Dying clothing can be intimidating but trust me it’s really simple. It’s a little messy but it’s completely doable and can transform an old piece of clothing to something you’ll want to wear again.
Fabrics that dye well are:
- 100% cotton, linen, silk, wool, ramie
- Synthetics such as rayon and nylon
- Fiber blends with at least 60% cotton or other dyeable fiber
Fabrics that will dye but not get the full true color:
- Nylon-based plastic such as those found in buttons, fasteners, golf balls & lacrosse sticks
- Natural materials such as wood, wicker, paper, feathers and cork
Fabrics that should not be dyed with store bought dye:
- 100% polyester, acrylic, acetate, fiberglass, spandex and metallic fibers
- Fabrics with rubber backing (bath mats or throw rugs)
- Fabrics with special finishes such as water repellents
- Fabrics with bleach damage or extensive staining
- Fabrics washable only in cold water or labeled “dry clean only”
- Polyethylene plastics such as golf discs
- Polycarbonate plastics such as eyeglass frames
I learned the hard way because I wanted to dye a dress I got for my sister’s wedding from white to navy. White is the best canvas to use because it’s so pure. I’ve dyed a bridesmaid dress from white to pink before and thought this would be the same easy procedure. Most dye’s can be used for a few yards of fabric so I thought I might as well dye some other clothing that could use a color makeover. My dress was white but the other clothing had color. As I immersed all the fabric in the sink, I noticed that all the tops immediately took to color but the dress did not. After about 10 minuets, I was happy with the dye on the tops but not the dress. I kept it in the bath for as long as the water was not but all it achieved was a grey color. It was then that I read the label saying that polyester does not dye with commercial dye because it’s synthetic. You have to find special disperse dye, which was too hard to find online that will actually dye polyester and in the color you want. This is also why they suggest doing a swatch dye first but I always skip that part. Besides I got the dress at Ross for $11 and got the dye half off at Micheal’s for $2. It was worth the experience to know what NOT to do now.
I did read online on ways to make polyester take to commercial dye that involved hydrogen peroxide but it just became a HUGE mess that left my hands black and blue. Maybe I did it wrong but it was not worth the process. But if you dye using the fabrics mentioned above, you will have a very easy and satisfied result.
- Fill sink or bucket with enough hot water for fabric to move freely. Remember: Use 1 package of Rit powder or 1/2 bottle of Rit liquid dye and 3 gallons of hot water for each pound of fabric. Pre-dissolve powder in 2 cups of hot water. Add pre-dissolved powder or liquid to dye bath. Stir to mix.
- When dyeing 1 pound of dry fabric in dark or bright colors such as Black, Dark Brown, Cocoa Brown, Navy, Purple, Wine, and Dark Green, use double the amount of dye (2 packages of Rit powder or 1 bottle of Rit liquid) in 3 gallons of water.
- For more intense color when dyeing fabrics containing cotton, rayon, ramie, or linen, add 1 cup salt to the dyebath. When dyeing nylon, silk and wool, add 1 cup white vinegar to the dyebath. If possible delay adding the salt or vinegar until 5 minutes after the fabric has been in the dye bath. The delay will help to promote level dyeing.
- Add 1 Tablespoon laundry detergent to all dye baths to help promote level dyeing.
- For the deepest color, use a water temperature of 140ºF/60ºC. Note: If tap water is not hot enough, heat water in a tea kettle or in the microwave.
- Wet fabric in hot water. Uncrumple and add to dye bath.
- Stir constantly (back and forth, up and down) for 10 to 30 minutes. The longer the garment is immersed in the dye bath, the deeper the resulting color. Items can remain in the dye bath up to 1 hour as long as the water remains hot. You’ll also have to make sure the item receives constant agitation or stirring.
- Garments will also look darker when wet and prior to washing.
- Rinse in warm water, then gradually cooler water until water runs clear. Wash item in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly in cool water.
- Wash your fabric/clothes in warm water with mild detergent and then rinse thoroughly in cool water. Machine dry or hang dry.
- Clean sink or bucket immediately with chlorine bleach or scrub with chlorine-based powder, liquid, or gel cleanser.