How to Ice Dye on Cotton Fabric

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Move over tie dye, ICE DYEING is the new cool way to make some patterned, multi colored fabric.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a hands-on ice dyeing class and let me tell you, I am hooked! I love bright colors and this is such a fun fabric dyeing technique. So, let me show you how to ice dye cotton fabric in your own home.

All you need is Fiber Reactive Dye, Soda Ash and some cotton fabric such as my favorite Flour Sack Towels.

How to Ice Dye Cotton Fabric Towels

In This Article:

First, a big shoutout to Daisy Baker, Textile Designer and Instructor of the ice dyeing workshop I took a few weeks ago. Daisy’s dyes are absolutely amazing … she calls them ‘kaleidoscopic’. Make sure and take a look at her stunning pieces at DaisyCakes Designs.

While I can’t share with you the specific techniques that Daisy uses, I can show you the basic method of how to ice dye.

What is Ice Dyeing?

Ice Dyeing (also called Snow Dyeing) is a process that uses ice or snow along with cold water, fiber reactive dyes to create fluid or marbled patterns. The result is softer and more subtle than traditional tie dyeing.

The key is the slow melting of the ice or snow which allows the dye powders to move and blend slowly.

Usually, ice dyeing is done on fabric but it actually works for anything made out of plant fibers such as yarn. Fiber Reactive or Procion MX Dyes work on cotton, linen, paper, reeds, and wood.

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Ice Dyeing Supplies

SAFETY NOTE! Anytime you handle the dry dye powder, you need to use your dust mask. Trust me, you do not want to breathe these chemicals!

Check out my new favorite class The Art of Cloth Dyeing.

Bluprint Online Class The Art of Cloth Dyeing
Bluprint Online Class – The Art of Cloth Dyeing

Prep the Fabric for Dyeing

Before you begin the ice dyeing, you need to prepare your cotton fabric or flour sack towels by soaking them in the soda ash. Fill your old bucket so that the fabric can move freely.

Now you need to add the soda ash and stir until it is dissolved. How much soda ash depends on the amount of water – usually around 1/2 cup per 1 gallon. Check the manufacturers instructions on the package.

Set Up the Ice Dye Station

Safety Note: if you are working in your kitchen, make sure and cover all of your countertops and remove any and all equipment used in food preparation.

Also, NEVER use your cooking pots, pans, spoons, etc. when dyeing. The only exception to this rule is if you are using food coloring as your dye.

While the fabric is soaking, go ahead and set up your dye station. First you need to cover your entire work surface with the tablecloth.

Now, you want to place the rack inside your plastic tub. This will keep the fabric up above the pooled dye.

Cut the bottom out of your shoebox, if using, and place it on top of the rack. I added a divider to separate my two towels.

Plastic tub and rack for ice dyeing

Fold Your Fabric

To begin, take the towels out of the soda ash water and wring out any excess liquid.

Now you need to decide how you want to fold your fabric. You can really do any tie dye or shibori folds but for this tutorial, I decided to scrunch my fabric which gives it a lovely, marbled effect.

Once you have folded your fabric, go ahead and place it inside the box. You want the sides of the box to touch the fabric (to hold it and the ice in place) so make sure your box is not too big.

Then you will place a bunch of ice on top of your fabric. Make sure and cover all of it.

Cotton towels for ice dyeing

ice in cardboard box

Add the Dye to the Fabric

Now you are ready to start applying the dyes but remember to place the mask over your nose and mouth. (Also, put on your gloves to keep the dye from staining your hands.)

When you are ready to start, go ahead and open all your dye containers and place a plastic spoon in each. If you only have one spoon, you will need to wipe it off between colors to prevent dye contamination.

Pick up a small amount of dye powder with your spoon and sprinkle it onto the ice. A little goes a long way so you really don’t need a lot. You can always add more later if it looks like you will end up with too many white areas.

Sprinkle the mx dye on the ice

Add other colors until your ice is mostly covered with dye. Remember that the dyes will move as the ice melts. Also keep in mind that the colors will blend to create new colors.

Now, we wait. How long it takes for the ice to melt obviously depends on the temperature of your room. The longer it takes, the more time the dye has to move, blend and adhere to the fabric.

Procion MX Dye melting on the ice cubes

How to Ice Dye on Cotton Fabric

After the ice has melted on the cotton

Rinse the Ice Dyed Fabric

Once the ice has completely melted, you are ready to rinse your cotton fabric. This will remove any dye particles that did not adhere to the fabric.

So, put your gloves back on and rinse your fabric with cool water until the water runs clear. This may take a while so be patient. Then you want to rinse in warm water.

Finally, wash your newly dyed towel separately in the washing machine. After all of this washing, any excess dye should have been removed and your fabric should no longer bleed.

Rinsing dyes out of the cotton fabric

Finally, simply hang your fabric to dry. You can also iron it, if you’d like. I use my ice dyed flour sack towels in the kitchen or I give them away as gifts to my friends.

Did you know that you can reverse tie dye using bleach? Check out that tutorial here. You can also dye your towels with good old Rit Dye.

Remember to share your cool ice dye or snow dyed projects in the comments below!

Check out Foolproof Fabric Dyeing with 900 recipes and step by step instructions.

Ice Dyed Cotton Flour Sack Towel

Close up of ice dyed cotton towel

Blue Yellow Purple Ice Dyed Cotton Fabric

Close up of Ice Dyed Cotton Fabric

Also, Brit.Co has some cool examples of how to ice dye on clothing.

Ice Dyeing or Snow Dyeing on Cotton Fabric

How to Ice Dye on Cotton Fabric

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