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Tie Dye with Food Coloring

Can You Tie Dye with Food Coloring?

Tie dying with food color is a safe way to dye bandanas, tops and shirts that does not cause any harm to your body. This is the reason why you can involve kids in the process without the need of stringent supervision. However, it may not necessarily hold on to clothes as it is not permanent like the other types of dyes. Nonetheless, you can have immense fun while doing it and at least have the color on your dresses for some time. Later, you can try it out with other dyes.

Tie Dye with Food Coloring

Tie Dye with Food Coloring

How to Tie Dye A Shirt with Food Coloring


  • Newspaper or activity mat
  • Large plastic bowl
  • White cotton T-shirt
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup salt
  • Food coloring in your choice of colors
  • Elastic bands
  • Water
  • Small squirt bottle
  • Resealable plastic bag
  • Rubber gloves (optional)

Food Coloring Tie Dye Steps

You would need to roll up your sleeves, tie your hair and put on an apron before embarking on this activity.

  1. Place the activity mat on a flat surface.
  2. Prepare the fabric for dying by putting the T-shirt in the large plastic bowl and pouring the vinegar and ½ cup water into it.
  3. Let it soak in the liquid for half an hour.
  4. Lift the T-shirt from the bowl and wring it out.
  5. Roll it into a long sausage-like shape and tie it all along its length by randomly placed elastic bands.
Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 1

Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 1

  1. Fill the squirt bottle with ½ cup water and follow it up by adding 8 drops of any one food coloring.
  2. Put on the cap and shake the bottle well for mixing.
Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 2

Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 2

  1. Now put the T-shirt on the activity mat and put on the pair of rubber gloves.
  2. Squirt the food coloring on an area on one side of the T-shirt. Now turn it over and squirt the remaining mixture onto the other side of the roll.
Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 3

Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 3

  1. Repeat steps 6-9 with the other food colors. Each time, wash the squirt bottle clean before adding the water and food coloring. Stain a different area of the T-shirt with each color.
Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 4

Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 4

  1. When the T-shirt is completely soaked in color, leave it inside the resealable plastic bag overnight.
Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 5

Tie Dye with Food Coloring Picture 5

  1. Next morning, take the T-shirt out of the bag and untie it by removing the elastic bands.
  2. Add the salt and half cup water in the large bowl and plunge the T-shirt in it before taking it out and wringing it. This sets the dye in the fabric.
  3. Wash the T-shirt in clean water several times until the water runs clear.
  4. Take it out, wring it to squeeze out excess water and hang it to dry.


  1. You can create different patterns of tie dye by gathering the shirt together at the center and tying an elastic band for a spiral design or tie small knots all over it for another interesting pattern.
  2. Wash the food coloring tie-dyed shirts separately from the other clothes for at least first 3 washes as some of the color might bleed into the other clothes.
  3. If you want, you can tie dye without vinegar. But remember that the vinegar decreases the sitting time of the T-shirt in the dye, makes the colors more vibrant and last longer.

Try out the technique with white socks, blankets, shorts, pants, napkins, sheets, light colored jeans, etc. Remember that the food coloring being water soluble you should avoid damp or moist conditions as much as possible.

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