How to Dye Dark Fabrics

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Dark fabrics like denim won't accept light-colored dye.
Dark fabrics like denim won't accept light-colored dye. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Dyeing light-colored fabrics is a straightforward task; simply choose the color you want the finished cloth to be and then follow the manufacturer's directions. Dyeing dark or bright colors can be slightly more complex, since some hues will not come out as expected, while others won't show up at all. Choose the dye color carefully to be sure it will cover the existing color, or make a test sample first to avoid unexpected results.

Things You'll Need

  • Dark fabric
  • Color Remover
  • Washing Machine
  • Fabric dye
  • Bleach pen (optional)

Removing the Dark Color

Fill the washing machine with cold water and add the color remover. Wait for the remover to dissolve.

Add the dark fabric to the washing machine. Use a wooden spoon to push the fabric under the water so it is entirely submerged.

Allow the fabric to soak for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Most brands require a 30-minute soak, but read the package to double check the time.

Complete the wash cycle, allowing the fabric to rinse and spin. Remove the wet fabric, which will be a lighter shade of gray or brown, depending on the starting color. There is no need to dry the fabric before dying it a new color.

Dyeing the Fabric

Fill the washing machine with warm water.

Add the dye liquid or powder and swirl the water with a wooden spoon to mix.

Add the fabric and press down on it with the wooden spoon to totally submerge it.

Soak the fabric in the dye for the time specified by the manufacturer, then complete the wash cycle. Remove the fabric promptly and line dry or dry in the dryer. Use completed fabric as desired.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create a design with a bleach pen before dyeing. This will discharge even more of the dark dye originally used on the fabric and allow it to accept lighter colors.
  • Start with a mid-range or light color if you want a light or bright result without discharging first.
  • Most dye brands offer a color removing agent for dyeing dark fabrics.
  • Don't use bleach on animal fibers like wool, they will melt.
  • Wear safety goggles and plastic gloves when you work with dye.
  • Keep powdered and prepared dye out of the reach of kids and pets; dispose of leftovers promptly.

References

  • "Michael's Book of Arts and Crafts"; Lark Books; 2003
  • "Fabric Dyeing For Beginners"; Vimala McClure; 2003
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