How to Dye Linen Fabric

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You can dye linen fabric yourself at home!
You can dye linen fabric yourself at home! (Image: Mailles bleues image by Gautier Willaume from Fotolia.com)

Linen is a durable fabric made from flax plant fibers. It is up to three times stronger than cotton. Linen can survive many washes and even gets softer the more it's washed. This may explain why linen fibers are used to make towels, bed sheets, table cloths and other items that are frequently washed. Because it is an off white or light beige color, linen is easily dyed and maintains its color after many washes.

Things You'll Need

  • 1 lb linen fabric
  • Large stick for stirring fabric
  • Fabric detergent (Synthrapol) or dish detergent
  • Washing machine or tub
  • 3 gallons lukewarm water
  • 3 cups non-iodized salt
  • 2 teaspoon calsolene oil (optional)
  • Fiber reactive dye
  • 1 cup warm urea water (1 tablespoon urea dissolved in 1 cup warm water)
  • 3/8 cup soda ash (sodium carbonate)

Prewash the linen in hot water and fabric or dish detergent, removing any dirt and grease.

Dissolve the non-iodized salt in the 3 gallons lukewarm water in a washing machine or tub. A tub is recommended for 1 lb. of fabric. A washing machine is recommended for up to 8 lbs. of fabric.

Add the calsolene oil. This step is optional. It helps the linen dye more evenly.

Dissolve the fiber reactive dye by mixing it with the urea water. The amount of fiber reactive dye you use depends upon the color. For most colors you only need 1 tbsp. of dye. When dyeing your linen a darker color, you may need 2 to 4 tbsp. of dye. Read the fiber reactive dye package to be sure of the amount of color needed. Add this dye mixture to the washing machine or tub of lukewarm water.

Add the linen to the dye water. If you're using a tub, stir every 3 to 4 minutes for 20 minutes. If you're using a washing machine, set it to the agitate setting for 20 minutes. Make sure all of the fabric is submerged in the dye water.

Dissolve the soda ash in warm water and add to the dye water. If using the washing machine, turn the machine off. Move the linen to one side of the washing machine or tub as you stir the soda ash mixture in with the dye water. The soda ash mixture should be completely mixed in with the dye water alone before stirring in the linen again. This prevents the fabric from having discolored spots.

Stir the linen around again every 3 to 4 minutes or set the washing machine again to the agitate setting. Stir light colors for 30 minutes and dark colors for an hour.

Remove the linen from the dye water and rinse out any extra dye. If using a washing machine, run the linen through the rinse cycle once.

Repeat Step 1, washing the linen again with hot water and fabric or dish detergent to remove anymore extra dye.

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