Uncovering the Science Secrets of Tie Dye

Lots of kids learn how to do tie dye, but the fifth graders at Wilder Elementary got a dose of art and science today when yours truly and art teacher extraordinare, Jill Day, approached the activity from a slightly different angle. You won’t find the science of tie dye in the fifth grade curriculum, but today’s lesson was both a gift from the Wilder staff and PTO and a rite of passage as these students move onto middle school. From the science perspective, the students learned about three “secrets” of tie dye, and on the art side, Mrs. Day covered the coolest way to use colors in a tie dye pattern.

In addition to washing their tie dye t-shirts tonight, the students were invited to share some of the “secrets” they learned and some of the finer points of learning the “real” tie dye methods (as one of the students said, “Direct from the tie dye hippie artists to our classroom!”) The students will be posting their comments all night long… check back tomorrow and we’ll even have some pictures and video up on the site.

26 replies
  1. Scott
    Scott says:

    That was a very fun and educational experience! Thank you for doing this and letting us get away from the books and boring stuff! You made my day!

    Reply
  2. John
    John says:

    I think that this tie dyeing showdown was extreme fun and a spectaculary sensatoinal experience! Thank you for making this awesome time sooooooooo recreational! I am washing my tie dye shirt right now! It’s 7:16 right now! You rock Mr. Spanglar! Thanks again!

    Reply
  3. Sydney
    Sydney says:

    I can not wait until I see how my shirt looks! I bet it will look awesome useing those ideas! I cant wait to wear it. Thanks Mr.Spangler for letting us do this cool tye-dye. It did not even feel like it involved science it was so fun

    Reply
  4. kayla
    kayla says:

    I am so happy that Mr. Spangler helped us do somthing fun instead of school. I have already washed mine and boy do I love it. It was really fun to learn what to use and that theres “tinkle” in the dye!!!!! Thank you Mr. Spangler for a really great experience I will always remember at Wilder!!!

    Reply
  5. Nikki
    Nikki says:

    Today was soooo much fun. My shirt is being washed right now. One of the secrets I learned today with Steve was that first of all you need a 100% cotton clothing item(not including shoes).The one thing about that is the cells that soak in the dye aren’t open untill you soak it in sodium carbonate also known as washing soda. I caan’t wait untill May 15 when all the 5th graders who tie-dyed were their shirt. We definetely wouldn’t have been able to do this without support from Steve Spangler, Mrs. Day, and our 5th grade teachers. I’ve always wanted to be a hippie! Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  6. Chase
    Chase says:

    Hey what’s up Mr. Spangler I just want say that the tie dyeing activity was awesome, way better than science class and astronomy. The minute I put on those gloves I knew that I was in for the ride of my life. My shirt is already in the dryer after being washed three times and I can’t wait to wear it tomorrow. if only you had a kid in middle school I would love school. Any way thanks again for the coolest tie dyeing shirt experience ever and the dot o my head still at 7:45pm. SEE YA!!!

    Reply
  7. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    This is a truly awesome expierience. I had so much fun!!!I learned how to make different designs on my shirt. I chose the swirl design. All and all, Tye-Dyeing shirts was a fun, educating, expierience- the best Steve Spangler science expeiriment yet!

    Reply
  8. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    This is a truly awesome expierience. I had so much fun!!!I learned how to make different designs on my shirt. I chose the swirl design. All and all, Tye-Dyeing shirts was a fun, educating, experience- the best Steve Spangler science experiment yet!

    Reply
  9. Jena
    Jena says:

    Tie Dying is such an exciting and provoking thing to do, especially during school hours with friends. Today, we fifth graders at Wilder Elementary got to tie dye shirts during school. We learned secrets to tie dying which is confidential and can not be shared, but they are interesting and helpful. Did you know that there is a type of fabric that is pre-made for tie dying shirts? Well there is, and unfortunately, I can not tell anyone, or else I would. Also, in shirts, there are molecules that can be seen with a microscope only. When you tie dye, these will only allow the dye to last for 24 hours. That is another secret that is only known to us Wilder fifth graders that can not be shared, but it prevents the molecules to not allow the dye to soak in. We learned many interesting techniques on how to shape the patterns on your shirts, and how to prevent the molecules from not allowing the dyes to soak in. Too bad only we know these true secrets, but, it’s life!

    Jena

    Reply
  10. patrick
    patrick says:

    I am a fith grader here at Wilder and I made a tie-dye shirt today. The shirts that we tie-died were soaked in a sodium carbonate solution. This made the colors stay on better by opening up the fibers in the shirt. The sodium carbonate is a base similar to baking soda. Next, the real secret. Pee. Urea which is one of the main ingredients in urine (or as Steve would say, tinkle) makes the dye much brighter. We didn’t feel like releiving ourselves on the tee-shirts, so they were pre treated with a synthetic material similar to the real stuff. We then “tied” the shirts in different ways to create elaborate patterns. Soaking the tee-shirts in dye was a fun task, and we were fortunately wearing gloves. I am still waiting for my shirt to get out of it’s second time in the washing machine witth dish soap. The enjoyable “experement” was definetly worth it.

    Reply
  11. Ben
    Ben says:

    Today we did some tie dyeing in are class. This wasnt your normal summer camp tie dye.We did it the greatful dead way.We found out that the hippies acuely used urea or as us kids call (tinkle).It was very fun and we all enjoyed it.Myn turrend out great.Thanks Mr.Spangler and Mrs.Day it was really fun.

    Reply
  12. Briana
    Briana says:

    Today, in addition to doing all of our school work, we got a chance to learn how to tie-dye shirts, and it was so fun!!! Here are the secrets: Use a 100% cotton shirt, soak it in washing soda and use fiber reactive dyes. Thanks Mr. Spangler and Mrs. Day!

    Reply
  13. Dalton
    Dalton says:

    Hey, thanks Mr. Spangler for the fantastic tie-dye activity. It was tons of fun making my tie-dye T-shirt. I used every single color you provided on my shirt. Wow, I can’t wait until tomorrow to see all of the colorful T-shirts. Well, thanks again for the funfilled afternoon of tie-dyeing. Also, thank you Mrs. Day for helping us on the shirts. I really want to see how your apron came out Mrs. Day! So yeah, thanks for one of the best afternoons EVER!!!

    Reply
  14. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Hello blog readers, have any of you ever tye died? (Oh, excuse Mrs. Reinert, hello to you too! I hope you your not fuming about too many children forgetting this assignment.) Anyway, to everybody else, I was just talking to my teacher, and if you haven’t tried tie dyeing, try it, NOW. Steve Spangular just came to my school and taught us how to tie dye. There were a ton of ways you could fold your shirt to get different designs. I folded my shirt in half, twisted in two places, and curled up the sleeve like a twizzler. After soaking this ball of cotten and rubber band in varios colors of dye I expected it to turn out, (in my art teachers words) to be a “blackish, brownish, ickish” color. To my delighted suprise however, I just took it out of my loud, annoying washing machine to find it was a perfect rainbow,with a couple white spots. I think it looks professionaly done. Before even dyeing the shirts however, we had to learn the wonderful “secrets” of tie dyeing. 1. always use 100% cotton
    2. always soak shirts in sodium carbonate before hand
    3. always use fiber reactive dye
    4. always add lab made, uric acid(tinkle) to dye
    Have fun tie dyeing!
    Goodbye!

    Reply
  15. Junai
    Junai says:

    Today I had a phenomenal time Tie Dying t-shirts. I learned all about how to tie dye shirts. Here are the secrets to tie dying: Rule Number One,whenever you are tie-dying a shirt, you must use 100% cotton. Rule Number Two, your shirts will not be tie-dyed unless you use washing soda carbonate. Finally, to complete this, you must use fiber reactive dyes. So, all in all, today I learned all about the science of tie-dying and had an amazing time doing it!
    Science Rocks!! Thank you, Mr. Spangler & Mrs. Day!

    Reply
  16. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Hello Daniel speaking…hi today we tie dyed some shirts for ourselves and it sure did beat regular school math, science, S.S, Reading, and etc. But we learned some important secrets about tie dye. The first secret is you need a 100% cotton shirt or else it won’t look so great. the second secret is your shirt must be soaked in carbonate solution so some parts would be open to ink. the last thing is the urea.This is pretty much the stuff in pee in other words ” TINKLE.” But this is the ink. Well pretty much this day rocked because the amazing tie dye shirts sure was outstanding!!!

    Reply
  17. Elena
    Elena says:

    Today we as the top dogs in our school made colorful tie-dye shirts. This usually doesn’t happen so I must thank Mr.Spangler and Mrs.Day for this cool day. You need 100% cotton shirts (PFD or prepared for dye)and fiber reative dyes. Soak the shirt in washing soda. (Sodium carbonate) Then the teachers mixed the fiber reactive dyes with a fake urea substance. (tinkle) Now the dye becomes the colorful staining mix that you want for a t-shirt. All you need to do is fold it and dye the fabric.These are the Three most important secrets of Tie-dye. Good luck and good dying!

    Reply
  18. Baylie
    Baylie says:

    Today I learned about tie-dyeing! It was an amazing experience because I got to learn a few secrets that I’m not supposed to share. We learned that there are a lot of different designs that you can do. There’s the spiral [That’s what I did], the horizontal way, the mirror, and just whatever you want it to look like. This was one of the funnest projects I’ve done all year! I thank Mrs. Day and Mr. Spangler.

    Reply
  19. Gigi
    Gigi says:

    The fifth graders did some amazingly fun tie dying at Wilder Elementary today!Before we began Steve told us a few tips about tie dying. Did you know you must buy 100% cotton because polyester will stay completely white!It was kind of gross how the hippy’s used “tinkle” on their shirts.I just took a look at mine in the wash and it looks totally cool!Steve Spangler, Mrs.Day, and everybody else who helped made tie dying t-shirts a blast!

    Reply
  20. Emily
    Emily says:

    It was such a good experience to do tie dye and it was fun.I liked when we were doing it and putting the colors on and how they mixed. I learned that you have to use 100% cotton or the colors will fade and we learned about all of the patterns we can do. I never new there were so many patterns.I want to say a great big thank you to Mr.Spangler and Mrs.Day for helping us mix science and art.

    Reply
  21. logan
    logan says:

    Today we made tie dye shirts. We found out by Mr.Spangler that the hippies used urea or tinkle. I heard that if you know how to tie dye you can make lots of money. I tried to do a tie dye shirt at the summer camp I go to, but it did not turn out very well. This shirt turned out awesome. Thanks alot Mr.Spangler and Mrs.Day it was fun and cool.

    Reply
  22. logan
    logan says:

    Today we made tie dye shirts. We found out by Mr.Spangler that the hippies used urea or tinkle to make tie dye. I heard that if you know how to tie dye you can make lots of money. I tried to do a tie dye shirt at the summer camp I go to, but it did not turn out very well. This shirt turned out awesome. Thanks alot Mr.Spangler and Mrs.Day it was fun and cool.

    Reply
  23. tyler
    tyler says:

    yesterday I made amazing tie dye shirts. I learned that urea could open up the fibers bonding spot in your shirt so more dye would stay in the shirt. Steve Spangler made it really fun working with him and Ms.Day and my t-shirt turned out great which was really cool.

    Reply
  24. Blake D.
    Blake D. says:

    Dear Mr. Spangler,
    That day you helped us make tie dye shirts was totally awesome. My favorite part was when you called urea “twinkle.” my shirt turned out to be just like Jeff’s. But mine looked a lot cooler than his. Anyways my friends’ shirts were looking really creative. Hope to see you again sometime over the Summer.Have a good Summer.
    Thanks a lot,
    Blake Duff

    Reply

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