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How to Ice Dye

Ever since I first saw the first ice dyed fabric on Pinterest, I have been dying to try it (pun intended)! It makes dreamily melded colors and they always seem to turn out so beautiful. Just look at these colors!

ice dyed purple blue and green swirls

ice dyed melded purple, dark pink, blue and black

It’s hard if you’re a bit of a control freak like me because you really have to let go of expectations and trust the process will make something unpredictably beautiful. It might not turn out how you imagine, but it will still be something amazing.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 100% Cotton fabric or clothing
  • Rack (I used an old wire shelf, but any type of rack like a baking cooling rack* would work)
  • Plastic bin (storage container or dish pan)
  • Procion powder dyes
  • Soda ash
  • Bucket
  • Rubber gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Spoons*

*Once you’ve used an item for dye, do not use it for food

1. Pre-wash your fabric. Do not use fabric softener.

2. Mix 1 cup of soda ash per gallon of warm water (here is more detailed information on making soda ash solution) and let your item soak for 15 minutes. Wring out well.

3. Place your rack above your plastic bin.

4. Scrunch your fabric up on top of the rack.

Tank top scrunched up on wire rack over bin
I spread the tank top in a loosely scrunched line, with the shoulder straps on the left hand side and the shirt bottom on the right.
Scrunched up sweatshirt on wire rack over bin
The sweatshirt was randomly bundled up.

5. Cover with ice. You’ll want to cover as much as possible. For thick items like sweatshirts, really pile it on – they soak up more than you expect. You want to make sure that there’s enough ice to oversaturate your item so the excess drips into the bin.

Ice layered on top of scrunched up tank top

6. While wearing your mask and gloves, use a spoon to sprinkle the powder all over. Sprinkle in a pattern or just randomly plop colors. For the rainbow tank top I went in color order. The sweatshirt was randomly sprinkled. (Wondering how much dye to use? Read here.)

Sprinkling orange dye over ice on tank top

Rainbow dye over ice on tank top
Here’s what the rainbow dye looked like over the tank top.
Blue, black, purple and pink dye over ice on sweatshirt
And here’s what the dye looked like over the sweatshirt. Looks pretty blech, doesn’t it?

Can I just take a moment to marvel at how beautiful the dyes looked on the ice? I took a ton of pictures because I was just mesmerized by the swirls of color on the transparent ice.

Red, orange, yellow, green and blue dye on ice
Pink, purple and blue dye on ice
Swirls of pink, purple, and blue dye through ice


7. After you’ve finished sprinkling your dye (and taking tons of artistic photos) loosely cover the top with plastic. You want it to stay moist through the whole dying process. Though with how much ice is on top, you could probably get away with skipping this step without much danger of it drying out. Let sit for 24 hours.

Your items might look like a muddy or dark mess when you come back. It will be okay! The front of the sweatshirt was completely black before I started rinsing. So black that I was too busy worrying about how I’d ruined the whole thing to think about taking a before picture! But here’s an after picture to show you that it will be okay.

Front of purple, blue, black, and pink ice dyed sweatshirt

8. Rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Rinse again under warm water until the water runs clear again. Rinse one more time using almost hot water until clear.

9. To fully remove all excess dye soak the fabric in a bath of the hottest water possible (boiling water is okay) for about an hour (careful not to burn yourself!). Drain and give the fabric a quick rinse. Repeat until the soak water is mostly clear (a slight tinge is okay). This may take 3-4 times.

10. Fill your washing machine on hot cycle with 1/8 to 1/4 cup of Synthrapol. Dry as normal.

I love these results! I can’t wait to try it out on more things!

Lindsey laying on ground in a rainbow ice dyed tank top
Lindsey wearing purple, pink, blue and black ice dyed sweatshirt

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March 21, 2019 10:24 am

So excited to try this. What colors did you use on the Sweatshirt? And did you do lighter colors first, then darker as you went? Or totally random?

June 6, 2020 1:01 pm

Thank you for your photos and explanation. Very clear and helpful. I’m about to do my first ice dye!

Erin Patrick
Erin Patrick
August 26, 2020 8:02 am

What brand of hoodie did you use? Also how much ice do you use?

tamara gordon
tamara gordon
September 15, 2020 6:11 am
Reply to  Lindsey

Did the dye go through both sides of the hoodie?

Anne Hillen
Anne Hillen
April 2, 2021 7:54 am

These are amazing! Just curious what would happen if you put the dye directly on the fabric, then put the ice on top…have you ever tried that?

June 1, 2021 7:40 pm

Great explanation of how to do the process I did blue and gray dye over the Ice my son loves his 1st tie dye shirt

December 4, 2021 10:05 am

Can you use liquid dye for ice dying