Ice Dye Information

Ice Dyeing Information:

Ice Dyeing is a super popular and wonderful way to use our reactive dyes. Amazing, unpredictable, and beautiful patterns are often achieved when using dyes in this way.

Ice dyers can run into problems, however.

Here are thoughts to keep in mind when ice dyeing with reactive dyes. Reactive dye fixes to fabric through a chemical reaction where the dye molecules bond with the cotton (or other Plant Based fiber molecules) through something in chemistry called a covalent bond.

In chemical reactions, temperature plays an important role and in general the warmer the environment for the chemical reaction, the more efficient the reaction. When conditions are too cold, reactions may struggle or not happen at all. We sell mainly what are classified as  “Cold Water Reactive Type Dye.” In the world of dyes, “cold water” actually means warm to hot water (70-105°F) , as opposed to hot water dyes that require much hotter water to succeed (130°F+). Mostly, our dyes are used for a tie dye process where concentrated solutions of dye are mixed into water and squirted onto fabric. This dyeing almost always occurs at room or ambient temperatures of 70° F (~21°C) or above. The dyes work well under these conditions and bright strong colors are normally achieved.

In ice dyeing, conditions are cold and the temperature interferes with the chemical reaction. Because of this, ice dye colors when successful, are almost always lighter or more pastel than dyes when used at proper temperatures. Sometimes, under certain circumstances, the dyes don’t fix to the fabric at all due to the temperatures of the overall process just being too cold to allow the chemical reaction to happen. When this happens it’s not that “something is wrong with the dye,” it’s just the conditions for the dye to bond with the fabric were not met.

There are as many different ice dye techniques or processes as there are different people ice dyeing. For example, some people achieve brighter stronger colors when ice dyeing by using less ice and having the dye powders fall between the ice chunks to contact the fabric at more normal temperatures. The places where the dye contacts the fabric directly tend to be the deeper shades where the places the powders fall on the ice provide the pattern and lighter or split shades.

Many people like ice dye colors that split or separate into different colors or shades of the same color. We have developed Ice dye mixes of dyes that attempt to give ice dyers interesting colors that split into different shades of the same color when used to ice dye.

Before beginning a large project, especially with Ice Dyeing where your specific technique is unique to you, we encourage you to test colors before you commit to them. Some colors may be much less effective than others, and differences in technique will produce different end color results. 


When we Ice Dye, this is the basic process we use.

1. Follow steps 1-4 from our Tie Dye Instructions to prepare fabric
2. Place fabric on dyeing surface (Grate over drain, cardboard to absorb, etc. With excess runoff water and color, this can be a messy process so plan accordingly)
3. Sprinkle additional dry Soda Ash over fabric before placing Ice, as melting Ice will dilute the Soda Ash already in the fabric.
4. Cover fabric in Ice
5. Sprinkle dry Dye powder on Ice, following desired pattern or randomly. 
6. Let Ice melt completely. 
7. Continue with steps 8 and 9 from our Tie Dye Instructions to complete dyeing process. 


-Different methods will produce vastly different results. Play around and follow the process you like best!
-Ice Dye is far less predictable than liquid dye. Colors are generally muted because of the temperature of the process. 
-Try it with snow during the winter! Or with different shaped Ice Cubes, or even crushed ice. There are tons of small variables that can give different results with the same process. 
-Have fun! Nothing will turn out exactly like you expect it to