Tie-dyeing lets you turn boring white t-shirts into vivid and colorful art, but the aftermath of a tie-dye session can get crazy. If you have ever found yourself with splashes of color in your sink, on your hands, or in your hair, you know how tricky it gets to clean up the dye. Fortunately, you can follow a few simple methods to learn how to get tie-dye off your skin.
Most tie-dye coloring contains fiber-reactive dyes that will stain skin or hair on contact. Household products such as rubbing alcohol, baking soda, vinegar, or olive oil can safely remove the dye from the skin. Chemical products such as commercial stain removers or turpentine can also remove tie-dye from skin.
In this article, you will find out what tie-dye coloring is made of. You will learn seven safe methods to remove the dye from your skin. Finally, you will discover tips for getting tie-dye out of your hair and off your nails.
Is Tie-Dye Bad For Your Skin?
Tie-Dye is not bad for your skin, though it will temporarily stain your hands and nails if you touch the dye. Most commercial tie-dye contain a type of coloring called fiber reactive dyes made out of petrochemicals. Fiber reactive dyes bond with cellulose-based fabric like cotton on a molecular level.
Though you do not want to breathe in dye powder, these dyes contain a very low level of toxicity compared to many other kinds of dye. You will want to make sure no one eats any of this dye, though! If you plan to use tie-dye with really young kids who might feel tempted to stick colorful fingers in their mouths, you will want to take precautionary measures to avoid any kids ingesting dye.
Tie-dye kits purposefully use safe, kid-friendly coloring agents that should not harm you or your kids when the dye contacts your skin. That said, everyone reacts differently to these things, and it’s always possible you or your little ones could experience an allergic reaction. For this reason and just to keep things less messy, you can always take some precautionary measures when using tie-dye.
First, make sure everyone wears gloves. If you’re working with kids, you can make this a game–have everyone pretend you are scientists working in a top-secret lab! Wearing gloves will go a long way to preventing any dye on your skin.
You can also wear goggles as eye protection against any splashes and smocks or aprons to protect clothing. It’s probably not super likely that you will get tie-dye in your hair, but you can always have everyone put hair up in ponytails or hairclips as necessary to avoid this, too.
Most tie-dye coloring will fade off your skin on its own in a few days. But, of course, if you don’t want to go about your life with mottled blue and purple hands, you may want to remove the dye sooner! In that case, keep reading this guide to find out how to safely and quickly remove tie-dye from your skin.
How To Get Tie Dye Off Skin: 7 Safe Methods
Tie-dye scrubs off your skin quite easily with the application of several cheap, handy household items. You can use exfoliants like baking soda, stain removers like vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and nail polish remover, or even a gentle application of olive oil or laundry detergent to lift the color off your skin. You can also use commercial stain removers, though many of these products contain stronger chemicals that you should apply with care.
While most of these products are completely non-toxic and safe to use on your skin, you may want to test just a drop of a product on you or your child to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
Also, while these methods have excellent success rates, keep in mind that you can often completely remove tie-dye from your hands just by washing your hands immediately after exposure. If you catch the dye before it dries on your skin, hand soap and hot water will probably remove most of the coloring with no trouble!
If the dye dries on your skin, though, you will want to try one of these home remedies.
To use vinegar to get tie-dye off your skin:
- Pour a small amount of distilled white vinegar into a disposable cup or bowl.
- Dip a cotton bowl or clean rag into the vinegar.
- Gently scrub the cotton ball over the stained area on your skin. You should instantly see some of the color transfer to the cotton ball.
- Rinse your hands under cool running water.
- If you still see dye, repeat this process as necessary. You will probably need several cotton balls to get all the dye.
If your hands feel itchy when applying vinegar, stop immediately and try a different method. Vinegar is not toxic, but its high acidity can cause skin irritation for some people. If you use vinegar, you will want to apply your favorite moisturizer afterward to keep your skin from drying out.
2. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol also works well on any kind of oil-based stain because it acts as a degreasing agent.
To get tie-dye off your skin using rubbing alcohol:
- Keep your hands over a sink or basin, as some dye will probably drip off you during this process.
- Soak a cotton ball or clean, new sponge in rubbing alcohol.
- Gently dab the stained portion of your skin with the sponge. You should instantly see color on the sponge! Rinse it out under running water, squeeze it mostly dry, and then soak it in alcohol again.
- Gently scrub at any remaining dye on your hand.
- Wash your hands with soap and water. Check the skin under a bright light to see if any dye remains. If so, repeat this method.
3. Without Rubbing Alcohol
If you don’t like the smell of rubbing alcohol or have an allergic reaction to it, you may want to try using a gentler, soap-based method such as applying a tiny amount of laundry detergent.
Most modern laundry detergents contain stain removers that work well on ink or dye stains. As another benefit, these products should not harm your skin as they are designed to wash your clothes against your skin regularly!
If you have eczema or any skin condition exacerbated by soaps, you will probably want to try an oil-based solution instead. You can find more info on that method in the section titled “without baking soda” below.
To get tie-dye off your hands using laundry detergent or dish soap:
- Pour a small drop of soap onto a clean, damp washcloth. You don’t need much, just about half a teaspoon of the soap.
- Scrunch the cloth to get the soap sudsy.
- Place your hands over a sink and scrub at the stained areas with a soapy cloth.
- You will probably need to rinse the cloth and reapply soap several times. Do this as soon as you see the soap suds turning brightly colored from the dye.
- Finally, rinse your hands carefully and check them out to see if you got all the dye.
As you know from washing dishes, you will want to apply a moisturizer after trying this method!
4. Baking Soda
To use baking soda as a tie-dye remover:
- Measure two tablespoons of baking soda and one to three teaspoons of water into a disposable cup. Stir them together to make a stiff paste. You do not want the mixture to look crumbly, but you also don’t want it too liquidy.
- Use your fingers to scoop up a small amount of the paste and massage it into the stained area on your skin. If it does not feel irritating, try scrubbing it into your skin with a damp washcloth, too.
- Rinse your hand off and check the status of the dye. Does any remain? If so, repeat this method.
For a really excellent dye-remover, you can try replacing the water with a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. However, in some cases, this can cause skin irritation, so use that stronger version of the method with care.
5. Without Baking Soda
Sometimes baking soda or soaps can cause skin irritation, and you may want a more gentle dye-removal method such as using an oil-based product. In that case, you can use olive oil, oil-based moisturizers, or even baby oil.
This method may not work quite as immediately as using baking soda, but it is certainly much gentler on your skin! You may also want to try this first if your kids got tie-dye on their hands, as it will not irritate their skin.
- Squeeze a few drops of the oil or oil-based product onto a cotton ball.
- Rub the cotton ball over the dye stain for several minutes to as long as fifteen minutes.
- Rinse your hands under warm water and check if the dye remains.
- If you do still see dye, repeat the method. Don’ scrub too hard; gently move the cotton ball back and forth and allow the oil to pick up the dye and lift it off your skin.
- If the dye still remains, you can apply the oil or oil product liberally and let it soak into your skin overnight. Then try scrubbing it off!
6. Nail Polish Remover
Also, you may want to skip this method with kids. Acetone won’t hurt their skin unless they have a sensitivity to it, but it is not safe to ingest! If there’s any chance your little one could put their fingers in their mouth, you will not want to use this method.
To use nail polish remover to get tie-dye off your skin:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove as much dye as possible.
- With your hands still held over the sink, dip a cotton ball in nail polish remover and wipe it over the dye stain.
- Use a new cotton ball every time the old one becomes colorful.
- Once you do not see any dye left, wash your hands again thoroughly to remove the acetone.
7. Commercial Stain Removers
To use turpentine, pour a few drops onto a clean rag and wipe it over the dye stain. This should instantly dissolve the dye and remove it from your skin. Make sure you wash your hands carefully after this, though!
The downside to using a commercial product is that it may contain dangerous chemicals. They may irritate your skin or have a super strong odor. Make sure you read the ingredients list before trying a commercial stain remover on your skin!
You can find hair dye removing products such as handy wipes in many drug stores or at a beauty salon. These will remove tie-dye as well! Plus, this type of product is designed for use on your skin, so it should not harm you.
Most craft stores, as well as many online sellers, offer fabric dye removing products. RIT Dye, for example, has a line of remover products.
How Long Does Tie-Dye Last on Skin?
Tie-dye will fade off your skin on its own in a few days or as long as two weeks. Even if you accidentally dyed your hands a deep blue or a rich purple, your skin cells will regrow and replace the old cells within two weeks, so you will be rid of the dye even if it does not fade easily!
In most cases, washing your hands promptly after exposure to tie-dye will get most of the dye off your skin. Also, so long as you have used soap and scrubbed thoroughly, your can safely eat with your hands even if you can still see a little dye left.
All of that said, you probably do not want to go to work or school with dye-splotched hands! You will likely want a quicker removal method than waiting a couple of days or two weeks for the dye to disappear on its own.
How To Get Tie Dye Off Kids Hands
The best way to get tie-dye off your kid’s hands is to use either an oil-based method or the baking soda method.
Baking soda works fast, but its slight abrasiveness could irritate your child’s skin. In this case, you may want to go with the slower but more gentle method of using olive oil or baby oil.
You can even apply the oil right before bed and let your kid sleep with the oil on the stain. Then scrub gently at the stained area with a soapy washcloth in the morning.
Depending on your child’s age, you may not want to use a product that could prove harmful when ingested, such as acetone or a commercial stain remover.
How To Remove Fabric Dye From Skin
Most of the time, you can use any of the methods described in this article to quickly remove fabric dye from skin. Rubbing alcohol and acetone, in particular, work well on many kinds of fabric dyes.
That said, not all fabric dyes contain the same ingredients. Some may stain your skin more permanently than others. You should always wear protective clothing and gloves when working with dyes to avoid any unnecessary stains on your skin.
You may also want to investigate removal products for the particular type of dye you plan to use. For instance, if you want to use acid-based dyes for wool or silk fabric, you may find that a combination of dish soap and baking soda works better than baking soda and water.
If you prepare ahead of time, you can attack a stain before it drys on your skin and becomes more difficult to remove!
How To Get Tie-Dye Off Your Nails
You can get tie-dye off your nails very easily using nail polish remover. Just dip a cotton ball in the remover and wipe it gently but firmly across each nail. You should see the color lift away immediately!
If this does not work or you don’t have an acetone-based nail polish remover handy, you can also try a whitening toothpaste. These often contain baking soda and whitening agents and can get rid of stubborn dye stains. Simply scrub the paste into your nail using a cotton ball or washcloth, let it sit for a moment, and then rinse it away.
What Kind of Dye Is Safe for Skin?
While it’s a good idea to take precautions when using any type of fabric dye, popular tie-dye dyes such as food coloring dyes and fiber-reactive dyes should be safe for contact with your skin.
However, it is true that commercial fabric dyes contain many different kinds of chemicals, solvents, and acids. Some dyes also require boiling water to help the color bond to the fabric. Another common danger with fabric dye is that it often comes in powdered form and can cause serious health issues if inhaled in large amounts.
Even RIT all-purpose dyes can harm your skin in some cases. It’s always a good idea to read up on a fabric dye before using it at home. This way, you can find out what chemicals the dye contains and decide if you want to risk using it.
Will Tie-Dye Stain Your Hair?
Fiber-reactive dyes like the type that comes in most tie-dye kits can stain your hair permanently. For this reason, you probably want to avoid letting your hair come in contact with this kind of dye!
You can take simple precautions like putting your hair up in a ponytail or even wearing a shower cap to protect your hair from turning a permanent shade of purple or pink.
If you do accidentally run your dye-stained hands through your hair while tie-dyeing, try using a product such as a Color Oops or a professional-grade hair dye remover like this one. You do not want to use a fabric dye remover on your hair, though, as this will almost certainly damage the hair.
Tie-dye will naturally fade off skin over several days, but this type of color will also come off skin quickly when treated with common household products. Vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol, and olive oil can safely remove tie-dye stains from the skin. Stronger treatments such as nail polish remover or commercial stain removers can also effectively get tie-dye off your skin.
Ost tie-dye contains safe, non-toxic fiber reactive dye. This coloring will eventually fade on its own, though it can more permanently stain hair and clothing. To avoid dealing with tie-dye stains on skin, try wearing gloves and a smock next time you pull out your tie-dye kit!