How can I tie dye with Dylon Permanent Dye?

Dearest Paula,


Jacquard tie dye kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Dye up to 15 adult-size T-shirts, with vivid, electric colors that are so colorfast they can be washed with the daily laundry.


Hygloss gloves for kids

Hygloss Latex Gloves for Kids

These softly colored kids' gloves are ideal for use with a variety of projects. They are sized for small hands and are lightly powdered inside to make them easy to put on and take off.



X-Small Stretch Vinyl Exam Gloves


Procion mx fiber reactive cold water dye

Procion MX Dye

cool water dyes
are ideal for tie-dyeing

When mixed with soda ash, Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues.


Procion mx fiber reactive cold water dye

Soda Ash

Soda ash fixes Procion dyes to cotton, rayon, or silk at room temperature, with no need for hot water. Already included in good tie-dyeing kits.

I've been searching around on your website for a few days hoping to find the answer to my question. I have to teach a large group of kids tie-dye t-shirts this Saturday. I've already bought about a dozen packages of Dylon Permanent Dye for the project. I want to premix the dye on Friday evening (if this is okay) but can't find the ratio of water to dye for this method of tie-dye (as I want to stretch the dye as far as possible for the large number (maybe 50 kids).

I'm doing the spiral twist method where we make a tight spiral and tie with elastics to make a pie slices pattern. Then apply dye from squeeze bottles to the top and then the underside of the "pie" shape.

On the package I believe it says to disolve the packet in 500ml of tepid water then add 6 litres of water for immersing a whole t-shirt. 
I'm at a loss for the water to dye ratio for what I want to do. I tried "winging it" with the water mix last year but the shirts turned out very pastel. I'm hoping for darker shirts this time.

Also, do I need to add salt to the dye mix or just mix salt into the rinse that we'll do to "wet" the shirts before twisting into rounds?

I'd just really appreciate if you could get back to me.

Thanks, Karen

Hi Karen,

Do not mix Dylon Permanent dye the night before! It has its high-pH dye fixer chemical already included in the dye mixture, which will cause the dye to start to react as soon as it gets wet.This means that it will go bad after a couple of hours, after which it will produce only very pale colors. (Dylon Permanent Dye contains trisodium phosphate, or TSP, as a good substitute for the soda ash used in most tie-dye kits and recipes.)

Is there any chance you could return the Dylon Permanent dye to the store in exchange for some good tie-dye kits? The Dylon Permanent Dye is designed for use as an immersion dye, not a direct-application dye. You are supposed to mix the dye powder with the recommended amount of water and then immerse your fabric in the dye. This is different from making a dye concentrate and squirting it on, as one usually does for tie-dyeing. You can't simply add less water to the Dylon Permanent dye, because then you will not have added enough water to dilute the TSP and the salt. It is too hard to get the salt to dissolve, and the pH ends up being higher than intended, which makes the color splotchier.

The amount of dye in one packet of Dylon Permanent Dye is supposed to be dissolved in 4 cups (one liter) of water in order to color up to one-half pound of fabric. This is a good quantity for immersing one adult size extra-large t-shirt; depending on the size, you can use this amount of dissolved dye for two or even three kid's t-shirts, because a small kid's t-shirt will weigh half as much or maybe even a third as much as an adult's XL shirt. It's always a good idea to gather several of whatever garment you are going to dye and weigh them, or try weighing one on your kitchen scale, so you can estimate how much dye will be needed.

Are you sure that what you have is Dylon Permanent Dye? Your recipe of 500 ml for dissolving the dye and then 6 liters of dye for the soaking is completely different from the recipe on the Dylon Permanent Dye packages that are sold here in the US, which contain a smaller amount of dye, to be used in only one liter of water, total. Dylon packages their dyes differently in different countries: where are you? Dylon Cold Dyes are completely different in their recipe than Dylon Permanent, so it makes a big difference exactly what you have.

When you dye with large volumes of water, it is important to add the amount of salt required by the recipe. Otherwise, too much of the dye never even manages to reach the fiber in the fabric, so a large amount of the dye gets wasted. When mixing tie-dye dyes at much stronger concentrations, there is no need for salt because of the very high concentration of the dye touching the fabric; unfortunately this method is not suitable for use with Dylon Permanent Dyes and any other dye that has been pre-mixed for high-water-ratio immersion dyeing.

The most popular way to tie-dye t-shirts these days is to use dye powder that either has no soda ash or TSP, or that has the right amount for adding a much smaller amount of water. When you use a dye that is suitable for making a more concentrated tie-dye mixture, you can put it into squirt bottles and drip it directly onto the t-shirt. However, for immersion dyeing in the old-fashioned way, you should tie the shirts and then completely soak them in a single color of dye, following the instructions on the side of the Dylon Permanent Dye package as closely as possible. If you have time, such as a multi-day class, you can rinse out the excess dye afterwards, untie the shirts, tie them again differently, and then dip them into another color of dye. You end up seeing the first color of dye on the shirt wherever the tie covered it in the second dye dipping, and the second color wherever the tie covered it in the first dipping, but a blend of the two colors wherever the shirt was not tied. This old-fashioned method was the only form of tie-dyeing that was practiced before the introduction of modern fiber reactive dyes.

Thanks so much for all the detail in your email. Yes I can return the dye, I can see now that's it's not going to be the best to use in making multicoloured shirts. My issue becomes what to buy and where to get it. I'm in Toronto - actually the northeast end of the City. If you tell me what to buy I can try and get it here in town - we have an art store called Curries but other than that I'm not sure. 

Thanks again for writing back with such great info. Hopefully I can get new supplies tomorrow as I leave town Friday to drive to where I've volunteered to do this.

The best Toronto source for dyes is G&S Dye: see their contact page.

Ask them if they have prepackaged tie-dye kits, or buy Procion MX dye, soda ash, and plastic squeeze bottles. You'll also need rubber bands or synthetic sinew, and, most importantly, waterproof gloves in the smallest size you can get for the children to wear. G&S sells latex gloves, I think. You will also need at least fifty disposable plastic zip-top bags for the kids to each put their shirts into to take them home, as they should not wash them out until the next day.

For fifty adults' shirts you would need three jars of different colors of Procion MX dye, at least 6 ounces in total; 3 pounds of soda ash; 2 pounds of urea (optional); and maybe twenty plastic bottles. You won't need quite as much for fifty kids' shirts. Don't forget one dust mask for you to wear while mixing the dye powders with water. You can buy TNA soap from G&S Dye as a Synthrapol substitute, or just use regular laundry detergent. (Prewash all the shirts if possible, and make sure they are 100% cotton.) Use the soda ash as a separate presoak, and you will be able to mix the dyes up the day before. It's not until the dye powder mixes with the soda ash that the dye begins to go bad; if you presoak the tied shirts in soda ash, you can squirt dye that has no soda ash in it at all onto the shirts.

Or you should be able to find prepackaged tie-dyeing kits at local crafts stores or sewing stores, and if they don't have gloves you can buy them at a pharmacy or hardware store. The crafts store is more likely to have the smaller sized gloves. A medical supply house would be even better for extra-small gloves. My favorite tie-dye kits are the ones made by Jacquard, but other brands will work, too. If the kit does not have a separate soda-ash presoaking step, then the dyes must not be mixed with water until just before use. Separating the soda ash step from the dyeing step saves a lot of work since it means you can mix up the dyes a day or two in advance.

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Posted: Wednesday - August 22, 2012 at 04:07 PM          

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