Earth Day Fun: Tie-Dye T-Shirt with Tea

April 12, 2022

by Faith Emmanuel

In celebration of our lives and planet Earth, let's drink some tea and use it to tie-dye an Earth-inspired t-shirt.

What you’ll need:

8 tablespoons of Hibiscus tea (pictured) or Hibiscus flower for a stronger color
A mesh strainer or cheesecloth
A 100% Cotton t-shirt (what is shown is a small men’s shirt)
20 + rubber bands
4 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar
8 to 10 cups of water
A pot to boil water and large enough to fit a t-shirt
A plastic bag
A large spoon

Second Dye for Swirl Pattern

1 cups water
3 tablespoons Raspberry Patch (pictured), Turmeric Bliss (pictured), or Turmeric for stronger color
1 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar

There are several tie-dye patterns you can find online. What will be shown here are the tie-dye common swirl pattern and the striped pattern.

Side Note: You can tie-dye shirts with print as well. Use a stick of glue and rub it over the print you want to protect from the tea dye and continue with the dyeing process.

Swirl Pattern Instructions

To create the swirl pattern, you’ll twist the shirt at its center until the entire shirt becomes one circle. Very tightly secure rubber bands on it like a pie cut into eight pieces. If you want your shirt to look like the one pictured at the top of this blog post, you’ll need to dye your shirt with 5 tablespoons of turmeric ginger ( possibly more depending on the size of your shirt). Follow instructions for dyeing your shirt but you’ll place the whole shirt with no rubber bands in your tea bath. Once dyed, let it dry completely. Your shirt will be ready for the swirl pattern.

Striped Pattern Instructions

To create a striped pattern, fold the shirt in an accordion style as shown in the picture below. Every few inches, very tightly secure rubber bands. It's a good idea to tightly secure multiple rubber bands on each section of your shirt.

You’ll make the tea dye by steeping your tea of choice in boiling water.

Dye Instructions

Add salt and vinegar to the water. Be sure the salt dissolves. The vinegar in addition to the salt you’ll add will help set the tea dye in your shirt so it doesn’t fade when you wash it. Add your shirt to the tea bath and let it sit for 30 minutes. Be sure that your shirt stays submerged in your tea. You can do this with your large spoon. After 30 minutes, take your shirt out of your tea. Keep rubber bands on your t-shirt.

Your tea-dyed shirt will look darker with the tea dye on it. If you need it darker, continue to soak your shirt in the tea bath or add more tea to your tea bath. Your finished tea-dyed shirt will dry lighter than it appears just out of the tea bath.

Place your tea-soaked shirt in a plastic bag, add vinegar to set the tea dye, and let sit between 1 to 8 hours. You can also let it sit in the tea bath for the same time. Once the time is up, you’ll take your shirt out of the bag and rinse it out. Be sure the water runs clear. Cut rubber bands to reveal the tie-dye pattern.

If your swirl pattern doesn't quite show up, fill a small spray bottle with Raspberry tea dye and create the swirl pattern this way. Spray in a swirl and be sure sprays soak through to the back of your shirt.

If you want to wear your shirt right away, throw it in the dryer. A more Earth-friendly option is to let it air dry. In the future, wash your shirt by hand with mild soap to preserve its color and your hard work.

With your Earth decorated shirt go on a hike on Earth Day or plant a tree in appreciation of being alive to reap the beauty and material Earth gives you to have a life you enjoy.

Keep an eye on the Adagio home page on Earth Day for some other special ways to celebrate!