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How to Tie Dye with Kool-Aid

Kool-Aid tie dye is a family-friendly way to dye clothes, and you get to use materials you already have on-hand!

Updated March 31, 2020
How to Tie Dye with Kool-Aid

Learn how to tie dye with Kool-Aid! Use materials you already have at home to make a fun new T-shirt, scarf, or any other article of clothing. This is fun for the whole family, and it's cheap!

Kool-Aid tie dye is a fantastic activity to do when the kids or grandkids are at home, such as during summer vacation. The obvious advantage is that tie dye with Kool-Aid is safer than using other chemical dyes. However, this technique has its drawbacks. 

Many people wonder, does Kool-Aid tie dye last? The short answer is, not for very long. You can prolong the life of one of these garments by always handwashing it and avoiding putting it in the dryer. If little ones are outgrowing their clothing quickly, the colors might stay vibrant enough for a whole year before fading too much. 

Read on to learn how to make a tie dye shirt with Kool-Aid (or any other article of clothing)!

How to Tie Dye with Kool-Aid

Materials

Unsweetened Kool-Aid packets in a variety of colors (flavors). Why unsweetened? You get a much stronger color intensity with unsweetened. If all you have on hand are the sweetened Kool-Aid packets, you can still use them for Kool-Aid tie dye. However, you will need many more of them to obtain the same color intensity. Try using 3x as many sweetened packets as this method calls for.

White T-shirt or item of your choice. As with ordinary tie dye, you should use a natural fiber like cotton, wool, or silk. Synthetic fibers do not absorb dye like natural fibers do (except for nylon, see below). 

A note about cotton: According to Paula Burch, "Food coloring on cotton is a stain, not a dye, and will not last. You can't make it permanent. Artificially colored drink mixes can be used for dyeing wool and other protein (animal) fibers, and frequently also nylon." So, cotton is a wonderful temporary (and easy!) option for dye jobs that aren't meant to last, such as shirts for a special event. Last, consider always handwashing Kool-Aid-dyed items as this can help the color last longer.

White vinegar. This helps set the dye and slows the fading process.

Old clothes. These are for you to wear when you're tie dyeing! Kool-Aid will stain your clothes, so it's best to wear that "painting" shirt.

Plastic cups or squeeze bottles, rubber bands, plastic gloves, and a garbage bag or disposable plastic tablecloth to protect your work surface.

Instructions

1. As with any tie dye project, begin by preparing your work surface and yourself. Spread a large garbage bag or disposable plastic tablecloth over your work surface to keep the mess contained. You don't want the dye to stain your furniture! Wear old clothes that you don't mind getting messy in case you get dye on them, as Kool-Aid does stain clothes. Wear plastic gloves and tie back your hair---Kool-Aid dyes hair, too, and it can last up to a few weeks!

Spread a large garbage bag or disposable plastic tablecloth over your work surface to keep the mess contained.

2. Fill a separate cup or squeeze bottle for each color about halfway with cold water. Add one packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid to each cup and mix to dissolve. Last, add a cap full of vinegar to each cup and mix. 

Photo by Chaozzy Lin on Unsplash

3. Soak your shirt in water. This will help the dye absorb. Wring it out so the shirt is damp but not dripping. Then, rubberband your shirt in the configuration you prefer! See the tie die designs below for ideas. Some rubberband styles are better suited to using a squeeze bottle, and others work well for dipping in the dye cups.

soak your tie dye shirt in water

Tie Dye Designs

Spiral? Crumple? Heart? Oh my! 

There are many tie dye designs to choose from. In order to select your preferred method for dyeing your shirt with Kool-Aid, browse our helpful roundup of 100+ Tie Dye Patterns and Techniques.

100+ Tie Dye Patterns and Techniques

4. Dye your fabric as you normally would with any tie dye project. If you've never tie dyed before, consult our helpful article on How to Tie Dye Instructions: A Step-by-Step Guide.

As with any tie dye project, be careful that contrasting colors don't bleed into each other since you don't want a brown shirt!

How to Tie Dye Instructions: A Step-by-Step Guide

5. Once you are done dyeing, seal your item in a ziplock bag and let sit for 24 hours. This helps the dye set!

6. Rinse in the sink until the water runs clear. Hang dry.

7. Enjoy your new tie dyed item!

Further Notes

In general, red Kool-Aid tends to hold its color longer than blue does. Try a tie dyed shirt that simply alternates red and white sections!

Handwash your shirts for the best chances of the colors lasting longer. Machine washing will fade the clothing faster.

Discover another fun tie dye project to make with this tutorial, Tie Dye Scarves for Kids.

Tie Dye Scarves for Kids

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