Celebrate Baby—Spring dye bath: the good, the bad, and some tips

by Dana on March 21, 2012

I’m pretty simple when it comes to newborn clothes and stick with onesies, gowns, and leggings for the first couple months. All things that are comfy.
So dyeing bodysuits is a good way to throw style in the mix.
I’ve shared a couple tutorials before about dyeing fabric and dyeing elastic. And last fall I dyed a slew of onesies for baby shower gifts. This time around I went with bright colors for Clara.
Yipee! Lemon yellow!
Of course when Clara wore it to church on Sunday (with a little skirt) two old men asked how old my baby boy was. Eh. People often asked if baby Lucy was a boy or girl, and she was wearing pink with butterflies. Fashion over…gender?
So, here’s what I did….and shouldn’t have done.
I followed the same steps used in the tutorial above.
Mixing, dunking, stirring, rinsing, washing, drying, etc.
And ended up with some beautiful shades.
But it’s always experimental. Not everything turns out as I hoped, some fabrics are splotchy, sometimes I make dumb mistakes. The adventure is always fun though.

These two turned out great.
(RIT liquid dye in colors Lemon Yellow and Purple):
These two turned out the worst.
They were both dunked in RIT Liquid dye, Aquamarine. The onesie on the right went in first and I have a feeling the dye wasn’t mixed very well with the water. There are huge color splotches all over the neck and cuffs. The fabric on the left went in second and stayed in the dye for a very short period of time and looked beautiful (see above photo of wet fabric). But….then I washed it with the purple onesie above.
Um, dumb.
The color totally changed.
Lesson learned.

These two turned out okay.
They have some slight splotching here and there, due to the onesies themselves. These were both old worn-out bodysuits and had slight pilling on the surface and a few milk stains. So the dye gravitated to those areas, resulting in splotches.  Additionally, when using new onesies make sure you wash them once before dyeing to remove any “sizing” from the fabric which is a slight starch sometimes found on commercial clothing and fabric.

Of course bits of splotching + cute baby can still = successful project.
She’ll get good use out of them.
(note on the blanket: sorry no pattern link for it.  I picked it up at a thrift store and wish I had better info to share!)
So in summary….

TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL DYEING:
• Make sure the dye is mixed well with the water (just like making jello)
• Use a large bowl so the fabric can swim freely. In the photos above I used small plastic containers since I was only dyeing one item per color. But the containers were too small. The fabric was too bunched up inside.
• Use the hottest water from your sink. A large bowl is helpful with this too since a large quantity of water will stay warm for longer (rather than the small containers I used above).
• Make sure your fabric is thoroughly wet and saturated with normal water before dunking it in the dye bath.
• Only rinse and wash fabric with fabrics of the same color for the first few cycles. After a few washings you should be able to wash the dyed items with other clothing as well.
• When using old fabric and onesies, old stains may dye differently than the rest of the fabric. But hey, might as well give them a shot. Throw them in the dye bath and see what happens!
• When using new onesies/clothing, wash them first before dyeing to remove any “sizing” from the fabric which is a slight starch sometimes found on commercial clothing and fabric.

And that’s about it.
Please feel free to leave your own tips in the comments!
Happy dyeing.

Check out the Celebrate BABY archives HERE.

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{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pippa @ Beads and Barnacles March 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

What a lovely selection of colours.
I have a box of dye just sitting here that I keep on threatening to use, you might just have given me the kick I needed to actually try it out. :D
Thank you . x

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2 Kerri March 21, 2012 at 11:20 am

I used to do a tie dye day with my students when I was teaching, and I learned that the hotter the water is the darker the color is. Rinse each item several times starting with hot water (each item sepeartely) until the water runs clear. Then group the itmes in a sink of warm water rinse until water is clear, and again with cold water. You can then wash all of the itmes together is cool water, and they won’t stain the other items.

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3 Erica @ goulash.etsy.com March 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

I wonder if letting the items air-dry, then tossing them in the dryer on high heat would help to set the color, eliminating some of fading risk.

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4 sharon March 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

Cute colors!! If you use 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup white vinegar the first wash, it will set the colors so they won’t fade or bleed during follow up washes. You can do this with red shirts, and new jeans as well. I usually dye several things (usually onsies) the same color and then wash each color on an extra small load by themselves for the first wash. Cute baby BTW :)

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5 Karen Close July 27, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Thanks for the tip! Do you mix the salt and vinager in with laundry detergent, or ‘wash’ in salt and vinegar only for the first wash? thanks :-)

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6 Bailey March 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

I’m in love with the gorgeous green blankie that your little one is lying on – did you make it, buy it, receive it as a gift? The color and stitch is phenomenal.

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7 Denise March 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Thank you for this post! I could have used it yesterday haha :) I tried dying onesies for the first time yesterday and now thanks to your post I know where I went wrong!

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8 Tammy March 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I’ve tried dying things in the past without much luck. They always look great at first, but after two or three times of wearing and washing they fade so much. It seems like a lot of trouble to dye things when you only get to wear it twice before it’s ruined. Do you have any tips on how to prevent fading?

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9 romney March 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm

When the colour starts to fade I tend to re-dye those items in with a new batch. I do my dying in the washing machine, so am often casting around for things to make up a full load.

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10 romney March 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Oh, and I go for the darkest and most vibrant colours in the first place (unless its something I won’t be washing much) so that the fading doesn’t matter so much and I get more value out of the dye. Can always dilute it if I want a pale colour.

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11 Paddy May 20, 2012 at 7:40 am

I hope you show a picture of you weraing it because I don’t think it quite shows what it looks like . How did you ruin it? Aren’t silk dresses supposed to be washed by hand? It looks like it has spots from fruit or something.

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12 Shelley March 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm

What about a soda bath? i always had to do that with tye dying, is it not necassary with the RIT brand dye?

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13 Jackie March 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Clara looks adorable in purple. Dyeing can be easy and great or difficult and frustrating. Eventually you get what you want and the end product is great. Lemon yellow is a great spring color.

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14 Natalie March 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Where can you buy Rit fabric dye? Does walmart carry it?

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15 Susan April 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

I just got some RIT Dye at WalMart the other day and then yesterday I saw even more color options at Michaels.

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16 Katie March 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I love the colors. I was also wondering about the blanket in the picture. If you made it I would love to know the pattern you used.

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17 Dana March 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I actually found the blanket at a thrift store. So I don’t have any knitting info to share. Sorry!! I really wish I did cause I’d love to make another too :)

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18 Dakota March 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Awwwww now I want to dye my 1yo daughters onsies… After buying a pack of white ones. Shes a shrimp.

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19 amy @ www.brooksboutique.com March 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm

How cute! I am going out for more onesies today! Thanks for the idea! :)

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20 Ruby March 21, 2012 at 1:45 pm

The last time you posted about dying onesies you inspired this post: http://zaaberry.blogspot.com/2011/10/something-ive-been-dyeing-to-try.html

I used Dylon dye and had pretty good luck. I found that different brands of onesies dyed differently and adding salt (not sure you do that with RIT dye) and a lot of mixing were key

I love the purple!

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21 Missy March 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Oh my, dying onsies – makes me want another little one so bad! Reading this post takes me back. When I was still pregnant with my little one, our best friends had a little boy. He ended up with thrush and the medicine was purple. I remember the couple telling me (they live 2000 miles away!) about how Everything was purple due to the medicine. I dyed a bunch of onsies purple tie dye as a joke and sent them but they were so appreciative of the gift too!! My niece just had a baby – thinking I may have to dye some for her now. Thanks for the trip down memory lane:)

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22 Lori-Vancouver Airbnb Superhost March 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Just in time for Spring!

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23 bdaiss March 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Hey, don’t you know that “washed” look (and tye dye) is back in? So splotches = cool. : ) I love doing this for my kids t-shirts too. Buy a 5 pack of plain white on sale and turn them into fun colors.

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24 celine March 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Your post could not come at a better time! I just bought some Rite dye bc they were on the clearance table at my local grocery store… Once I got home and unloaded the groceries I started asking myself if I just jumped on something that now scares me to handle! Well! after your post, NO more fears or regrets! I can’t wait to get to it!!!! Thank you for sharing!!! : )

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25 Allison March 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I’ve never tried dying. I just might have to do it. Your baby is ridiculously cute! :)

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26 Lindsey March 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I’ve been using Shout brand ‘Color Catchers’ in all my bright colors loads of laundry. I don’t know how they would work on dyed fabrics, but supposadly these sheets of wonder remove dye from your water as clothing washes. I use them all the time and have found I can wash reds with other lighter colors without worry. When the sheet comes out pink at the end you realize how much residual dye is in almost every batch of laundry. They work for me!

That lemon yellow onesie is to die for.

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27 Shanda March 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm

So cute, but I want to know about the knitted blanket too. Everyone around me is having babies at the moment and something with that much garter stitch would be lovely to make.

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28 Toni March 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I just did this last weekend, but wasn’t really giving it my full effort since everything I dyed was “retire-able” anyway. There were really good results from the Dylon powder, and adding salt to the RIT, but most of mine turned out splotchy too. I just kept telling my husband that was the new “style”. ; D

http://sugartartcrafts.blogspot.com/2012/03/dyed-onesies-are-better-than-eggs.html

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29 Andrea March 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm

I was going to come ask if you’ve tried with dylon (found at joann’s). That’s what I use to dye all my prefold diapers (My go-to baby shower gift).

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30 Anna March 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I was so relieved to see this post. Inspired by your last tutorial on dying I dyed some things using turquoise Dylon dye. It also came out all blotchy, I was a bit discouraged. I recently tried again with red Rit dye and had no problems at all, perhaps turquoise is just a tricky colour to use? I’ve seen a lot of tie dyed clothes around at the moment that are two shades of the same, you could do that with the older onesies that went blotchy, tie them up and put them back in the original colour.

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31 spunkycutechicknits March 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Im not sure if anyone posted this but you can buy the RIT color REMOVAL and it will take the color out of most anything. So if what you dyed gets messed up. You can remove the color and try again.

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32 Esther March 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I dyed a batch of flat terry nappies last week using the Dylon machine dye, came out beautiful and even… shame that the machine dyes only come in limited colours because the results are great.

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33 Lorajean March 21, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I love simple baby clothes also! I hate dressing babies like little adults anyway, babies grow up way to fast and should dress like babies for as long as possible. my two year old still prefers wearing pj’s all day and I love it!

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34 Clover@farrbetterlife March 22, 2012 at 12:06 am

I have a bad habit of buying my kids white tshirts. I have been wanting to try dyeing them for a while. Thanks for posting so I can motivate and give it a try!

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35 Ruth March 22, 2012 at 9:45 am

you can also set dyes by microwaving (for a short time–1 minute or so) the dyed wet article of clothing. i read this on a tie dye manufacturer’s website.

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36 Katie March 22, 2012 at 10:13 am

I love how these ones turned out! Haha, though I admit I feel a little better knowing that you end up with splotches sometimes too since my first attempt (which you’ve seen first-hand) were splotch-city. Good thing cute babies can pull off anything when it comes to style. :)

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37 Michelle March 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I love this idea! Can’t wait to try it on some of Abe’s stained shirts. Thanks for the tips. :-)

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38 Laura March 23, 2012 at 8:00 am

Just thought you should know, i really love your blog. thanks for all the great info. and i’m really excited about celebrate baby… i counted 25 friends/family members that are currently having a baby (or in some cases, babies)!
laura

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39 Melanie March 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I’m sorry, it’s driving me crazy, but you’ve spelt dying wrong all over you blog. :/

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40 Sara March 25, 2012 at 9:59 am
41 Emilie March 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

Thanks for this! I am about to tie-dye my ENTIRE SCHOOL’S t-shirts for field day. We’re using RIT dye, and I’ve never used it before, I usually buy a kit.

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42 Katherine March 25, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Thanks for the tips! I use Procion Dyes, and they make great, permanent colors with no blotching. They are much more labor intensive though, but well worth it! Look Here

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43 kristen duke photography March 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

i love those colorful onesies! My mom uses the Rit dye a lot, but I’ve never actually done it.

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44 Jenni March 27, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Can you re-dye the onesie it if it doesn’t turn out exactly like you were hoping the first time?

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45 Dana March 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm

You can try dyeing it another color or put in a similar color again. Someone recommended the RIT dye remover that you can buy (in the same area as the colored dyes) but I’ve never tried it so I’m not sure how well it actually works.

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46 Kate March 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Just FYI. I ruined a whole batch of tie dyed onesies before I found out about Shout color catching sheets. They work Really well for keeping home dyed clothing from wreaking each other!

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47 Dena April 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Hi Dana,
When I make happy little dyeing “mistakes”, I tie-dye or “blotch” the project piece with a little diluted bleach. Works great because it looks like it’s SUPPOSED to be that way. That’s what we did back in the 70′s when we tie-dyed everything… Mistakes? There are no mistakes in tie-dyeing…………….

I love your blog!

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48 Dena April 2, 2012 at 12:04 am

One more thing! When I am dyeing/tie-dyeing for my baby granddaughter, I always tie-dye a white bib with the same dye color. She always has a matching bib for each onesie/outfit.

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49 dangerouscraftsforgirls April 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I tend to embrace variable colors on a garment, probably due to the first experiences I had dyeing in a VERY low-immersion dye technique. Especially with blues, it’s fun to go for a sky blue and then squirt some dye directly onto parts of the garment, giving a neat cloud-and-sky effect.

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50 slkrtr April 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I can’t wait to try this! There are so many fun colors besides the standard baby pastels! And I was just thinking this morning that all newborn clothes should be mustard yellow. I’m tired of poop stains…

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51 TracyKM April 27, 2012 at 9:45 am

When washing the item before dyeing, do not use fabric softener, or detergents with “brighteners”.
Always check the fabric content! For each item! Sometimes two items will look identical, made by the same company, etc, but yet the fiber content can still be different.
I don’t use RIT for cotton; there’s too much waste as it’s a “general purpose” dye. For fabulous colour selection (and I think even better pricing), try Procion MX dyes. You do need to use soda ash (the cheapest and easiest option is pH Up for pools (I’d double check that it’s the Up one and not the down one), but it’s still really easy.

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52 Marisa June 4, 2012 at 1:03 am

I was wondering where you found the aquamarine color?? Michaels and Joann’s only have the teal where I live :(

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53 Yellow1 October 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Marisa, the aquamarine is available at Amazon or Ebay!

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54 Steph July 31, 2012 at 10:55 pm

If you are using used, or stained fabric, this a good opportunity to practice your tye-dying skills. You will already have the dye made up. The irregular dye spots will meld right into the tye-dye !

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55 Alicia Kemp September 11, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I have white carpets in my bathroom that are a dingy white. Do you think they would dye well? I want to do a dark chocolate brown.

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56 Lindsay September 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for the post! The onesies are especially cute- and I love the colors! I used RIT dye to make some girly onesies for a baby shower I just went to. Thanks again!

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57 Mona September 26, 2012 at 7:53 am

Can I use this liquid dye for the batik project you have on your website? City scape pillows?

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58 Pamela Gayle September 27, 2012 at 12:15 am

when wetting the fabric before the dip, add some Borax to the water. It seems to make the colors brighter and last longer. A tip from a friend who was wearing a beautiful tye-dye she made.

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59 Tanya Mize October 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

RIT is notorious for bleeding. Dylon or Dharma Trading are much better brands.

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60 Stephanie November 23, 2012 at 1:28 am

Believe it or not. I stained our maple cabinets with this dye. Turned out beautiful

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61 Morgan December 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I dyed a plain white crib sheet to match my son’s lime green trim in this crib bedding. I did not want to pay $25 for the matching crib sheet and had 2 white ones as spares. Worked perfectly!

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62 Maddie December 27, 2012 at 7:59 am

Do the colors run in the wash after their first wash? Very Cute!!

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63 Teresa January 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Thanks for the tips! Its always nice to avoid some of the trials & errors:)
Excited to change up some boring white onesies!

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64 Morgan February 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

After onsie is dyed, wash in the the washer with vinegar. helps set the color to prevent future fading and can be washed with other colors quicker.

First cycle, vinegar only. Then rewash with detergent.

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65 lauren March 24, 2013 at 12:06 am

One thing I’ve learned about washing clothes with lots of dyes still in them is to add a bit of salt into the water, about a tsp and it will help the dye from running :)

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66 Karen July 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm

how do you keep the gerber tag that’s white on the outside near the snaps white?

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67 Dana July 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

The tag doesn’t dye because it’s made of polyester, while the onesie is made of cotton. If I was using a professional grade dye for various types of fabric, it would probably change color.
But kind of fun that it stays white!

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68 barnlady August 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Have you tried doing the Ambre, dark bottom and just slowly lighter up the fabric/onesie?

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69 Alex October 7, 2013 at 9:19 am

RIT is not a good choice for dyeing baby items because the dye comes off in baby’s mouth if s/he sucks on it, as babies tend to do. Something like Dylon is a better choice.

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70 Lindsey Peterson March 5, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Were there any problems of the dye running after a blowout and getting on baby’s skin?

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71 Heidi August 5, 2014 at 2:03 am

Rit dye is not safe for little ones! It doses not bind right and can leach out. Dharma, dylon, and rollup dyes are all safe for baby things!

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