Long ago when I was a child, photographs were made using a camera filled with a film cartridge. After all the negatives were exposed, the film was wound back into the cartridge, removed, and carried to the drug store. In a few weeks, we went back to the drug store , paid for and received the prints. Only then did the photographer see the results of his or her work. It was an exciting day.
Wash out day holds the same air of excitement and anticipation for the tie dyer. It is the culmination of a long process, with a somewhat unpredictable out come. Even after all the thousands of garments I have tie dyed, my heart still beats faster on wash out day–I love unbanding those colorful clothes to see the fruits of my labor. The “Ah Ha” moment makes all the work worth every minute of it!
I am blessed that my current studio is really a large, glorified utility room. There is a laundry sink right next to the washer and dryer, with cabinets above to store dyes, chemicals, and other supplies. But I have worked under much more primitive circumstances. For several years, I washed out in the back yard. The soaking vessel was a kiddie pool and the water source was a garden hose. The dripping clothes were carried up some stairs, across a deck, and inside the house to a washer, then back outside to hang them on a clothes line to dry. It was very labor intensive. As an old friend always says to me, “Do the best you can with what you have, until you can do better”.
So here are the basic necessities to wash out the tie dyed clothes you have created.
- Running water, hopefully with hot water available
- Liquid Soap: the dye distributors sell lovely soaps for the purpose of washing out that work quite well, but are somewhat costly, especially when shipping is added. Hand dish washing detergent, such as Dawn or Joy, is an adequate substitute. I use the very cheapest laundry detergent available and never have backstaining. Many tie dyers make their own soaps for pennies per load. I suggest you sample a few different types to determine which works best for you.
- Sink or 5 gallon bucket for soaking
- washer and dryer, or clothes line
- Under cool running water, unband the garments by carefully snipping off the bindings. I use blunt tipped scissors and lift the bands away from the garment to snip. There is nothing more tragic than cutting a hole in the item during wash out!
- Continue rinsing in cool water for 30-60 seconds. Several garments can be rinsed at the same time. Cool water removes the sodium carbonate without re-activating it to prevent back staining.
- Create a hot, hot soapy bath, either by plugging the sink, or using a 5 gallon bucket.
- Soak for about 10 minutes. Because the sodium carbonate fixative has been rinsed away, the items will not ‘swap’ colors. In the illustration, 12 adult sized shirts are soaking together.
- Remove the garments from the soapy bath, or pull the plug. Rinse in cool running water, until all the soapiness is gone, the undyed areas are crisp white again, and the rinse water is fairly clear.
- Wring lightly.
- Place all the garments in a washing machine, with laundry detergent, running an entire cycle on the hottest setting available.
- When the final rinse and spin are completed, do not allow the damp garments to linger in the washer.
- Remove at once to machine or line dry.
After the initial wash out, tie dyed items should be laundered as any other dark-colored garments. Wash in cold water and line or tumble dry.
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