How to Dye Fabric With Vinegar

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Dying doesn't have to be done in vats; small containers or a washing machine do the trick.
Dying doesn't have to be done in vats; small containers or a washing machine do the trick. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

If your favorite T-shirt or pair of jeans has faded and resembles the 1980s stone-washed look, a deep blue or black dye with added vinegar will give it a face lift. Most natural fibers, such as cotton, wool and even silk, take to dye very well. Avoid fabrics with more than 50% polyester or extremely delicate items marked "dry clean only." Vinegar works with the dye to add intensity and vibrance to the color and can help keep the color from bleeding onto the surfaces that come into contact with the dyed garment.

Things You'll Need

  • Commercial clothing dye
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • Rubber gloves
  • Large bucket
  • Measuring cup or large cup
  • Stir stick or wooden spoon only used for dying

Prepare the fabric. Prewash the fabric according to the directions on the commercial dye product. Most will recommend that you do not dry the fabric, as wet cloth generally takes to dye better than dry fabric.

Mix the dye liquid or tablets in your measuring cup before adding to the bucket with enough water to cover the garments you are dying, closely follow the dye manufacturer directions. Continue mixing until the dye is fully dissolved into the water.

Heat the dye mixture to boiling and then completely turn off the heat. When the mixture is at the ideal dying temperature, add the clothing or fabric and stir it around gently according to the directions on the dye box.

Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the dye water to intensify the color and continue stirring the fabric for the amount of time specified in your directions.

Follow the dye instructions to set they dye and allow your clothes to dry. Carefully discard the dye without getting dye color on your floor or kitchen counters.

Tips & Warnings

  • Commercial dying can be done in the washing machine, but many are concerned about the dye remaining in the machine and coloring other garments. In reality, it really depends on your machine -- some rinse better than others. To stay on the safe side, dye in containers or pots.

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