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March 8, 2011
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How To Dye Spandex-In Cooler by TifaIA How To Dye Spandex-In Cooler by TifaIA
4/2/13 Update:

Additional dye works. Some of these involve a higher concentration of lycra/spandex to cloth ratio, so these required both fabric dye and paint:

Purple leotard and gloves for Aria: [link]
Fleshy skin-tone for Lady Lilith: [link]
Basically everything green for Rydia: [link]
2-tone purple hat and leotard for NiGHTS: [link]

11/29/11 Update:

A few images from my gallery of where I dyed spandex so you can see the wide array of possibilities:

Everything blue for Darth Simi: [link]
The green and red in this photo of Saki Omokane: [link]
The skin tone, lavender, and black were dyed for Cloud of Darkness: [link]

Remember to always test a swatch first for desired effect!

Detailed Steps:

First how-to guide! Apologies for the crappy lighting. The bathroom was not made for fancy. I had a few people message me after seeing my journal entry, so here we go!

I’d recommend using white spandex as your starting color. I’ve been dyeing for at least 10 years and have gone through a myriad of fabric types. Cotton, spandex, suede, leather, pleather, vinyl. You name it. This particular layout is intended for fabrics that have at least 8% spandex, but no more then 40%.

Note: This method can be used for polyester blends as well since the focus is on keeping the water hot so color fuses to the fibers.

Spandex takes time to dye. Most websites will recommend you use fabric paint, not dye, and paint the spandex. However, it can be difficult to achieve an even color doing this. Because it’s a synthetic fiber, spandex needs heat to fuse the dye to the fabric. The reason that I like this method? Clean up is incredibly easy (damp paper towel and wipe out the cooler. No stains!), more control over your color, easier gradient dyeing, and consistent heat (compared to a sink/bathtub/washer).

1. I like to add in more water then indicated on the fabric dye packages. I know. Bad me. But they ask that the fabric be able to move freely in the water, and I’m usually dyeing 2-3 yards at a time. You can’t move 3 yards of fabric in 4 cups of water. Thus, the cooler gets filled about halfway. It’s still possible to obtain the shade on the box of dye with more water. It just takes a little bit longer. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can’t put your hands in (no issues with stained hands so far due to the excess H2O).

2. Adding salt, 5 tablespoons, helps reduce the fabric’s tendency to resist the dye. Science time! The fabric and the dye have negatively charged electrons and, as such, they will repel each other. Salt helps to reduce the electronegativity and allows the dye and fabric to form a chemical bond. Stir salt in the water until dissolved. After the salt, add the dye and stir until dissolved.

3. Add in your fabric and stir for about 15 minutes. Dylon and Jacquard will dye about a 1/2 pound of fabric per package. If you are dying more then that, your color will turn out lighter then the shade on the package. To compensate, keep the fabric in longer. For this tutorial I used Jacquards China Blue color for about 2.5 yards of fabric. It ended up taking about 3 hours to dye to the color on the package.

4. After the initial 15 minutes of stirring, close the cooler and let it sit for about 45 minutes. Make sure the fabric is completely submerged in the water before you close the cooler. Come back, check on the fabric, and stir it for a few minutes. Close it and do an hourly check/stir. Allow the fabric to get at least a shade darker then your intended outcome. The darker you want your fabric to be, the longer it’ll take. Lighter shades can take about 1-2 hours. Darker shades 3-5 hours.

5. Rinse the fabric with cool water. Continue rinsing until the water runs clear. This can be done in a sink in a few minutes without any stains. You would do this step with almost every type of fabric dyeing to ensure that the color has fused to the fabric. This can cause your fabric to go lighter because you’re removing excess dye. That’s why you should make it a littler darker in the initial dye, or it’ll be too light when you’re rinsing it out.

6. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can before you hang your fabric up to dry. I hung mine on hangers in a well-ventilated bathroom that has a fan. I’d strongly recommend covering your floor with layers and layers of newspaper, or paper towels, or even paper bags from the grocery store. Spandex likes to hold water, so it’ll drip, even after you wring it out. Depending upon how much fabric you have dyed, drying can take a couple of hours.

My result was the color as indicated on the package. While this takes longer then the stove-top method, I find this is a great alternative with little to no worry about staining your home. ^^ Next time I do this, I’ll take better pictures. Thanks for reading! Constructive feedback appreciated.
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yusukeslovr Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013
What if you merely wanted to darken a color?  I need spandex to make boot cover/thigh highs but can only find hot pink and red when I need a dark pink/magenta color.  Reference:…
TifaIA Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Sorry for the late response! But the concept will work. I've done this before on to help darken colors. I've taken mint green spandex and dyed it to emerald green. Just take your time, test your swatches to make sure you get the right color combo. and go! :D
yusukeslovr Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2013
Ok, thanks!
Glittapop Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have a couple of questons c: 
1. would this work on something like knitorama? 
2. can you dye it with patterns? and if so, do you just tape off the parts that you don't want dyed or how would you go about that?? (i'm wanting to remake korra's water tribe armband)

interesting tutorial by the way, this will most likely come in handy in the future C:
TifaIA Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
So sorry for the late response! The real world has been keeping me busy.

1.) I think it could work for knitorama, but personally that would be something I would play around with on a few test pieces and determine what you like. I'd almost would rather try it with Dye-Na-Flow and paint on the dye for alternate colors.

2.) You can dye with patterns. You'll want to use a Resist in that case.… Batik wax would be your best bet in that situation. Basically you heat up the wax and pour it onto the portions of the fabric you don't want to be dyed. Let it settle and then dye it. When you're done and everything is dried, you can peel off the wax without damage to your fabric. If the wax doesn't easily come off, throw your fabric into the freezer for a few hours and you can peel/chip off the wax at that point. The Batik wax is best for this type of dye method.
Glittapop Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's totally all right! 

Okay C: Thank you very much!! <3 
DarkSweets Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013
Hey, what if I needed to darken the color of a zentai suit? I bought an orange zentai suit online, but it's brighter than I want it to be. I need it to be more of a burnt orange. Help? >.<
TifaIA Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You can use the same method for a suit that already has color in it. If you have the ability, do a test swatch or a spot that will be hidden on the suit to make sure you have the dye at the right color. Dylon does carry Red and Orange.
liahmusiclover4 Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2013
I've heard that using heat on spandex is very bad. I need to dye a bathing suit bottom to match the top but I don't want the color to come out when I go swimming. Would this still work?
pinkyvette Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
hi Liah,

Were you able to find a method that worked for you? I have the same problem. And i love that bikini T_T
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