With the school winding down and summer getting closer, parents everywhere are looking for ways to keep their kiddos entertained. There are only so many forts and LEGO castles you can build, you know? Plus, it's nice to have an activity where the end result is something tangible, and not just another mess you have to clean up. That's why we're obsessed with the idea of tie dye right now! There's something so classic and nostalgic about tie-dyeing your own shirts - reminds us of our days in summer camp when we were kids. But it's also super easy, and a great way for your kids to express their own individuality and creativity! And before you freak out about the mess-potential here, don't worry: you can totally get into the groovy world of tie dye without sacrificing your good towels or permanently changing the color of your hands. Whether you decide to go classic with fabric dyes, or you want to try your hand at the popular bleach tie dye method, there's something here for everyone.

Tie dye with fabric dyes

If you want to go the colorful dye route, awesome! This method results in some pretty psychedelic patterns and colors. The easiest way to get started with classic tie dye is to purchase a tie dye kit, like this one from Tulip. It comes with powdered dyes in their own individual squirt bottles, so it's easy and as mess-free as possible. Plus, it saves you from having to purchase all the different colors your kids might want to use, and no need to scrounge around for enough squirt bottles!

You can tie dye pretty much any 100% cotton or high cotton blend garment. Dresses, socks, leggings, and of course, t-shirts are really popular. You can even tie dye a cotton towel to use at the beach and pool! It doesn't have to be white, but a lighter color does work best.

Whether you do it indoors or outside, you'll want to protect your work surface with a sheet of plastic to prevent staining. You'll also need plenty of rubber bands to hold the shirts together, as well as rubber clothes to prevent the dye from staining your skin. Your garments should be wet before applying the dye, so run them under the faucet or hose and wring out the excess.

Then, fold and band your garments! Popular designs include the bullseye (where rubber bands are spaced out evenly along the rolled up garment) and the swirl (place the garment flat on the table, then pinch the middle and twirl it into a cinnamon roll-type shape, using rubber bands to hold it together).

Once your garments are prepared, put on the gloves and mix your dye! Then let the kids go crazy squirting their garments with different colors. Once done, wrap in plastic and let it sit for at least six hours, before removing the rubber bands, rinsing thoroughly with cold water, and laundering with hot water.

Tie dye with bleach, or reverse tie dye

This is a really cool tie dye method that's not nearly as messy as traditional tie dye, and doesn't require as many steps or as much prep and tools. Basically, you're bleaching darker or dyed garments to create the same pattern as traditional tie dye. Most people have everything they need to reverse tie dye right in their laundry room or utility closet. While definitely not as messy as traditional tie dye, this method should only be done under close adult supervision as it uses bleach, and it best done outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

To reverse tie dye using bleach, you'll get the best results if you start with a dark-colored garment, like a black cotton t-shirt or dress. But it will work on almost any color - gray, green, red, pink, navy blue. You can also start with a dry garment, no need to wet it before applying the bleach.

Rubber band the garment the same way you do with traditional tie dye, and place in a bucket or bath tub. Mix one part bleach with one part water and pour it into a squirt or spray bottle. Then spray the garment directly with the solution!

You'll see the transformation start almost immediately, but once you've done the pattern you want, let the garment sit for about 8-10 minutes. Then cut off the rubber bands, rinse, and launder as usual!

This is a great tie dye method if you don't want something super colorful, or just want to breathe a little life into those old sweat suits in your closet.

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