Chemistry students get groovy with tie dye


A chemistry student soaks her t-shirt in chemical fixer so that the die sets in.


Tie Dying is a practice that has been embraced ever since the hippy era in the 1960’s, but for Heritage High school chemists it is also a very hands-on way to learn a few concepts.

“We’ve been doing the tie dye lab in the Science department for several years. It is the most expensive lab the department conducts but it’s a great way to end the year with a little creativity, and it also reminds students that chemistry is at work all the time,” says chemistry teacher Corey Brueckner.

Students pre-soak clothing in Soda Ash fixer solution which allows the fiber reactive dyes to work at room temperature. These fiber reactive dyes attach to the cellulose fibers in white cotton using a covalent (electron sharing) bond. The molecules in the die carry “chromophore” which allows for the fabric to absorb and reflect varying spectra of light.

“I thought tie dying was the best practical lab we’ve done all year because it reminded me that even simple activities like dying clothes take complex chemical reactions,” says Lexi Fischel ’17.

Students are allowed a lot of creative freedom, as they can dye any fabric that will take the colors and can choose from any color combination

“I’ve seen people die all sorts of things, from socks to white comforters. It’s always fun to see how creative people can get with it,” says Brueckner.

Another student ties rubber bands around her t-shirt to create a pattern.

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