Learning how to tie dye socks is one thing you should consider, especially if it’s your first time trying the technique. Although you’ll find beginner-friendly tutorials to tie dye other garment pieces, the socks’ small size has many benefits over dyeing shirts. You won’t need many materials, and a tiny amount of dye goes a long way.
How to Tie Dye Socks Tutorial
This tutorial will show you how to tie dye socks in 5 easy patterns as well as the best type of socks to tie and what you need to prepare for dyeing.
Get ready to learn to make easy tie dye socks!
Apart from knowing the correct type of socks to use, nailing the preparation stage of how to tie-dye socks will also significantly affect the results.
Here are the steps to tie-dyeing socks:
- Wash the Socks
- Protect Your Working Area or Surface
- Mix the Dye
- Create a Pattern
- Apply the Dye
- Allow the Dye to Soak
- Wash and Dry
Supplies for Tie Dye Socks
For this method of tie-dying socks, you need the following items:
- Pair of socks in cotton
- Fabric dye - There are many types of dye, but for the most vibrant colors, choose ones specifically formulated for tie-dye.
- Optional - Soda ash (Some dyes require a pre-wash in soda ash to fix the dye. Check your dye label as to whether this is required.)
- Applicator or squirt bottles (if using multiple colors)
- Rubber bands - Thicker bands will give more pronounced results.
- A wire rack to lift the socks up off the table
- Rubber gloves to protect your hands from dye
- Ziploc or sandwich bags for letting the dye soak in
- Plastic wrap or a plastic sheet to cover your work area.
- Dust mask for mixing powder dyes or using soda ash.
ADDED PROTECTION FOR DYING FABRIC: You may also wear an apron, goggles, face mask, and rubber gloves. PPE is essential if you are using a fixer.
What Socks are Best for Tie Dye?
You may also opt for specialty dye kits that already usually include an applicator bottle, dye, and gloves. Look for dye kits like the Tulip brand, labeled one-step dyes. These types of dyes include fixatives, so you can skip the soda ash wash step.
For the best tie-dye results, use a fiber reactive dye rather than all-purpose dyes. These will give more vibrant results and will dissolve in cold water.
Best Socks to Tie Dye
Remember that several types of fabrics are used in manufacturing socks, and not all of them absorb dye efficiently. Thus, if you choose the wrong material, you’ll end up with a lighter shade than what you really want. Worst, some of the dyed areas might look faded and weird.
For best results, use cotton socks. If you can’t purchase 100% cotton, it should be 50% to 70% of the composition. If your socks have polyester blended, it just means that your colors will be lighter and not last through as many washes. Do not use nylon, Spandex, Lycra or synthetic materials as it will not dye.
In terms of shape and size, beginners should avoid smaller-sized socks, such as ankle socks. It is best to tie dye long socks.
Also, make sure you use plain white socks so you don’t have to worry about the resulting final color. They will produce the most visible and brightest color.
How to Tie Dye Socks - Step by Step Instructions
Here are the instructions for making tie dye socks:
Step 1 - Wash the Socks and Use a Fixer
Whether you plan to use old or newly-bought white cotton socks, washing them before dyeing them is essential. The process will help remove any clinging dirt and dust that can repel the dye, affecting the resulting color.
New socks have also undergone chemical treatments, so you need to remove any residue to prevent them from reacting with the dye. The process of how you wash your socks, either manually or with a washer, will depend on the care instructions.
Most types of dyes will require that you leave the socks damp. My Tulip one-step dye required that the socks were wet. Check your dye label to see whether you need to start with damp or dry socks.
Although not all fabric dyes require a fixer, this step is highly suggested to ensure effective and strong bonds between the dye and fabric fibers. Dyes labeled one-step do not need fixing as a fixative has already been added to the powder.
CAUTION: The first thing you need to do is ensure no children and pets are around. Soda ash or sodium carbonate can cause irritation, burn, and injuries when ingested, inhaled, and mishandled.
Follow these steps to add a fixer to your socks:
- Dilute the Soda Ash: Place a gallon (3.8 liters) of warm water in a plastic bucket and ¾ cup of soda ash (177 grams). Using your long wooden spoon or stick, mix the solution carefully.
- Soak the Socks: Submerge your clean socks in the mixture and leave it for at least five minutes. If you leave it for more than five minutes, make sure you mix the solution with the wooden spoon or stick at least every 30 minutes.
- Remove the Socks: While wearing your PPE, take the socks out of the solution and wring them above the bucket. Ensure no solution drips on your floor or working area for safety reasons. Then, place the socks in a small bowl.
- Dispose of the Solution: To further ensure safety, it’s better to dispose of the soda ash solution before proceeding. Add more water to the solution, and then add the neutralizer that came with the product. Turn your faucet on, and slowly pour the solution down the drain. It’s also best to wash the bucket and wooden spoon or stick at this point; just ensure you do it carefully.
Step 2 - Protect Your Work Area or Surface
Like any tie-dye project, expect sock tie dyeing to be messy. You need to work in an area that’s easy to clean and near a water supply. Some DIYers work in their garage, lawn, and bathroom. Wherever you plan to tie dye your socks, ensure you cover the surface, where the dye can drip, with plastic, newspaper, or cardboard.
Step 3 - Mix the Dye
If you have powder dye, you need to dissolve them by following the product instructions. Work in your protected working area and wear your old clothes and/or apron, and don't forget to wear gloves and a face mask.
- Dissolve: Add water to the powder dye in the required ratio. If you have applicator bottles, it may be easier to put the powder in the bottle, then add water directly rather than mixing it in a bowl first.
- Pour: Slowly transfer the dye into their specific applicator bottles or a small bowl. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap or foil.
- Set Aside: Place the dye in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight, and where someone, you, or a pet knock it down accidentally.
Step 4 - Create a Tie Dye Sock Pattern
Now that you’ve everything you need, and have protected your working area, washed your socks, and mixed the dye, it’s time to proceed to the most exciting part: tie-dyeing your socks! But first, change into clothes you don’t mind getting stained.
Once done, take the fixed, damp socks and immediately proceed to fold them to create a tie dye pattern. Lay the socks flat on your working surface.
Since you need to apply the dye within 30 minutes after the fixing process, the patterns we chose are easy and quick to do. You can consider other interesting patterns once you get the hang of the whole process of how to tie dye socks.
5 Easy Tie Dye Sock Patterns:
Roll Tie Dye Socks
The easiest way to fold your socks is to grab one of them and then roll it into a cylinder or pie-like shape. Then, secure it with a rubber band. Do the same for the other one.
Crumple Dye Socks
For this, take one of the socks and scrunch it to create a puck-like shape. Then, secure it with a rubber band. Do the same for the other sock.
Striped Tie Dye Socks
To create a stripe pattern on your socks once dyed, bunch or accordion, fold the sock vertically. Take a rubber band and wrap it around at least a half-inch lower than the closed area of the sock. Take another rubber band and tie it around a few centimeters away from the first rubber band. Continue doing so until you secure the whole sock. Do the same to the other sock.
Spiral, Twist, and Twirl Tie Dyed Socks
You won’t have to tie each sock individually for this technique. Take the pair and twist them together. Imagine a twisted marshmallow, as this is how they’ll look like. Then, tie a rubber band around the edges.
Bullseye Circles Socks
Use buttons or marbles tied up to create small circles. This can be at the top of the sock or even the heel area.
Step 5 - Apply the Dye
Now, it’s time to add color or colors to your socks! The technique of how to tie dye socks will depend on whether you’ll use one or more colors.
If you are using more than one color, think about what the overlapped color will be. For example pink and blue will have purple in the overlap areas.
Applicator Bottle Technique (Squeeze Bottles)
- Take the dye you prepared earlier and add it to the applicator bottles.
- Seal tightly, cover the tip with your finger, and shake.
- Place the tied socks on the wire rack or your protected working surface.
- Squirt the specific dye to the area you want to color, ensuring you’re covering it completely. Take the next bottle and do the same to the next area, and so on. Use every color of the rainbow.
Dunk Method for DIY Tie Dye Socks
- Take the bowl containing the dye you prepared and add more water until you achieve the color intensity you prefer.
- Submerge the socks in the bowl of dye and leave for one to 20 minutes.
Step 6 - Allow the Dye to Soak
No matter what dye application technique you followed, the next step is to ensure the sock fibers absorb the dye entirely by following these steps:
- Place the dyed socks inside a Ziploc or sandwich bag.
- Leave them in a warm area of your home for the recommended time. This step helps bring out the dye’s vibrant color. I left my socks in the bags for around 12 hours.
- After the recommended time, the bag should be steamy and warm, while the socks should be almost dry or at least damp. If too wet, place paper towels inside, seal the bag, and leave them for another six hours.
Step 7 - Rinse, Wash, and Dry
After taking the socks out of the plastic, do the following:
- Cut the rubber bands
- Rinse the socks in cool water until the water runs clear
- Wash your socks using a cold washing and mild detergent
- Rinse and allow to dry
Tie Dye Socks FAQs
Do you wet socks before tie-dye?
Most tie dyes recequire you to wet the fabric before dying. This gives a stronger color with crisper white areas. Prewashing is necessary to remove any dirt, oil or chemicals in the socks which may prevent the dye from penetrating.
How long does it take to tie dye socks?
The pre-washing and tying into patterns only take 15 minutes or less. The most time-consuming part of tie-dye socks is waiting for the dye to penetrate. This can take 4-8 hours, depending on the brand of dye.
How to Tie Dye Socks - In Conclusion
That’s it! You now have unique socks that you dyed on your own. Just a last pro tip: make sure you wash the socks separately a few times before attempting to mix them with your other clothing pieces in the washing machine. Doing so ensures the dye won’t bleed out and accidentally stain your other fabrics. Continue practicing this method of how to tie dye socks and up your game by using smaller socks and different patterns.
More Tie Dye Articles
- How to Tie Dye for Beginners
- How to Bleach Tie Dye
- How to Tie Dye Socks
- How to Tie Dye a Hoodie or Sweatshirt
- Tie Dye Patterns
- How to Wash Tie Dye
- What You Need for Tie Dye
- What is Tie Dye
How to Tie Dye Socks
- Tie Dyes
- Rubber Bands
- Rubber Gloves
- Cotton Socks
- Wash the socks first and leave them wet. Sock the socks in the fixer if you are not using a one step tie dye powder. Mix the dyes.
- Create a tie dye sock pattern - roll, crumple, vertical bunch, spiral or bullseye - and tie with rubber bands.
- Apply the dye using an applicator bottle over a wire rack.
- Place the socks inside a zip lock bag and leave them for the required time. This may be 4-8 hours. Cut the rubber bands and rinse until the water runs clear. Wash in cold water. Allow to air dry.