Polo shirts are one of the easiest ways to introduce some more structure to a casual wardrobe, and some more casualness to a structured wardrobe. It is the perfect in-between piece.
However, when looking on the internet for information about dyeing them, I was left disappointed. Therefore in this guide, I am going to be breaking down the dyeing process of polo shirts so that even beginners can take part in the process.
Dyeing a polo shirt is extremely easy. It doesn’t really require a lot of time or money and can be done at home with ease. So without further ado, let’s start.
How to Dye a Polo Shirt?
I have tried to keep beginners in mind during the explanation of each step so that you don’t have any problem following them. Also, don’t skip any of these as that can lead to unexpected results.
Follow these steps to successfully change the color of your polo shirt:
1. Get a Fiber-Reactive Dye
There are a lot of different dyes in the market, and all of them work on different types of fabrics. Because polo shirts are usually made from plant-based fabrics, we’re going to be needing a fiber-reactive dye.
These dyes can be found at big box stores, your local craft stores, and as always, Amazon. One packet is going to be more than enough for a polo shirt.
- Includes 8 different colors.
- Can be used on all types of polo shirts.
- Color does not bleed after a wash.
Preferably, you’ll want to get a dye that has soda ash as one of its ingredients. This will help in increasing the longevity of the final color. Also, avoid any all-purpose dyes (such as Rit dye), because they tend to come off after a few washes.
2. Prepare the Dye Bath
Find a plastic container that is big enough for you to submerge the polo shirt. Old buckets work great for this purpose.
Fill it up with roughly one gallon of water, and add the fiber-reactive dye to the mix. As to how much dye you need to add, that is going to be different for different brands. Most dyes will have such helpful information at the back of their packaging.
Most brands will talk in terms of weight, so you would need to weigh your polo shirt. If you don’t have a weighing machine, you can guesstimate the weight of your polo. It’s not rocket science.
3. Add Non-Iodized Salt to the Mix
The preparation of the dye bath isn’t completer yet – it’s time to add some non-iodized salt to the mix. This salt is going to act as mordant (basically a way to speed up the dyeing process).
As to how much salt you need – Add half a cup of salt per pound of fabric you’re dyeing. So if your polo shirt weighs half a pound, then you need to add one-fourth cup of salt.
Sadly, unless what some people on the internet say, you cannot use table salt for this process. But non-iodized salt is extremely cheap and is available at most grocery stores, so procuring it shouldn’t be a problem.
4. Wash the Polo in hot water and Submerge it
Before you submerge your polo shirt in the dye bath, it is essential to clean it properly. This will help in making sure that there are no stains or weird marks on the shirt when it acquires its new color.
Besides, washing cotton in hot water increases its ability to change its colors, which will result in the end garment having a richer color.
Pay special attention to the collars as they have a natural tendency to curl.
Once your polo is out of the washing machine, submerge it in the dye bath before it gets dry. Stir for 30-45 minutes, and make sure that it completely soaks up the color of the dye. And of course, wear gloves to avoid coming in contact with the chemicals in the dye. Use a small stick to do the stirring and the poking.
5. Extract the Excess Dye
Take out your polo shirt from the dye bath and place it under running water so that the extra dye can be washed off.
Make sure that the shirt has been colored along its entire surface. One important area to check is underneath the collars as that can sometimes be sealed off from the dye.
Wash the polo shirt in warm water in a washing machine. Avoid putting any other garment in the wash as the new color may bleed a bit just this once. Hang dry the shirt on a clothesline, and do a final inspection.
Your polo shirt should now be in a completely new color.
Can your Polo Shirts be Dyed?
Most polo shirts in the market can be dyed using a fiber-reactive dye, but still, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
The first thing that you need to do is to check the composition of the polo. Polo shirts are made from a variety of different fabrics such as polyester, cotton, pique, and more.
Every shirt would have a care label on the inside that would tell you the exact mix of materials that are being used. For example, a shirt can be 60% cotton and 40% polyester.
Only polo shirts in which the primary material is cotton can be dyed. That is, all polo shirts that have at least 50% cotton fibers can be dyed.
Synthetic colors can often become very difficult to dye, because of the complexities in dealing with such a fine fabric.
Therefore, I would only recommend that you go ahead with the dyeing process if your polos are made from a natural fiber such as cotton.
How to Tie-Dye a Polo Shirt?
If you want to tie-dye your polo shirt, you just need one additional step in the above process. Before you submerge your shirt in the dye bath, tie it with rubber bands.
Do this step after washing your polo shirt in hot water, as we still want the shirt to be as clean as possible. The portions where the rubber band rests are going to retain their original color, which is going to give that distinctive tie-dye look to your garment.
If your polo shirt has a logo, cover it in wax to prevent it from being dyed. Washable glue also works great with fiber-reactive dye, and it can be easier to work with.
For a bigger logo, you can go for traditional batik wax. It’s usually 60%/40% beeswax and paraffin, and it is traditionally removed by boiling.
Dyeing polo shirts does not have to be an extremely difficult task. Just follow this step-by-step process for a completely brand-new looking polo shirt:
- Get a fiber reactive dye.
- Prepare the dye bath.
- Add non-iodized salt to the mix.
- Wash the polo in hot water and submerge it.
- Extract the excess dye.
My name is Alex Higson and I am the founder of Magic Of Clothes. I have worked in the fashion industry for many years, and clothes and style are a huge part of my life.