How to Overdye a Garment

When the skirt pictured above arrived in the mail from its eBay seller, it was a sickly pale cream color. Now it’s a fantastic silvery gray, thanks to the wonders of overdyeing. I’ve had several questions about this process, so I’ve put together a little tutorial.

HOWEVER! I am a very naughty DIY’er and lazy to boot, so my main advice to anyone wishing to try overdyeing? Buy some dye, read the instructions very carefully, and follow them to the letter. Especially if you’re not using the same brand of dye as me. I’d hate to have anyone follow this tutorial and ruin a perfectly good garment.

Speaking of which, a few other things to bear in mind before you hit the dye vats:

  • Only dye items you do not care about: Old tees with pit stains, thrifted garments that don’t mean much to you, items that have faded but could just as easily be given away as rescued. Don’t dye something you love. Please, I beg of you. Because …

  • Your garment will not turn out as expected. EVER: Even if you’re dyeing a pure white cotton shirt, you may not get the results indicated by the packaging. In a recent batch, I followed the RIT instructions exactly, step by step, and one white tee came out with weird spots all over it. I had to pitch it, but luckily I didn’t care. (See bullet 1.) The skirt shown above? It was pale cream colored, I used black dye, and soaked it for 45 minutes. Does that skirt look black to you? You never know what you’re gonna get, so just go with the flow.
  • Be careful: Dye is poisonous, so clean everything thoroughly afterwards. Wear a smock or clothing you use for gardening, car repair, or other dirty tasks.
  • Don’t make a habit of it: Dyeing at home puts chemicals into shared water systems, and uses TONS of water. If you can do multiple garments in a batch, do. If not, don’t be dyeing every weekend, please. All told, I must’ve used two bathtubs full of water to dye the garment I used for this tutorial. Yoiks.

OK, now that you’ve been disclaimed to the teeth, let’s get to the tutorial! For this little dyeing experiment I used this pale pink tunic:

Why? Well, it was a whopping $12.50. It’s a little bit big, so if it shrank a little during the process I wouldn’t be in trouble. And the color is HORRENDOUS on me. I look positively zombie-like in it, don’t you think?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So, I took the dress, my grotty rubber gloves, and my packet of RIT dye for starters. Threw on a nasty old smock and cleared the cats out of the kitchen, since my preferred method is the stovetop method.

Did I mention that you should READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE DYE PACKET? OK, just checking.

For stovetop dyeing – and most other methods, I believe – you must dissolve the dye itself in two cups of hot water. So I did that.

Then I filled a gigantor pot with enough hot water to let the garment move around freely, and added some salt.

And a wee bit of liquid laundry detergent.

Once the water gets boiling, I dumped the dissolved dye in thar. I wet down the garment in hot water, making sure it’s wet ALL THE WAY THROUGH, and then added it to the pot and got to stirring.

The instructions say to keep it in there for about 30 minutes, but that is definitely up to you. For instance, I used purple dye on this garment, but wanted it to come out sort of orchid-colored. And since the pink base would add a bit of yellow to the color mix, I probably only kept it in the pot for about 10 minutes. Longer, and it would’ve come out darker. In theory. Once again, dyeing is a ridiculously inexact practice, so it’s possible I would’ve gotten orchid no matter how long I’d boiled my dress.

Also, note the word, “boiled.” HOT water, peeps. Whatever you’re dyeing will likely shrink a bit, especially if it is new. Be prepared.

Next, I moved my operation down to the basement. If possible, drain the dyebath into a basement/laundry sink instead of a used-by-people sink. It is dye, after all, and could do bad things to your porcelain or bathmat or counter …

Next, I rinsed. For ages. And although the instructions say to rinse until the water runs clear, I’m pretty convinced that is impossible. I’ve rinsed tees for 40 minutes and still had dye leaking out. Here’s what the rinsed dress looked like. The photos aren’t a true representation, as it was a deep, Grimace purple at this point.

Next, machine washing. I threw the dress in with some ancient towels and sheets that were languishing unused in the basement. NEVER wash a freshly-dyed garment with anything you care about.

Then into the dryer for a bit, and voila! Orchid purple tunic dress.

A vast improvement over Zombie Pink, don’t you think? From start to finish, this process took about three hours – although that includes waiting time in the washer and dryer. And, again, by the end I felt like a terrible steward of the environment for all the water I’d used. Next time, I’ll dye a multiple garments at once.

Have you ever overdyed anything? If not, are you curious to give it a try? Anyone dye IN their washing machine, or using another method?

  • tricia

    ah, rit. i never got good results with that stuff. maybe some folks do, but i never have. what i did get good dying results with was Procion dyes, which i obtained through bay area-based dharma trading company (easily google-able). i've also seen them at some art supply/craft stores like pearl, sam flax, etc. like, the dye came out pretty much like it looked on the package or fairly close.

    that said, i think there's definitely an art to dyeing, and your suggestions are overall, spot on (no pun intended). :)

  • Bobbini

    For the serious over-dyer, and for much more consistent results, try getting dye and materials from Dharma Trading company. They have dyes for both cellulosic fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo) and protein fibers (wool, silk, yak, etc.) RIT products are fine for occasional use (and you can buy much smaller quantities), but there's other stuff out there, even for the occasional user, that will deliver better results.

    If you're dying a protein fiber, you may be able to dye it with non-toxic stuff like food coloring or kool-aid–lots of yarn people dye their own yarn with those things.

  • Eve

    Just a warning – any utensils and vessels you use for dyeing should not be used again for cooking.

  • The Closet of Kim (ShopKim)

    I've never overdyed anything but I really want to! I'm just a wee bit skeered. This is a great tutorial though and I think I'm going to try it soon! I have a white zip up hoodie that I really like but has stains on it so I would love to give it new life. Thanks for taking the time to document your process!

  • Oranges And Apples

    Yup, I have dyed many things, always in the washing machine. It's no hassle at all, you pour the dry dye in the tumbler, cover in salt, stick the stuff you want to dye on top and off you go. No contact with the dye itself, hence no need for rubber gloves or cleaning of pots afterwards.

    I feel really guilty about the resource use too – you're meant to run the washing machine three times, once to dye, once to wash the dyed thing and once to get rid of any left over dye in the machine. Although the last few times I've done it I've not bothered with the third time, and so far there's been no disasters. As long as you make sure the next batch of washing is a dark colour load, it's ok (I hope!).

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    It turned out really well! I haven't overdyed anything in a long time — in part because of laziness and in part because of the whole chem lab process.

    I love that we both used the word languishing in our posts this morning. It is an underused word!

  • evanadine

    i overdyed a pair of used-to-be dark wash jeans that had faded back to their original dark wash state. i used 2 packets of dye: one black, one (methinks) navy. i did it by hand in the kitchen sink. it was a long, tedious process, but i was very successful.
    i wouldnt make dyeing a regular addition to my to-do list, but it is an option to save an otherwise unworn piece from just languishing in your closet…

  • Diana

    This is a fantastic tutorial hon! I've over-dyed many garments before too. I love how you give all the disclaimers – a lot of people don't realize just how inexact and unpredictable over-dyeing can be.

  • vampfan30

    well, I have actually done several dye jobs. Depending on what it is, I either use the washer or a large rubbermaid box.

    Usually, I dye jeans or shirts (in the washer), but once or twice, on a whim, I actually dyed my couch cover. I had to hide the kitty painted footprints – he got into my daughter's art project…grey footies on a off-white cover.

    So – I got a couple of dark brown dyes, tossed them into a rubbermaid full of hot water (after soaking the honking thing in hot water in the washer) & sat by it, wearing the rubber gloves & stirring it around constantly.

    Being in Florida & it was summer at the time, I just tossed it over the clothes line, sprayed it down with the hose, & let it dry. I ended up doing it again a few weeks later, & it matches the decor I have going…now, if I can get said kitty, daughter & hubby to respect the hard work a bit more…


  • A-C

    This is great Sal, the dress turned out really well! I've only ever tie-dyed socks and shirts before at camp, nothing nearly as cool as this. I have thought about dyeing a yellow linen skirt I have, but you're right, I definitely like it too much to risk it. So I'll keep it a mustard yellow until I get bored and/or fall out of love with it an try to dye it brown.

  • Great Canadian Beagle

    Awesome tutorial, very thorough! I've only ever used the RIT dye. It never turns out quite as dark as I'd hoped, but it's never been disastrous. I use the washing machine because if my laziness and worry about not washing vessels properly and poisoning people, and I've had luck with the process.

    The one thing I've noticed that I'd mention is that I've never had the stitching on a garment take the dye. Which means when I dyed a white denim jacket an nice grey colour, I had white contrast stitching, which actually looked kind of cool, but would have been disappointing if Id wanted a more uniform look. I think this issue stems from the fact that RIT dye is designed for the natural cellulose fibres like cotton and linen, and garments that are marked 100% cotton or whatever often use synthetic thread that won't take dye. So keep this in mind when dying, as I'm not sure there's a way to tell if your thread is synthetic or not, so be prepared for contrast stitching.

  • DalenaVintage

    Nice! Geez it's been sooooo long since I've used good ole rit. I agree, the purple is much more flattering indeed! Looks great on you.

  • Becky

    Dyeing things scares me so much! Add in an NYC apt w/no washer or dryer, or schmancy "basement sink" and I think the whole process would just be scarring. I'm glad your project turned out as well as it did, though! The dress looks great!

  • Sal

    Eve: Hmmm. I definitely don't use that pot for anything cooking-related, and tossed the kebab skewer I used to stir … but I cleaned my Pyrex with bleach and ran it through a hot dishwasher. The RIT package just says to clean with bleach, so I think we should be OK.

  • emadethis

    The dress looks great! I've always been a fan of dye, but now with a wee one, I have to keep my toxic experiments in the washing machine only. I made a pair of pajamas in the summer that started as this white calico…I used some iDye in pink and they were much better for it.

  • Katie

    I am a big fan of dying clothes! I always use Dylon Dye, and go for the in-washing machine type.

    Then, I pop a couple of items in the washing machine (not too many because otherwise the dye will be too diluted) and press go.

    And… then I take my newly dyed items out of the machine and get quite excited!

  • The Budget Babe

    sal you are a fashion rockstar. i love the results and your photo tutorial should be really helpful (assuming i decide to take the plunge and do some dying of my own….)

  • K.Line

    Very well explained but, truthfully, I"m afraid of dye!

  • Tina

    I use both the stovetop and the washing machine method (I prefer stovetop, but don't have a pot big enough for some things). I think you really covered all the major tricks and tips. The only thing I have to add is that you need to remember that the garmet is actually taking dye particles out of the water. This doesn't usually matter, but if you are dyeing several items and want them to be the same color, you need to actually dye them at the same time. You cannot do one item after the other in the pot on the stove and expect them to be the same color.

    For example, I had two plain cotton T shirts that I wanted to dye the same color. I thought I would be smart and dye one, then remove it from the pot, and dye the second one in the same dye bath. That way I could be sure that I had plenty of room to stir the pot and get the dye everywhere. The shirts came out two very different colors. I had seen this before (because I often look for more things to dye when I've got a dye bath on the stove – just for fun), but I always attributed it to different fabrics or starting colors. Nope, it's the dye.

    It probably won't come up very often, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

  • paisleyapron

    I've done a lot of overdyeing to bring life to my thrifted goods and I agree with Tricia, I never get good results with Rit. I third the suggestion to check out Dharma Trading. Recently I dyed a bunch of fiber, clothes, and fabric with their Fiber Reactive Dyes and got fantastic results. I did it all in the washing machine and there was no need for bleach clean up!

  • Sal

    THANK YOU for all the alternate dye suggestions, my friends. I'm a bit ashamed of my bizarre inability to think outside the easily-available-at-the-grocery-store box. I'll be looking into these less harsh dyes next time I have a batch of clothes that needs freshening!

  • Charlotte

    I grew up in the age of tie-dyed tee-shirts, so dyeing is in my blood. I love to dye! But I am too lazy and messy to dye things on the stove, so I do washing-machine jobs. My last project was to dye the white cotton throws that the dachshunds love to snuggle in a bright sunflower yellow. Using hot water and pre-dissolved dye, I put the (wet) throws in the washer & let them jump around for 30 minutes or so. Then rinsed in the washer, with vinegar to set the dye, and dried them in the dryer. Months later, the little brown faces of the dachshunds look like the centers of sunflowers as they nap on the couch, curled up in their throws.

  • Kelly

    You freaked me out for a second there – I had a dream last night that I moved back into a house I lived in during college, and the ally you're standing in looks like that ally. I had to do a double-take to make sure you weren't living there! Guess my dream was too fresh in my mind…

  • Lorena

    Loved the post…and your zombie picture. I have not dared to dye anything … but your dress came out really good :)

  • futurelint

    Ha ha! I love the zombie Sal picture! I've dyed things a few times (mostly for costumes) and I HATE it! It smells, it takes forever, I somehow splash it everywhere and that water never does run clear! That said, your tunic turned out fabulous and I do have a thrifted dress I need to attempt to dye or tie-dye because when I bought it, it had some dye stains on it but I loved the shape and fit! We'll see what happens!

  • Cupcakes and Cashmere

    i'm SO impressed! the only thing i've ever dyed by myself was my hair, which came out a lovely shade of neon orange (i was going for beachy blonde). never again!

  • Una

    I'm originally from India, and if you ever go there, take all your clothes to be dyed. THere are places right on the street where they will dye or re-dye clothes any shade you want and get it right, for cheaper than a box of Rit. The colors are incredible!

  • sarajane

    Another Dharma/Procion washing machine dye-er here.
    It's not necessarily less resource intensive or even that much easier than Rit dye – but the colors are fabulous and much more fade-resistant than the Rit.

    To use the Procion dye, you have to add boatloads of salt (20 cups!) and soda ash at the end of the dying process. That being said, it is just a process and if you can read, you can figure it out – Dharma is very helpful.

    I am sporting a fabulous burnt orange felted wool coat, thanks to Dharma/Procion.

  • pretty face

    Although I am a huge fan of pale pink, the purple looks awesome on you! (not as awesome as zombie Sal though…)

    Just wondering, why is it called 'over-dye'? Doesn't look particularly overly dyed to me, is it because you are dying over another dye? x

  • Sak

    Ok..I am doing one this look great in purple.

  • Audi

    I've only dyed one thing, and that was a linen dress for which I used Dharma Trading's fiber reactive dye. It worked great, and moreover it dyed only the natural fibers and left the buttons, lining, and synthetic topstitching unchanged, which gave the dress more contrast and a more professional look.

    I appreciate your point about only dyeing things you don't care about. I recently saw a gorgeous, and very expensive, dress online that I was tempted to buy even though the light fawn color is completely wrong for my skin tone. I figured maybe I'd just dye it, but you're soooo right Sal — instead I may contact a local seamstress and see if she can make me a reasonable facsimile in the color of my choice. Or maybe a month or so will go by and I'll forget the whole thing… 😉

    Oh and YES, the purple looks oh so much better than the zombie pink!

  • Elissa

    As inexact as dyeing is, you did a fantastic job achieving "orchid"!! It looks fantastic on you, such an improvement over that nast original color!

  • Sadie

    I've dyed lots of things – I usually use Dylon machine dye which is easily available here. Put the dye in the drum, cover it with salt, put the things to dye in the machine and run it once to dye then once with detergent to rinse the dye out. My best ever was a blue denim jacket which I dyed purple – the unevenness of denim's colouring meant that any unevenness in the dyeing didn't show, and it looked much more interesting that way. And I recently bought a load of white thermal vests and dyed them purple so they'd match the rest of my layers!

    As to dyeing alternatives, I knit and I always see US-based knitters raving about how easy it is to use Kool-Aid to dye yarn, so I can't see why it wouldn't work just as well for clothes. We don't have it over here, unfortunately – dang those EU standards about food additives!

  • Missa

    Loving the black and gray combo in the first outfit, tre chic!

    Also, that's such a great shade of purple you ended up with and so flattering on you. Good call!

  • Kate @ Tres Lola

    Sal, you are SO handy!! This is really useful. Nice one.

  • Chelsea

    I would love to try dying some pieces… a cream blouse in particular that I think I would enjoy more if it was a different color. Unfortunately apartment living with shared washer/dryers aren't that conducive to the process. Maybe one day…

    Thanks for the tutorial! The orchid-purple is just lovely on you!

  • ebinbaby

    Is it possible to dye things in a front load high-efficiency washer? Has anyone tried it? I am particularily interested in overdying jeans that have faded.

  • Kiki

    I've dyed 2 pair of jeans. One didn't turn out so good. They ended up a funny color. The second pair of jeans turned out much better. (I was going to post the link, but I don't tag my posts well enough. Sorry.)

  • FashionTheorist

    Hooray for mad chemistry! A lot of the things I was planning to say have already been covered (don't use dyepots/tools for cooking, RIT gives indifferent/unpredictable results, &c.).

    In addition, it's good to know that different fibers take dye differently. Silk, wool and cotton will dye easily and well (although proteinaceous fibers will take dye differently, and requite different processes, than cellulosic); linen less so; poly and acrylic, not at all. Check the fiber content in your garment, and keep in mind that, yes, some 100% cotton garments will be stitched with poly thread.

    Also, vinegar in the rinse water will help set many dyes.

  • fleur_delicious

    Wow, I never get results like this with RIT – nice going, vibrant and non-zombified Sal!

    yet another voice for Dharma Trading company products! I dye with procion, using soda ash (but not loads of salt, like some). The colour comes out very vibrant, and much more predictable, and you don't need to heat your clothes, either (bonus!). A bit more of an investment, but I do like that you can get a good number of dye baths out of each little container of dye. (And it's still not THAT expensive – $20 should get you a decent bag of soda ash and a couple things of dye.)

    I've also used iDye, with good results. Don't know much about it, seems like a step up from RIT, but not quite as good as fiber-reactive dyes like Procion. (note: there's also an iDye Poly for poly fibers. cool!)

    You can also buy a product called synthrapol, which is a detergent specially designed to remove extra bits of unabsorbed dye from your clothing. Throw it in with the detergent when you wash your clothes afterward, and you're far less likely to end up with a stained washer or with bits of dye transferring.

    I read that Retayne will set dye, but I've never used it.

  • a!k0

    I love the purple tunic! I should try dying too…:)

    I learned a trick when I was in college (I don't know if you know this but) if you add salt into the water and keep the tunic in it for awhile, the color would stay. :)

    I tried it and it works for my red/white cardi 😀

    (sorry my command of vocabulary isn't very good)

  • Sadie

    @ebinbaby I'm in the UK where we only really have front-loading washers, and have used mine for dyeing with no problems at all!

  • A.Co

    What a great tutorial!!

    I've never dyed anything but remember my mom would dye my black pants (in the washing machine!) when I was younger.

    These are some great tips, and much appreciated.

    The "new" purple dress looks awesome! Good work!

  • Sharon

    I got started dyeing because the only affordable bras in my size are white and matronly, and while a bright granny bra isn't exactly sexy, it is at least slightly less frumpy than a white one. Here's some things I've learned:

    1. The newer the better– if your garment has absorbed anything oily or waxy, like deodorant, lotion, greasy food, or fabric softener, that area may not take dye evenly. However, brand new stuff often has starch in it, so wash a brand new item at least once (without fabric softener, see above) before dyeing.

    2. Natural fibers dye reasonably well. Nylon dyes beautifully– you will give you a result closest to the color of the dye package with nylon. Most other synthetic fabrics dye weirdly or don't dye at all.

    3. Wash a load of black stuff or stuff in the same color family as your dyed piece or after you wash your dyed item. Even if it looks like there's no dye in the machine… there is.

    4. If you want to take a chance and possibly get a more vibrant result, try this ADVANCED DYEING TIP: Don't rinse your item, just wring it as best you can, then let it spin in the washer WITHOUT RINSING (fiddle with your washer's settings beforehand to figure out how to do this) until it's no longer drippy. Let dry flat– lay out some junk towels or put it in the bathtub overnight– until it's completely dry, then rinse, rinse, rinse as usual. This usually gives me a brighter result than if I had rinsed after dyeing… but sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes I get a weird blotchy streaky result, so use at your own risk.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I hope there's some useful information in it!

  • Rebekah

    I'm a liquid Rit/washing machine girl, myself. Doesn't take any longer than laundry, doesn't use any more water.

    Sharon's dead on about dyeing bras and nylons— dye's a great way to spruce up thrifted clothes or fading jeans.

  • hapa

    Thanks for the tutorial. I got some new tips there. I've dyed once before and I have a new patch of things waiting. One thing I did notice after dyeing was that the dye didn't stick, so that after a couple of washes it faded. I think that adding some vinegar to the rinsing water should help (I've tried it on some garments that give out too much color in the wash, and it works). That should also help reduce the amount of water you use for rinsing after dying.

  • e. of academichic

    I now have a weekend project… – E.

  • Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP

    Great post – this one will be in my weekend reading post.

    Just a reminder though – fabric needs to have some natural fibre content for over-dying to work. This is why your skirt turned out grey not black – must have some unnatural fibres in it.

  • La Rêveuse

    I've done it, too–turned a white cotton raincoat into a black one, and the stitching stayed white so it looked really cool as a contrast. I felt like a doctor in white, so the black was much better! In the early 90's, when I wore a LOT of black, I used to re-dye my faded blacks in the washing machine with some Rit. Helped perk them up and keep them from looking too faded, and cost just a few bucks. However, I usually don't branch out much, color-wise. May have to give it a try. :)

    I do wish I could find a dye that would turn jeans into that dark indigo color that is so flattering. Well fitting jeans in the right color are so hard to come by.

  • rose

    Thanks for posting this. I happen to have a wool, crochet sweater in a burnt orange shade that I don't like anymore and was thiking to dyeing it in black.

    I might throw in some black sheets in the washing machine and some vinegar in the rinsing cycle.

    I should do that in the next month or so, if I can get my hands on a dye. Canadians out there, where do you get your dye?

  • Bonnie

    There are a lot of natural dye options out there, too–this Etsy tutorial, for instance:

    I'm too afraid of the chemicals both in my home, on my skin, and in the water system. Personally I think the colors created by natural dyes are gorgeous.

  • Rachel

    I know this is an old post; a commenter on another blog linked to it. Great post and blog! Why does the water need to be boiling hot to dye garments? I want to dye a wool coat (it’s already ruined by a stain), and in order to avoid massive shrinkage I wonder whether I can get away with faucet-hot water instead of boiling-hot. Any idea?

    • Sal

      Gosh, Rachel, I’m not sure! You could certainly give it a try … and there might be other dye products out there that work in cold water. I’d hate for you to felt and shrink that wool coat.

  • Katie

    Hello! Does anyone know if I don’t have any salt, if it makes a big difference?I’m using idye, and am stuck inside cause of the snow. Will the dye just keep running out when rinsed. I tried vinegar instead, but it seems to keep bleeding out when rinsing. Hmmm?

  • Lesley

    is there any way that my sons cotton shirt can be treated so that the stitching will dye. it is now black with white stitching not good.

    • Sal

      Probably a different fiber. Honestly, I’d try a black permanent marker. Just make sure it’s good and dry before you wash the shirt again.

  • Rebecca Grace

    I bought some navy blue RIT dye a couple of months ago, wanting to dye a couple of pairs of light wash jeans that look too stuck-in-the-‘eighties but that I still fit into comfortably. Bonus: they predate the whole ridiculous How-Low-Rise-Can-You-Go fad that I’m SO sick of!

    But the dye is still in the package and the jeans are still LANGUISHING unworn (I like that word, too) because I chickened out after reading the directions. I wanted to do my jeans along with a pair of my husband’s jeans, but I don’t have any pots big enough to fit all of that, or that are disposable. Then for the washing machine option — I have one of those environmentally-friendly He washing machines. I don’t know if my washing machine uses enough water for the RIT dye process to work successfully, and the washer is fairly new and wasn’t cheap, so I’m also fearful of ruining the washing machine somehow with the dye. I’d feel better if the RIT instructions addressed He washing machines specifically. One of these days I might just sneak off to a laundromat and dye my jeans there…

    • Ruth

      Oh, please don’t! Really not fair to the next person who uses the washer. I’d be out so screwed if I tossed a week’s worth of light-colored clothes into a washer someone had just used for dyeing.

  • Anonymous

    What a smile there!

  • amy

    About to start over-dyeing a pillowcase-type-thing using the washing machine… will let you know how it goes!! (Eeek!)

  • Nikkie

    Hi. Does anyone have any ideas to help. I have just dyed a white, cotton dress using dylon machine dye. It has come out a fantastic blue colour, but there is a large dark patch on the back of the dress.

    Any ideas how to remove it or to cover it up?


  • Kristina

    I’ve been experimenting in preparation to dye a 100% poly chiffon dress and so far my tests have been “spotty.” I’m using “Jacquard” brand poly dyes with the recommended stove top method and even though the color is good, I always get a few spots that take more dye than the rest of the fabric. Any suggestions on how to get a good even coat of dye?

  • Thomas

    I had used black Rit on faded black pants and jeans (mostly 100% cotton) with decent results in a big tub with lots of hot water and lots of Rit. I did not stir for 30 minutes but left them in for 2-3 days and stirred several times a day rinced in sink for 20 minutes and hung up outside and had good results.
    Got adventurous and decided todye a blcak 3/4 cotton trench and black overcoat that were somewnat faded but wearable. (Have seen coats on shelf new that were slightly this light black.-had only worn overcoat a couple of tiemes and never washed or drycleaned & tried drycleaning but still it had lost some of its colodr in a dark closet!) Am redoing both–again–maybe a mistake as the 3/4 lenght black trench really looked black-black after the Rit.
    My alterations-tailor peerson said she hjhad never seen a cotton that black, but I am trying for blacker. I have seen poly cotton blends very black and dthey seem to hold up during dry ceaning better than the 100% cotton as far as color is concerned.
    Have not washed eidther and learned from a black Auastralian all cotton coat I got for a pretty penny not to even coldwater wash in a washing machine the black items. Just put them outside and dturn dthe hose on them full blast for 10-15 minutes (you can do several at a time) This works for normal wer but not if oily dirt or stains on them. Putting out in a thunderstorm or constant rain is also a good way to clean blacks. This does not work on light colored shirts if some dring around color etc., tho the color cdanbe washed with soap & washcloth and fingernail brushand then put outside for the hosing. Thomas

  • Kortney

    I over-dyed a dress for my daughter’s halloween costume. It turned out perfect! But without this tutorial, I would never had the guts to do so. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • http://none barbara

    I avoid leaving spots by soaking my garment in water for HOURS before dying it. I THINK this is what is working for me, after once NOT doing it that way, and getting spots…

  • Sherry

    Note of caution. I dyed a pair of curtains in the washer with disappointing results (Rit) I followed all the directions including rinsing. Tried for a deep red came out dark pink.
    The main point is when I dried them in my drier The drum looked a little pinkish so I tried a few loads of dark clothes thinking it would pick up any left over pink from the dryer. Not so. The dark loads came out fine. Ruined a white shirt on the next dryer load. Left some definite red dots on the front.(finally the red I wanted)

  • Meisha

    Great article! I love dying clothes, it’s so much fun! I’ve been periodically dying batches of clothes for years (using RIT), and I want share the tips I’ve learned. So far I’ve gotten perfect results 100% of the time IF 1) the garment is 100% cotton, 2) the garment is CLEAN (even if you wore it once for 5 minutes, it’s not clean enough, because the dye will magically seek out and accumulate anywhere where there’s the slightest hint of oil), 3) the garment is soaked thoroughly and EVENLY and hand-wrung prior to dying. Shake out the wrinkles after wringing and add to the dye bath with the fabric loose, no folds. 4) the dye bath is hot, just under boiling, and you add lots of salt. I work on the stove top. To prevent any staining of the stove, I cover the surface with a very thin layer of dish soap, and keep paper towel handy, and wipe up any drips immediately. Works well! 5) Keep stirring! Keep it moving at all times, always with “unfolding” in mind. You want the fabric to keep rolling over and over, and the fabric stays loose and not layered. You need a pot large enough. I use a large canning pot and moving the fabric with a half inch wooden dowel from the hardware store. I works great! 6) Dye the most important garments first, and progress to the ones you care less about, because as the dye bath gets spent, then you’re colors will start to change and be uneven. 7) Rinse with the coldest possible water directly following the dye bath. With this method, I even buy clothes with dying in mind, and sometimes dye brand new (full priced!) garments with happy results. (Depending on the garment, it may have to washed first to remove any fabric finishes!) The only RIT color that hasn’t worked out for me is the Wine color, it seems to keep running from the garment even after repeated washing, but all the other colors seem great. Have fun :)

  • Denise

    I have a light aqua/blue jacket with armpit stains. Can I “overdie” it?

    • Sally

      Denise, if it is made from natural fibers and you’re not concerned about a little shrinkage, overdyeing should work. But you’ll probably need to select a color that is darker than the original.

  • kt

    question… were both the purple and the scarlet dye used to get the end result?

    • Sally

      Nope, just the purple was used.