How to Dye Clothes Black Naturally

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Make a natural black dye for clothing using plants.
Make a natural black dye for clothing using plants. (Image: polo tshirt black image by Danuta Kania from Fotolia.com)

Long before people could walk into a store and purchase a box of chemical dye, clothes were dyed using plants and other materials found in nature. Whether you are creating authentic period clothing using natural dyes or just trying to eliminate chemical dyes from your wardrobe, you can create most colors using plants found in nature or purchased from nurseries and greenhouses.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Large pot
  • Water
  • 12 oz. Rocky Mountain bee plant leaves
  • Net bag
  • Stove
  • 1 oz. aluminum ammonium sulfate
  • 1/4 oz. cream of tartar
  • 4 oz. clothing
  • Tongs

Fill a large pot approximately 3/4 full of water.

Place 12 ounces of leaves from a Rocky Mountain bee plant in a net bag and place the bag inside the pot of water. The Rocky Mountain bee plant is more commonly known as stinkweed.

Bring the pot of water to boil and then reduce the heat and simmer the leaves for 1/2 hour to one hour.

Carefully remove the net bag from the hot water but do not remove the pot from the heat.

Add one ounce of aluminum ammonium sulfate and 1/4 ounce cream of tartar to the hot water. Aluminum ammonium sulfate is dangerous if ingested and contact with eyes and skin must be avoided. Avoid inhaling this chemical as well.

Soak up to four ounces of clothing under running water and wring the clothing out so that it is just moist and not soaking wet.

Place the clothing in the pot of water and simmer it until it is slightly darker than your desired shade of black because the color will become slightly lighter upon rinsing. Stir the clothing occasionally and lift it up out of the water with tongs to inspect it.

Rinse the clothing in cool water until the water runs clear and then hang the clothing up to air dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hand wash the clothing to prevent the black dye from fading and to avoid staining other items of clothing in your washer as this dye is not colorfast and may run.
  • Wear rubber gloves and safety goggles when handling aluminum ammonium sulfate to prevent eye and skin irritation in the event of a spill.

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