How to Make Food-Based Tie-Dye

This activity for kids—or adults!—makes wearable art out of kitchen ingredients, no special chemicals required.

Published Mar. 31, 2023.

You don’t need a special kit to make tie-dye—it’s possible to make colorful, wearable art using things you can eat.

Lots of foods can be used as dyes, but blueberries and turmeric hold their colors particularly well after washing without requiring any special chemicals (plus, they’re no-prep). Try this activity with kids to see how fun homemade tie-dye can be!

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Before You Begin

These dyes can stain! We recommend wearing gloves and a smock and keeping the dye away from counters or other porous surfaces. You can dye any white, 100 percent cotton fabric. To dye a larger item, such as a sweatshirt, double the amount of water and the dye ingredient.


  • White, 100 percent cotton item, such as a t-shirt, socks, or dish towel
  • Medium saucepan with lid
  • 4 cups water 
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (purple/blue dye) OR 2 tablespoons ground turmeric (yellow dye)
  • Rubber bands
  • Medium bowl or container with tight-fitting lid
  • Fine-mesh strainer
  • Rubber spatula
  • Tongs
  • Disposable gloves
  • Plastic wrap

Get Started!

1. Ask an adult to help you wash white cotton item in washing machine (no need to dry it). (Washing fabric before dyeing it removes any coatings, chemicals, or oils, which can affect how well the fabric absorbs the dye.)

2. In medium saucepan, combine water and blueberries OR turmeric (but not both!). Bring to boil over high heat. Cover saucepan with lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer mixture for 1 hour (small bubbles should break often across surface of liquid).

3. While mixture simmers, use rubber bands to create pattern on cloth.


4. Lay cloth on table. Use your hand to pinch fabric at center of cloth. Use your other hand to twist cloth around center in circle to create tight spiral shape. Tightly secure 5 to 7 rubber bands around entire shape. 


Fold cloth accordion-style in 1 direction to create long rectangle. Fold rectangle accordion-style in opposite direction to create stacked square. Tightly secure 4 to 5 rubber bands around entire shape in both directions. 


Lay cloth on table. Use your hands to scrunch and crumple cloth into tight circle shape. Tightly secure 5 to 7 rubber bands around entire shape. 

5. When dye mixture is ready, turn off heat. Slide saucepan to cool burner. Let dye mixture cool completely, about 30 minutes. Place medium bowl in sink. Set fine-mesh strainer over bowl. Carefully pour dye mixture into strainer. Use rubber spatula to gently press on any solids in strainer. Discard solids.  

6. Use tongs to carefully place rubber-banded cloth into dye (make sure cloth is completely submerged). Cover bowl and let cloth sit in dye for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. (The longer the cloth is submerged, the more color it will absorb from the dye.)   

7. Wearing disposable gloves, remove cloth from dye and rinse under cold water until water runs clear, squeezing cloth with your hands while rinsing. Use your hands to squeeze out excess water. Undo rubber bands and unravel cloth to reveal your tie-dye creation! Discard rubber bands. 

8. Hang cloth to dry completely, away from direct sunlight. Place piece of plastic wrap on floor underneath cloth to catch any drips. 

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Caring for Tie-Dyed Fabric

Over time, your food-dyed fabric will fade from washing, but there are a few things you can do to preserve the color.

  • Once your tie-dyed cloth is fully dry, we recommend washing it by hand using cold water and a small amount of gentle laundry detergent or washing it by itself in your washing machine using cold water and a gentle cycle. (After the first few washes, it’s fine to wash your tie-dye cloth with the rest of your laundry.)
  • Hang your cloth to dry or tumble dry it using low heat.

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