Learn how to dye fabrics at home (tie-dye and regular dye), and how to avoid the most common mistakes!

Have you ever been out shopping looking at a clothing piece, maybe on a sale, thinking “if only the color was different”?. Well, there’s something you can do about that. 
how to dye fabric at home successfully, dye clothes at home

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How to dye fabric at home: Maybe your black pants aren’t really black anymore, or maybe your favorite t-shirt has some spots – but you love it too much to get rid of it. Or maybe you want your bed linen to be in a specific color, but you can’t find it in any store. 

I’ve got one word: dye

Learn how to dye fabrics at home:

Dying fabric is an easy process, although there are some potential fails you need to know about to avoid them.  

Today I’m going to dye these mixed shades into a darker shade, simply because they need a change.

fabric dye before after

For this dying, I used nitor textile color in the shade ‘deep black’. I’ve also tried a pink shade from nitor before. It was alright, but I prefer this fabric dye from Dylon, because I think dylons colors are more predictable, it’s also cheaper, and they have a lot more shades to choose from. An extra plus with the dylon colors is that the color box contains all you need, compared to the other brands I’ve tried where I had to buy additional stuff on the side. 

The Dylon colors come with very good instruction, so I won’t go deep into that, but basically, you just put whatever you’d like to color into a washing machine and sprinkle the color mix over the textiles and choose a program. The higher the temperature – the stronger the color. After the program is finished, do a regular program to wash off the excess color. 

Update: I’ve recently started using the Dylon hand dye. Since you dye it manually in a bucket or container, you’ve got so much control over the outcome, because you’ll be able to stop the process anytime you’ve reached the desired color level. It’s definitely a little more work than the machine version above, but I just found it worth mentioning. The other day I colored my boring white (spotty) sheets in the Dylon color ‘flamingo pink’, and it turned out SO COOL. Remember to also get salt without iodine together with the dye. That’s all you need.

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How to dye fabric at home

Stuff you need to know before dying your fabrics, to avoid common dye mistakes:

  • Textile dyes only work on natural fabrics. It doesn’t work well with synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers in clothes are normally nylon, polyester, acrylic, or polyolefin. So, before dying a clothing piece you should look at the note inside your garment explaining the materials. (If you’ve removed the note, you simply have to take the chance). If you want a deep and predictable color, you need the garment to have 100% natural fibers. But you can safely color stuff containing synthetic fibers as well, just be aware that the color might come out in a lighter shade. For instance, a deep black dye might turn gray. However, I rarely look at the materials, I think it’s exciting not to know exactly how it’s going to look. If something contains 100% synthetic fibers, it’s not going to take any color.
  • Natural fibers commonly used in fabrics are cotton, linen, viscose, silk, and wool.
  • If you’re dying silk and wool, you should do it by hand. The wool/handwash program is too cold for the dye to get fully absorbed. Furthermore, these gentle programs are short and rinse through the fabrics several times, which results in flushing away a lot of the dye. So, instead, buy this Dylon handwash and follow the instructions. It’s very easy. Just mix the dye with hot water in a bucket together with the wool/silk item/s, and wait for a couple of hours, before you rinse and wash off excess color (this can be done in the washing machine on a wool program). Use gloves. 
  • You can’t color your clothes lighter, it has to be a darker or similar color. You can always bleach your clothes beforehand. Also keep in mind that the existing color will usually mix with the dye color. For instance, adding a blue dye on red fabric will result in some kind of purple shade. Blue + red = purple. It’s obviously easiest to dye light fabrics darker because you don’t have to consider this. However, I don’t give this much thought!
Here’s a color rules reminder: 
fabric dye how to color wheel
  • That’s pretty much all you need to know. Last but not least, remember to run an empty wash at a high temperature, to make sure that all the dye is gone. You don’t want to ruin your next laundry wash. 

How to Tie dye fabrics at home

If you’d like to color your textile in the 70s tie-dye style (or whatever pattern you’d like) you need a different kind of color and procedure. This best-selling Tie Dye Kit from emooqi is a good start, it contains 32 non-toxic colors, all equipment you need, and good instructions!

Make some cool mosaic patterns or go completely freestyle!

70s tie dye learn how to
how to dye patterns make old clothes new
Good luck! 
And remember – 
By giving new life to your existing clothes instead of buying new ones, you’re not only being friendly towards your wallet, but also the environment!
Here’s the result of the dye: 
fabric dye how to, fabric dye before after

As you can see, the deep black dye gave very different results based on what fabrics the item contained. For instance, the grey hat was 100% polyester (synthetics) and because of that, it didn’t take any color. One of the other items, a light nude/pink sweater, was about 60% synthetics and 40% natural fibers, and it got a nice light gray color with a purple tone.

And, just to make it clear, dying fabrics is a little unpredictable, but if you, unlike me, follow all the rules and look at the materials and the existing color, you should be able to predict the results. 

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