wikiHow to Tie Dye Socks

Three Parts:Preparing the DyePreparing the SocksDying the Socks

Tie-dyed socks are fun and easy to make. While the entire family can enjoy this activity, some of the chemicals used can cause skin irritation, so adult supervision is strongly advised. Here are the steps you need to follow in order to create this unique fashion statement at home.

Part 1
Preparing the Dye

  1. Image titled Tie Dye Socks Step 1
    Protect yourself and your work area. Wear rubber gloves and clothes that you can get dirty. Cover your work area with rags and large sheets of newspaper.
    • Fabric dye can stain your clothes, your skin, and just about any other surface.
    • The rubber gloves will protect your hands from dye stains, and they will also shield your hands from the caustic soda ash used later on while preparing the socks.
    • You may also want to wear a smock or apron over your clothes to add another layer of protection against the dye. Tie-dying can be a messy process, and it is very possible that you might get dye on your clothes during the process.
    • Another alternative is to dye outdoors to further avoid staining your indoor tables and floors.
  2. Image titled Tie Dye Socks Step 2
    Mix fabric dye with warm water. Dissolve your nontoxic fabric dye in hot water according to the instructions on the package of dye.
    • While the instructions for dye varies depending on the manufacturer and the chemicals used in the dye, as a general guideline, you should mix 2 tsp (10 ml) of a standard fabric-reactive dye with 1 Tbsp (15 ml) salt and 1 cup (250 ml) of warm to hot water. Mix thoroughly in order to form a concentrated dye.[1]
    • Repeat this procedure for as many colors as you want to include. A color scheme including one to four colors is usually best. Including more than that may make your socks look too busy and too messy.
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    Pour your dye into bottles. Transfer each concentrated dye solution into an empty squeeze bottle.
    • Use a squeeze bottle, like an old mustard bottle, and not a spray bottle. You need to be able to apply to dye in solid strokes, not as a mist.
    • You could also transfer the dye into small bowl or buckets and dip-dye your socks instead of squirt-dying them. This works especially well if you only plan on using one or two colors.
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    Add more hot water as needed. Pour enough hot water into the bottle to fill it to the top.
    • If dip-dying your socks, add enough water to each bowl as needed in order to cover a couple of socks.

Part 2
Preparing the Socks

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    Choose clean, white, cotton socks. Wash your socks before you tie-dye them.
    • Cotton holds dye the most effectively, so the socks you choose should be at least 80 percent cotton. Spandex and polyester will not dye.[2]
    • You need to use white socks in order to get the strongest, purest dye color.
  2. Image titled Tie Dye Socks Step 6
    Combine soda ash and water. Mix roughly 3/4 cup (180 ml) soda ash and 1 gallon (4 l) of warm water in a large bucket.[3]
    • Soda ash is caustic, so it is important that you wear gloves when handling it. You should also keep small children and pets away from the soda ash solution.
    • Mix the solution using a wooden spoon with a long handle.
    • Soda ash, or sodium carbonate, is a dye fixer. It ensures effective chemical bonding of the dye with the fabric. Not all fabric dyes will require the use of soda ash to be effective, but most do.
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    Soak your socks. Soak your socks in this solution for at least 5 minutes.
    • You can soak your socks in the soda ash solution for up to 30 minutes or so. Soaking them for a longer period of time may or may not make a difference in how effective the dye holds to the cotton fibers, but at the very least, you should do more than merely dip the socks in the solution.
    • Stir the socks around with the same long-handled spoon as they soak.
    • When done, remove the socks from the solution and wring them out.
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    Tie your socks off. Use rubber bands to tie off sections of your socks so that the dye will create patterns.[4]
    • Make stripes by wrapping three to four rubber bands around the foot of the sock and along the leg of the sock.
    • Make circles by pinching off a section of the material and tying it off about 1 inch (2.5 cm) down with a single rubber band. This is especially useful for heels.
    • Create small ring patterns by slipping buttons or pennies into the socks. Tie them off by wrapping a rubber band around the section of sock holding the button or penny.

Part 3
Dying the Socks

  1. Image titled Tie Dye Socks Step 9
    Apply the dye. Lay the tied-off socks flat on your work surface. Squirt the dye onto your socks using your squirt bottles.[5]
    • To create tie-dyed patterns, the dye should be applied around the tied-off portions of the material. You can use the nozzle of the bottle to get into some of the fabric folds.
    • As you apply the dye, try to avoid leaving too many patches of empty, colorless space in between different colors.
    • If dunk-dying the socks, place the socks in your bowl of dye and let them sit anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes. You can create multi-colored socks by dipping one section at a time into various colors.[6]
  2. Image titled Tie Dye Socks Step 10
    Place the socks in plastic bags. Seal the socks in resealable plastic bags and let them sit in a warm area for 24 hours.
    • The dye needs to set in a warm, moist area for about 24 hours in order to get a strong color.
    • When you remove the socks from the bag the following day, the bag should be steamy and warm inside.
    • If the weather is warm and bright, you can sit the socks out in direct sunlight as the dye sets. During seasons of cooler weather, you should let the socks rest in a warm indoor location. The dyed socks should sit in an area that is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius).
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    Rinse the socks in warm water. After the dye has set, remove the socks from the bag and strip away the rubber bands, buttons, and pennies. Place the socks under warm running tap water and rinse until the water runs clear.
    • If you have a conventional washing machine, you could also put the socks through a warm rinse cycle. If you have an energy-efficient washing machine that does not use as much running water, hand-rinsing your socks is a better option.[7]
  4. Image titled Tie Dye Socks Step 12
    Wash in hot water. After rinsing the socks, wash them separately in your washing machine using hot water and regular detergent.


  • If chemical dyes are not for you, you can create organic dyes using certain foods and spices like plum skins, turmeric, spinach, sorrel, beets, coffee, and tea.[8]


  • It is wise to wash your tie-dyed socks apart from other clothes for the first few washings. It can take quite some time before the dye will no longer run, and if you wash the socks with other garments, you run the risk of staining your other clothes.
  • Always wear gloves when handling dye and soda ash. Dye can stain easily and soda ash can cause skin irritation.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Fabric dye
  • Apron or smock
  • Buckets
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Squirt bottles
  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Soda ash
  • Rubber bands
  • Buttons or pennies
  • Resealable plastic bags
  • Sink
  • Washing machine
  • Detergent

Article Info

Categories: Fabric and Clothing Decoration