How to Ice Dye – oh so satisfying!

How to Ice Dye

Here’s a brilliant project for this hot weather – ice dyeing!  Even my 11 year old was impressed – so I’m taking that as this would be a fabulous project to do with the kids. Not sure my 15 year old son would be persuaded though…hmmm….

I have to admit to not being the greatest fan of 1970’s style tie dyeing, but came across a new technique called ice dyeing (actually I don’t think it’s that new, it’s just me being late to the party as normal) and decided I had to have a go!

These are the results from my weekend’s efforts – very pretty aren’t they?  I can’t wait to make something with them.

How To Ice Dye

If you fancy giving it a go yourself, here’s how you can do some ice dyeing for yourself.

You will need:

  • Some plain fabric
  • Soda Ash (I used 25g) – available from Wild Colours
  • Some Procion Dyes – colours of your choosing.  I found some small packets on Ebay for £2.50 each – perfect for when you don’t want to spend too much when you’re getting started
  • A bucket
  • A large container (I used an old plastic toy box)
  • Anything that will drain for you eg a sieve, oven shelf etc, but you won’t be using it for food afterward
  • Big bags of party ice from the supermarket (you could make your own but it will take a while to make the quantity you need).  I used two 1 kilo bags for my project – at a cost of £1 each.  You can use snow in the winter
  • Rubber gloves and a face mask


Step 1:

Dissolve your soda ash in a bucket of warm water and soak your fabric for 20 – 30 minutes.  Wear a face mask so you don’t inhale any soda ash.

How To Ice Dye


Step 2:

Set up your sieves, oven racks etc on or in your large plastic container so that there is a reservoir underneath to collect the melted ice. See pic below the next step.

Step 3

After your fabric has been soaking for 20 minutes, wring out any excess water (wear your rubber gloves) and arrange your fabric how you want.  I loosely scrunched up one piece, made a concertina (like those paper fans you used to make at school) for my second piece, and used string to tie a couple of sections around a couple of scrunched up pieces of tin foil destined for the recycling box on my third piece.  The joy is in discovering what folding or scrunching technique gives you what result!

Arrange your fabric so that the ice can sit on top of it.  The sieve worked very well for me, but using the top of an old spaghetti drainer didn’t work quite so well as the ice kept sliding off. In the end I turned the spaghetti drainer the right way up and stood it on old glass jars from the recycling box and that worked perfectly.

Step 4

Pile loads of ice on top of your fabric!  Rubber gloves are a bit of a necessity at this point. Ice is cold.

Step 5

Face mask is now advisable as are dry rubber gloves if you don’t want green thumbs 24 hours later – ahem.  Sunglasses optional though – it was a very bright day.  Decide which colours of your Procion dyes you want to use and sprinkle liberally over the ice, covering all of the ice.  Try different patterns, stripes, swirls or whatever you fancy.  You can’t really predict how they will come out at this stage; that’s half the fun!

How to ice dye

Step 6

Sit back and have a glass of something refreshing and watch your ice do the work.  I started mine late morning and the ice had melted by tea time.  However, there were a few clumps of dye and a bit of powder that hadn’t dissolved, so I put another bag of ice on the fabrics and left it over night.

Step 7

By the next day you will find dyed fabric (yay!), so take one piece at a time and rinse it first in a bucket of cold water, then under a running tap until the water becomes clear.  I did this for each piece of fabric, using clean water in the bucket each time.  It really only took about 3 minutes per piece of fabric.  I then put all three pieces in the washing machine for a final rinse and spin. Then hang up on your washing line to dry!


Step 8

You will be left with a large puddle of unattractive brown water.  This can be disposed off carefully down the sink with plenty of water to dilute it.

Step 9

Please share your result in the comments below and let me know what you make with your ice dyed fabric!  I’d love to see what effects you discover too.

PS  Have I single-handedly solved the mystery of the Turin Shroud?  Were the ancient Romans into ice dyeing?


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