggest using Rit Dye Fixative, even though it is recommended to use right after dye process it would help retain the color and stop bleeding. Then we would suggest hand washing the first few times to make sure the shirt wont bleed on other clothing items. Hope this helps.

  • facs_tie-dye-project_newbie

    I am wanting to tie dye shirts with my 8th grade students (roughly 120 kids). Would I be able to mix the water and dye in a kettle and keep on low on the stove so that it stays hot enough and then just refill the squeeze bottles from there? I am trying to avoid having to constantly mix up more dye since I have 5 different class periods. Thanks

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello, Thank you for reaching out. If you would prefer to mix 1 large dyebath to be used for all the students, as long as it is only used to refill squirt bottles, this would be an option for you. It is not necessary to keep the pot on low for all of your classes. When needed, you can reheat the dyebath to 140-160 degrees and it can be used successfully. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  • Kelly Bissell

    I had a yellow shirt and I used Rit navy blue to tie dye, I did everything right but as soon as I rinsed the color out, the whole shirt turned a muddy dark green yellow brown. Can I get the shirt back to its original color? How do I fix this?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Kelly, You can use the Rit Color Remover to remove the existing color, however, it will try to remove all color including the yellow. The material can then be overdyed. Depending on the color of yellow it was starting out, the existing color can play a role in the color you achieve when overdyeing. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  • Michelle

    My daughter’s teacher has asked me to tie dye 24 shirts for her class. The shirts are plain white and 100% cotton, and the students have already rubber banded them. The teacher provided 6 bottles of dye and instructed me to follow the front loader instructions for dying the shirts, but now I am questioning whether or not I should dye them in buckets. If I split the shirts into two loads using 3 bottles for each, and use the front loader directions for my front loading HE washing machine, will I still get a somewhat tie dyed result?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello Michelle, Thank you for reaching out. Are you only using one color to tie dye or going to use multiples? This would help in choosing the best method for your project.

      • Michelle

        Just one color

        • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

          Hi Michelle, Thank you for the response. Since you are only dyeing one color you can use either of those methods, best method would be the wash machine since you can put more in the dye bath at the same to get the exact color. When splitting into multiple baths you can end up with different shades of color or hues, also the wash helps with constant agitation needed to adhere the dye. You want to make sure they are agitating for at least 30 minutes, in some machines the load would need to be paused or stopped for longer agitation times. Our liquid dyes can cover 2 lbs of dry weight fabric so you dont want the shirts to be over 6lbs in weight using 3 bottles of dye for each load. Hope this helps.

          • Heather

            I am about to do the same thing. Never heard of the front loader method. And will you still get the same bright color? also will it not stain your washing machine?

          • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

            Hi Heather, Thank you for reaching out. Rit dye can be used in a washing machine as long as the tub is stainless steel because the dye will not tint it. Normally, either the bucket or squirt bottle method is used when tie-dyeing. Regardless of method used, the hot water temperature of 140 to 160 degrees is what is important to achieve a successful color result. Let us know if you have any other questions we can help you with.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Mrs. Hawes, We suggest washing tie dyed items separately for the life of the garment. If you would like to wash it with other like colored items, wash it 5-6 times separately in cold water.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hello Emily,
    Thank you for reaching out. The areas that turned out lighter may not have gotten as much dye absorbed into the fabric as the other. Should you decide to try again, we would recommend leaving the fabric in the hot dye bath for a little longer to guarantee the intended hue will turn out. The longer the fabric is in the dye bath, the darker the color will be. Remove when the color is a little darker than desired (color looks darker when fabric is wet). Hope this helps.

  • Kati

    My daughter and friends used acrylic dye to tie dye shirts. We waited two days and washed in cold water. The colors came almost completely out. I’m attempting to redo the shirt using Rit dye. Upon reading the instructions it seems like we aren’t supposed to wait to rinse them. Is this true? Do I rinse right away and wash immediately after?

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hi Katie, Thank you for reaching out. You do not need to wait to rinse them in the cold water. Be sure you are using the Rit Dye More since the fabric is acrylic. Dye More is best done on the stove top to achieve optimal color results.

  • Regina Mart


    I tried an ombre effect with rit dye, following the instructions PRECISELY. When I did the wash afterwards the garment was one block colour. Is it the wash afterwards that affects the dye? I washed it on cold – not sure where I’m going wrong.

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Hello Regina,
      Thank you for reaching out. We have sent you a letter to your personal e-mail so that we can further assist you.

  • Jeanette Myers Bodermann

    I wanted to share my positive experience using this tie-dye bucket method for a solid color. My project was making tie dye sundresses for the ladies and matching tank tops for the men in our group for a Woodstock-themed party. I used 3 separate colors, Royal Blue, Cherry Red, and Purple, and I used a whole bottle of 8 oz. liquid dye for each color. I first prewashed the white garments in my machine on a 30-minute quick wash in cold water with a little detergent, and then when I pulled out the damp garments, I tied each one up in a twirl-tie design and rubber-banded it together. After filling buckets with 3 gallons of hot water, I added the bottle of dye and 1 c. of salt, stirred, and then submerged the garments into each color, all done outside. I pulled them out after 45 minutes, rinsed them from my outside hose BEFORE taking off the rubber bands, then rinsed them again after taking off the rubber bands. They looked perfect at that point. Then, and I think this is important, I hung them up to dry right away, I did not wash them again at this point. After they dried, I ran each color set through a 30-minute quick wash in my machine in COLD water with no detergent. Then I ran each color set through another 30-minute quick wash with a tablespoon of detergent in COLD water. I, personally, would not wash tie-dyed garments in warm or hot water, and I would never put tie-dye in a dryer. I hang up everything. They turned out perfect, and I hope this helps!

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Thank you for sharing Jeanette. These look amazing!

  • D Ekeroth

    I dyed a duvet cover with black and along with the black design there were splotches of pink and blue. The duvet cover was an older (washed several times) white one that was at least mostly, if not all, cotton. What would have brought out that pink and blue? I have bleached it back to white and want to re-do the black design. Thanks.

    • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

      Thank you for reaching out. Rit dyes are intended to dye fabric free of stains, wear and chlorine bleach damage. Sun fading or chlorine bleach may remove or lighten the fabric to an almost white fabric – a sign that the fibers have been damaged. These damaged areas will not dye. If the cover has ever been bleached previously, then it would have resulted in unknown results such as the pink and blue splotches. Please get back to us if you have any other questions.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hello Shounak, Thank you for reaching out. With our Rit Dye products once the material in in the dye solution with very hot water you want to add material wet, this helps with evenness. Once material is in the dye bath you want to constantly move around never let item sit, soak, or settle to the bottom, its the motion/stirring that adheres the dye to the material. If you let soak the material will soak the color but wont stick so it will rinse out in rinse cycle, if you constantly stir the material the color will adhere and wont come out. Our dyes are also semi permanent so after so many washes the material would have to be re-dyed. You can also use Rit dye fixative to keep color longer and help with bleeding.

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Hi Sam,
    Thank you for reaching out. Every bottle of Rit dye is good for 2 pounds of dry weight fabric. Ever half bottle of dye should be mixed with 3 gallons of very hot water. Hope this helps.

  • anastasia

    Hello, I want to tie dye with a group of 25 kids i was wondering the best way to do so? to use buckets with the dye? what is the best dye to use? and how to incorperate multiple colors by doing it with the buckets PLEASE HELP THANK YOU!!!

  • http://ritstudio.com RitDye

    Thank you for reaching out. We do reccomend rinsing them as soon as possible as the colors may bleed into each other. Hope this helps.

  • Lisa

    How much dye fixative do you need to use to keep the color on white t-shirts. I’m doing 150 youth large tshirts in 6 batches (6 different colors 25 each). Thanks

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Hello Natalie,

    Yes, please wash all of them separately. This will avoid bleeding from each color.

    Thank you,
    Rit Dye

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Hi Cindy, I am terribly sorry your tie-dye experience did not go as planned. Please email info@ritdye.com so we can further discuss why your shirts did not come out as planned.

  • http://www.ritdye.com Stacee DeLeon

    I have been trying to the dye ora https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8596cca95ee14601728aace4c9e78429cfb5762a4bd6a0f3e7b8e89fbb067799.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d28d75c3506be22539e7112a8680e838cc654bad665e8ee731ad98e5168efef7.jpg nge and black our school colors. But no matter what the black runs to grayish lite lite blue and orange fades bad also if holds at all. I purchased the dye remover and started over. I have tried 3 shirts and a sheet cut into 2 pieces for flags for grandsons football team. But it looks terrible. I soak my stuff in soda ash before hand and I have been doing this for awhile now. But this is this first time this has ever happened. I’m CONFUSED, FRUSTRATED AT WITS END!!! First pix is before rinsing and 2nd pix is after…




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