A long while back, I shared the how-to for dyeing synthetic materials with my faux fur rug project and it’s been on my list ever since to share how to dye non-synthetic / natural materials as well – like cotton, silk, even wood and paper. So, today’s the day.
After dyeing everything from napkins and cardstock to hankies and woven baskets, I’ve learned a whole lot of tricks (with a few mistakes along the way that I’ll never repeat again). So, today I’m sharing the basics, which I’ve strangely never actually shared. Click through to find out how to dye pretty much any natural fiber imaginable with this simple tutorial.
Before we get started, I wanted to mention, two things…
1) If you have a synthetic fabric, be sure to check out my other tutorial the definitive guide to dying synthetic materials. The post you’re reading right is for natural materials.
2) There are a handful of ways to dye natural fibers. But there’s only one method that I use because I find it’s the easiest (for me at least). So that’s the one I’m going to be talking about. It’s essentially tub dyeing, without the tub…I just use a giant 5-10 gallon plastic container (the kind that you’d usually use to store old clothes, etc in the back of your closet)…
- natural fiber fabric (cotton, wool, silk, etc)
- liquid fabric dye (I like Rit – I buy it on Amazon)
- 1 cup of salt (only if dyeing cotton)
- hot water (3 gallons)
- large container for dye bath
- spoon for stirring
- rubber gloves
Note: For 1 pound of dry fabric (somewhere around 3 yards), I use 1/2 bottle of Rit liquid dye and 3 gallons of water. You can also use one package of Rit powder with 3 galloons of water, but I usually use the liquid version (its a preference thing).
How to Dye Pretty Much Anything
1. Submerge fabric in a bowl of water (or run it underneath the sink) and wring out the excess. Set aside.
2. Next, put on gloves and pour liquid fabric dye (you can use powder as well, but the instructions may vary a tiny bit if using powder) into a container filled with 3 gallons of hot water. I usually just use the hottest tap water possible (but it can also be boiled, if your faucet water doesn’t get very hot).
3. If working with cotton, measure out 1 cup of salt and pour into the dye bath. Then, stir the dye bath thoroughly with a large spoon until dissolved. If working with a non-cotton natural material, skip this step.
4. Next, place the fabric into the dye bath, making sure it’s fully submerged and able to move around. And let it sit for 20-30 minutes (string every 5-10 minutes). The longer the fabric is in the dye, the deeper the color will be.
Note: If you’re planning to dip dye or shibori dye your fabric, skip step 5, follow these instructions instead: dip dye DIY and shibori dye DIY.
5. Slowly remove the fabric from the dye once you’ve reached the desired color. Color will look darker / richer when first removed than it will when washed and dried, so keep that in mind.
6. Then squeeze out any remaining water/dye from the fabric and wash out under running water in the sink (make sure the sink you use is non-porous – stainless steel sinks are great) until water runs clear.
7. Then run through the washer and dryer. And it’s ready to use.
Note: If you’re dyeing something other than fabric, skip step 7. Only fabrics need to be put in the washer and dryer.
That’s it. Not too bad, right? Dyeing projects are one of my favorite things to do, DIY-wise, because it’s basically an instant gratification scenario (and the process is quick and easy).
Have you dyed anything before? Fabric, wood, yarn, etc? Do you have any dyeing questions I can answer? Let me know in the comments below.
11 comments | Click here to reply
Hi . We have an art installation that requires us to paint or dye olives. these are unripened large olives that are very hard. dipping into an enamel paint is one option, but I was trying to find anything about dyeing and came across your site. any ideas? thanks.sandrin
Hi Karen. I don’t have any experience with this personally, but my first thought when dyeing a couch by painting the dye on like that would be that you’re probably going to need a sealant so the dye doesn’t get on your clothes and skin while sitting on it, etc. Other than that, it would work just as you describe to change the color of the couch BUT since I’ve never done it myself, my only concern is the dye coming off on the people who sit on it. Try a sealant on that part of the pillow that you tested the dye and see how that works.Brittni
I want to change the color of my couch – Iv seen a lot of videos with them using chalk paint and diluting it to the point of water – it leaves it very hard and not soft – I tried using Rit on one of the pillows, just painted it on like I would the chalk paint and so far it appears to work great – so obviously Im not doin the same steps – no soaking, no washing just painting it on and letting it dry.Karen DeFelice
Does anyone have any experience with this – before I dive into an entire couch, is there anything I should be aware of?
I haven’t ever dyed polyamide, so I can’t speak from experience on that particular fabric. But in theory, the Rit Dye made specifically for synthetic materials should work. If you’re planning to throw it away anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to try. Wishing you the best Robert.Brittni
I have tried to dye a Rohan outdoor wind proof jacket which is made 100% Polyamide using Dylon but it did not work,it only left a few spots of the colour.I have even tried to bleach out the original colour ,that made it worse leaving a few bleached patches.Can this material be dyed? I don’t want to throw away a very good jacket.Can you help please? R GardnerRobert Gardner
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Glad to hear that Michelle. It’s really fun and insanely easy.Brittni
This really makes me look around for things I can dye, thanks for the tips!Michelle
That’s funny Caroline – I went through a type dyeing phase in college too…Though I stick to more minimal dyeing projects now. 🙂Brittni
I went through a huge tye dying everything phase in college… i like the idea of dying wood though!caroline
x0x0 Caro http://thecarolove.com/