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Alpha science classroom:The Chemistry of Tie-Dye

Views: 2     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-09-08      Origin: Site

How do the colorful colors on children's clothes come into being? Today, Alpha Science Classroom uses a simple children's Chemistry science experiment activity to unlock the Chemistry of tie-dye for children. Let children make their own tie-dye T-shirt through this children's science experiments to show the chemical mystery of color for children.

Alpha science classroom: Materials needed for The Chemistry of Tie-Dye 

  • 100% cotton T-shirt (anything containing 5% or more polyester will not be dyed)

  • baking soda

  • Rubber band

  • Zipper chain

  • Shelf (dyeing)

  • Plastic bucket (used to receive dyes)

  • Fiber Reactive Dyes

  • Zipper bag

  • Sharp Marker

Alpha Science Class: The Chemistry of Tie-Dye Production Steps

Step 1: Prepare the T-shirt

When children start the tie-dyeing process, it is best to start with freshly washed clothes to remove any oil stains and adhesive residue. Children can use Sharpie markers to write their names on tags or collars. It is very important that your clothing uses the correct materials. It is best to use 100% cotton, but other fabrics, such as rayon, can also be used. Any material containing polyester will not produce the desired effect. Before knotting, the shirt must be wet. This can be done by simply filling the sink with water and having the students submerge their shirts. Ask students to loop their shirts before putting on a tie.

Step 3: Fasten the shirt

If children are not familiar with tie-dyeing, it is best to keep it simple. Two design choices for the alpha science classroom. This allows choices without overloading the information.

1. Spiral tie-dye pattern

To get the spiral pattern, just pinch your thumb and index finger on the shirt and twist it. Twist until the folds of the shirt form a circle.

Use rubber bands to hold the design in place. Make sure your rubber bands are not too tight. If the circle becomes too tight and the wrinkles become uneven, the result may be different than expected. When working with older students, another option is to use twine to hold the design in place.

2. V-shaped accordion tie-dye

The V-shaped folding design is one of my favorites, and students like it too! When children saw this design, they thought it would be very complicated, but it is not the case. 

The Alpha science classroom reassures children and tells them whether they can make paper fans, and they can easily implement this design.

To start this design, the children first fold the shirt in half. Use a washable marker, pencil, or chalk to draw a diagonal line from the top of the shirt to the fold. Create accordion folds on the line and try your best to keep the lines straight, as it will produce a more defined V-shaped pattern. It is very important not to lift the shirt after folding. I find that using rubber bands to fix this design is challenging for my students. Instead, we use zippers that don't break the pattern and hold everything in place!

These patterns are a great start, but if you are looking for more ideas, children can learn in videos with the help of parents, and you will learn how to tie shirts in more than 7 different ways to get amazing Effects. In addition, you will gain valuable skills in organizing and managing processes.

Step 4: Soak the shirt in soda ash

Before applying the dye, children soak their shirts in soda ash for 5-15 minutes. Use one cup of soda ash per gallon of warm water. This mixture can be reused many times, but wearing gloves is very important because soda ash can irritate the skin, so children need parental help. This is a critical step in the dyeing process because soda ash changes the pH of the dye and causes it to react with clothing fibers. This makes the clothing more vivid colors.


Step 5: Apply dye

When parents and students tie-dye together, I recommend using fiber reactive dyes such as Procion dyes, or even tie-dye kits from craft supply stores. Although it may be cost-effective to use a general-purpose dye like Rit, the results will hardly be the same.

Before the children use the dye, you need to make sure to squeeze out the excess water. This step requires the help of parents because they have a lot of strength. If the clothes are too wet, the dyes will get mixed together. Place the clothes on a raised shelf in the trash can so that the dye can pass through without soaking the other side. If you mix urea into the dye and apply the dye to the outside, do not let the dye seep into the grass. Urea mixed with dye will kill the grass. For this reason, when I tie-dye with my children, I often omit urea so that we can dye outside and finally wash everything off.

This step of course requires knowledge of color theory. The alpha science classroom recommends limiting children's color choices to three to avoid any dirty shirts. When applying the dye to the spiral design, encourage the children to divide it in half or thirds, then turn the shirt over and apply the same color on the other side.

Children are going to apply dye on the V-shaped design, please let your children work on the stripes. Repeating the striped pattern will have a great effect!

T-shirts on hangers

Step 6: Let the shirt sit down

Bag dyed shirt

Before the children put their shirts in the plastic bag, let any remaining dye drip off the shelf. After the dye is dripped, put the shirt in the bag and let it sit for at least 24 hours. The longer it is left, the brighter the color. However, I do not recommend leaving it for more than 2-3 days.

Step 7: Rinse and wash

Before children wash their shirts in the washing machine, please rinse them. Usually take them outside, and then rinse them off first with rubber bands or zippers. Then, cut the belt and tie, and then cut them off with a hose. Put no more than 10 shirts in the washing machine at a time and start washing with hot water. Conventional cleaners can be used, but for best results, I recommend using cleaners. After the shirt is washed, it can be dried and worn!

Step 8. Wear and enjoy

After completing all these steps, your kids will have some beautiful, wearable artwork!

The tie-dyeing process does require some planning and can be a mess, but if done correctly, your kids will never forget the process! They will be proud of their success. When they wear tie-dye shirts to school, they become a walking piece of art!

Do you tie-dye with your students?

Do you have any tie-dye tips and tricks to share?

Alpha science classroom: The chemical science principle of tie-dye


The alpha science classroom tells the children that this is because the chemical structure of the fabric affects its interaction with the dye. Specifically, you need a fabric made of a chemical substance called cellulose. Cellulose is a polymer used by plants to build cell walls. Polymers are long chains of repeating units that are linked together, called monomers. In cellulose, these monomers are actually glucose (sugar!) molecules linked together. The way these glucose molecules are connected or held together makes these chains so strong and flexible that they cannot be digested by humans. These properties make cellulose very useful. Cellulose fibers can be harvested from plants such as cotton, hemp, and flax, and used to make fabrics such as cotton, hemp, and flax. Another common fabric, rayon, is made synthetically, but it is also composed of cellulose.


The most common dye used for tie-dyeing is a dye called fiber reactive dye. This dye actually forms a covalent bond with the cellulose fibers in the fabric. Covalent bonds are strong because atoms share electrons, linking them together. This is why tie-dye is permanent and will not wash off clothes like mustard stains!

Finally, Before dyeing, the fabric is soaked in a basic solution for about 10 minutes. This solution usually contains soda ash (sodium carbonate) and water. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can be used instead, but it makes a weaker basic solution so the dye won't stick as well.

When the children have completed all the steps, they will receive a colorful T-shirt.So, the kids have done this fun kids chemistry science experiment! Through this summer kid's science experiments activity, children learn about fabrics, dyes, the correct pH (acid or base level) and some chemistry knowladge. Then kids can add more dyes to make more beautiful T-shirts and make a parent-child suit!

Alpha Science Toys also has many toy sets about color and chemistry, so that children can learn more interesting knowledge about children's chemistry in a happy atmosphere and become the most powerful chemical scientists.


Manufacturer:XinXiang Alpha Manufacturing Ltd
Address: West Of Bei Hean Road, Muye District,
 Xin xiangCity,He Nan Province,China,Post Code 453000