How To Fix A Messed Up Tie Dye Shirt: Common Problems Solved

Last Updated on 5 months by Susan Mayrich

Here’s everything you need to know to learn how to fix a messed up tie dye shirt at home. First, we’ll cover all the common mistakes when tie dyeing at home, such as color running from shirts, the tie-dye design not coming out like you wanted, tie dye fading from clothes, and bleach stains on fabrics.

how to fix a messed up tie dye shirt

Besides the instructions, you’ll also know tips to avoid these mistakes for the best results and eye-catching tie-dye patterns when dyeing garments. Then, read our guide about can you tie-dye a colored shirt to know what things to expect if you plan on using a colored garment.


Complete Guide On How To Fix A Messed Up Tie Dye Shirt At Home

Did you know that the reason behind 80% of messed up tie dye shirts is incorrect dye application? We’ll tackle how to avoid these common mistakes below, but first, here are the troubleshooting techniques and instructions if your project came out messed up. 


The color is not vibrant on the tie-dye shirt

It can be underwhelming if the shirts come out with colors that aren’t vibrant after the process. You can fix the results with these techniques:

  • Make sure you’re using the best fabrics for dyeing
  • Pre-soak the shirts in soda ash to help the fibers absorb the colors
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended process for tie-dyeing (e.g., how long you should allow the dye to set)
  • Use the correct amount of dye for your piece of fabric, thicker fabrics will need more dyes
  • Make sure your garment is not too wet, it should just be damp 
  • Never water down your dye

Color splitting on the tie dye project 

Another common mistake when tie-dyeing things at home is color splitting since dyes are mostly made up of more than one color. Therefore, these colors can split up and show as individual dyes instead of the intended color. 

  • Follow the step-by-step process for mixing the colors 
  • Your fabric should not be sopping wet before dyeing
  • Experiment with a thickener so the dyes won’t spread and show up as individual colors 

Lines in the design are not defined after tie dyeing 

The lines of the pattern in a tie-dye shirt make the design look especially appealing. But what if the details in the garment didn’t come out defined? Try these steps to get the best effect:

  • Make sure that your rubber bands are tight against the fabric
  • If you want a very noticeable separation of the lines in your patterns, replace rubber bands with zip ties!


The tie dye projects came out brown instead of the intended color

Do the colors in your tie dye designs come out brown instead of the intended, vibrant colors? Keep these tips in mind: 

  • Study the color wheel because mixing different color dyes can create unappealing colors
  • Know what color dyes not to put next to each other 
  • For future designs, projects, and tie dye patterns, avoid putting green and purple, yellow and purple, red and green, and orange and blue in the same place

Finished tie dye shirt has more white in the pattern

What if the design has more white after tie-dyeing? Do this method instead!

  • The tips of the dye bottles should reach within the folds of the shirts
  • If the garment is folded or tied too tightly, the dyes may not reach some areas 
  • Check if you used the correct amount of dye for the project

The colors in the fabric came out too dark

Are the colors in your tie-dye t-shirt too dark? Fix this mistake with these ideas and remember it the next time you make dyeing projects:

  • Dyes colors are usually formulated to come out bright and intense, so experiment with the dye powder to get the specific color shade you want
  • The color charts of dyes represent how the color will look as a solid-colored fabric, but you can read the techniques in this article to remove the excess dye in projects 

What Should I Do If The Colors Of My Tie Dye Shirt Run?


The dye was washed out from the project after rinsing

After rinsing the project, the top’s dye can get washed out. Here are the instructions on what you can do: 

  • If the dye was completely washed out after you rinsed it, check the garment fabric
  • Synthetic materials are likely to resist dyeing
  • Always use natural fabrics like cotton or rayon for tie-dye projects

The tie dye shirt’s colors turned the other garments in the washing machine blue and pink

Be careful when washing tie-dye shirts with other clothes in the washing machine. Light-colored garments can turn blue or pink!

  • Check the dye manufacturer’s instructions regarding the time needed for the dye to set it
  • After allowing the color to set, rinse the shirt under cold water
  • Rinse the garment until the water runs clear
  • Wash the newly tie dyed shirt first in the washing machine alone for a couple of washes; this way, you can ensure that you won’t transfer the dyes to other clothes

Color bleeding can be annoying because it can ruin your favorite shirt. Here’s something you can read for an example of what you can do to fix ruined fabrics: how to remove color bleeding from colored clothes.


What Should I Do If My Tie Dye Shirt Is Faded?

Before anything else, why do tie dye shirts come out faded? They can come out pale if you don’t use enough dye or constantly expose the clothes to high heat.

Avoid washing your tie dye garments with hot water, and don’t dry them under direct sunlight. If you’re not doing these things, the washed-out color might result from using the wrong fixative. 


How to fix a messed up tie dye t-shirt by overdyeing

So what is something you can do? Revive the colors of your tie dye shirt by overdyeing! Here is the example, but remember only to use bleach on dark fabrics:

  1. Soak the tie dye t-shirt in bleach to lighten the color, but don’t leave it too long to avoid damaging the material
  2. Rinse the clothing with a bit of detergent in the washing machine to remove the bleach 
  3. Inspect the pattern and design to know how you’ll re-dye it 
  4. Twist the shirt as needed and secure it with rubber bands
  5. Apply the dye to the garment, following the basics of color theory for the best results 
  6. Let the dyed shirt sit in a plastic bag overnight and rinse the next day 
  7. Once the water runs clear, wash as usual and allow the project to dry 

how to fix messed up tie dye shirt

What Should I Do If My Tie Dye Shirt Has Bleach Spots?

Do you notice bleach spots on your beloved tie-dye t-shirt? Here are some things you can do: 

How to fix a messed up tie dye shirt by re-dyeing 

  • Consider re-dyeing the affected areas or bleach stains 
  • If the bleach spots are big, you might be better off dyeing the entire garment
  • For smaller bleach spots, a fabric marker pen in the same color as the dye might suffice, but this is not a long-term solution compared to dyeing the clothes again

How To Lighten Tie Dye After Dying

Remember the problem earlier when the clothes came out too dark after tie dyeing? You can consider removing the excess dye with these instructions:

  • Wash the garment with detergent and water
  • Dry the fabric thoroughly 
  • Use fabric paint to lighten specific areas as needed
  • Allow the paint to dry 

How To Avoid A Bad Tie Dye Shirt


Use the proper fabrics for tie dye projects

The most crucial aspect of any tie-dye project is the garment fabric. You want your shirts made from natural fibers like cotton to ensure they won’t resist the dyes. 


Have enough dye for the shirt

Always follow the recommended amount of dye to use for your shirt. Otherwise, the project has more white areas or underwhelming colors in the pattern. 


Prepare the garment before applying dyes

If you didn’t prepare your garment before dyeing, you might get a messed up design. Also, wash the clothes beforehand, as dirt or residue can block the proper dye absorption. 


Always use soda ash

Remember to use soda ash for tie dye! This way, the fabric will be alkaline enough, and you won’t get pale, washed-out designs.


Work in an ideal temperature

Did you know you shouldn’t do the tie-dye project in a cold area? You want somewhere warmer to help the dyes react more effectively. 


Allow the project to set 

Be patient and let the dyes set long enough within the garments. Ideally, leave the projects for 24 hours to sit before rinsing.

However, don’t let the shirt set for too long or over 72 hours. You might notice spots and stains when the shirt dries too much. 


Rinse tie dye clothes properly

Much like letting the clothes set, you should know the proper way to rinse them for the best results. Always use cold water and do several washes until the water runs clear.

There’s no need to squeeze the fabric when rinsing. However, ensure you’re not using chlorinated water or hard water because minerals can ruin the colors of the tie dye project. 

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How To Wash Your Tie Dye Shirts

Because washing tie-dye shirts is among the most important things to ensure the best colors and patterns, here is the best method you can do after dyeing and for maintenance to avoid fading and color runs: 


How to wash tie dye shirts for the first time:

  1. Rinse the cotton tie dye shirt under cold running water until the water runs clear
  2. Wash the shirt in the washing machine alone but use cold water
  3. For polyester shirts, use hot water when rinsing
  4. Once the water turns clear, soak the polyester garments in a mild non-ionic detergent
  5. Wash the polyester clothes alone in the washing machine with cold water
  6. Air-dry the washed tie-dye garments

How long should you wait to rinse a tie-dye shirt?

Check the dye intrusions to know when to wash a tie-dyed shirt. Water-soluble dyes for natural fibers take longer than disperse dyes on synthetic fabrics because the former is absorbent.

How Long Should I Let My Tie-Dye Sit?

Let your tie-dye project sit for 8 to 24 hours, then rinse under cold water. However, if you use all-purpose dyes on cotton shirts, you must wait at least 8 hours. 

For synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon, you can keep them in the boiling dye bath for at least half an hour. And for silk and wool fabrics that use acid dyes, there is usually no resting period but remember to use vinegar. 

Is It Better To Tie-Dye Shirts Wet Or Dry?

It’s up to you if you want to tie-dye dry shirts or wet shirts. Wet shirts should be damp; this method is perfect if it’s your first time doing a tie-dye project.

The colors spread evenly compared to dry shirts requiring techniques to get even colors and experience with dyes. However, dry shirts are perfect for detailed patterns because the colors don’t spread too much.



And that’s it! You just learned how to fix a messed up tie dye shirt.

For a quick recap, ensure you’re using easy fabrics for tie-dyeing, like those made from natural fibers. Incorrect type and amount of dye, insufficient setting time, and rinsing mistakes are the usual parts of the process that can lead to a messed-up tie dye shirt.

Some solutions you can do is to overdye or re-dye the shirt. And if you want to know more about how to use soda ash for tie dye, check out our separate tutorial about it!

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