dyeHave you ever dyed anything to revive or change its color? I’ve done it a couple of times and am mostly pleased with the results.

The first time was last summer. We had gotten out the summer tables and chairs. The seat cushions are nice and thick, with a sturdy cotton cover. But the bright sun had faded their color to a ghost of the original deep blue. Rather than throw away and replace two dozen identical cushions (we often entertain a crowd in the summer), I tried dyeing them.

cache cache before
After. Control on the right: a new top.

It worked like a charm. The only hitch was that I didn’t find enough boxes of dye at one store, and the competing supermarket had the same brand but in a different size. Sigh. So they didn’t all get the same amount of dye. You can tell if you hold them side by side in the sun, otherwise the difference is negligible.

Emboldened by this, I decided to do all my black clothes that were no longer a rich noir. A number of items were in perfectly good shape–no pilling or stains or tears–but they just looked faded. My inner environmentalist cringed at tossing them, yet my inner fashionista felt they weren’t up to snuff.

before 1
After. It looks better than the photo would indicate because of the shine. It is hard to photograph black!

I followed the dye directions carefully. They called for washing the clothes on a long cotton cycle with hot water. Some planning is required–I made sure to have a couple of loads of dirty dark clothes to do afterward. It would be risky to run a load of whites after doing a black dye job.

The more clothes you put in a load, the less dye they get. I sorted them by how faded they were, and put the worst cases in the smallest load. I had three loads.

tank before close
Before. Bleach stains! Worn while cleaning.
After. It’s the one on the left; the right is the control.

First you wash the clothes with the dye, then you do the long cycle again, with a little detergent, to take out excess dye. I did all the dye cycles, then all the rinse cycles.

Result: mostly good but not perfect. Everything came out noticeably blacker. A couple of bleach stains became almost imperceptible, but didn’t completely disappear. The cotton pieces were more faded than the synthetics to begin with, but the cotton absorbed the dye better.

silk before

An article about throwaway fashion says Americans throw away 80 pounds of clothes per person per year, double the amount 20 years ago.

When our clothes are beyond hope, I cut them up into rags for cleaning. Eventually they will end up in a landfill, but after having had many lives. And they often replace paper towels.

I have to admit I hadn’t shopped for dye before, but I was surprised that when I was looking at the section in the supermarket, there were other shoppers doing the same. What are the chances of that? I guess it’s way more mainstream than I had imagined. After all, the drogueries had their origins in peddling textile dye. And the word for dry cleaner, teinturier, comes from the word teindre, or to dye, which makes me think it’s all part of just taking care of one’s clothes.

Have you dyed clothes? How did it go?


25 thoughts on “Back to Black

  1. I am generally dying only an item or two for the studio, so I use a large stainless steel pot on the stove. And (not to waste) I save the leftover dye water in glass gallon jugs to be reused. Love the options using a dye bath.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was a kid my mother tried dying some clothes and it was a disaster, so I’ve never tried it. I realize now there were lots of reasons it didn’t work, including mother didn’t take the great care you have and the dyes may have been different… I’m betting it was mother, however.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Every couple years I dye my denim sofa slip-cover. It started life as a dark denim blue and slowly fades to a worn, almost white denim in spots over time from the sun shining in the windows. While it is not perfect, the dye does make the sofa look mostly the same color. The tops and backs of the slip-cover are always a little lighter because of the sun fading but overall I am pleased to have my dark denim sofa back when the job is done. I put the slip cover back onto the sofa while it is still wet, then no one can sit on it for a few days but that is a small price to pay for a new looking sofa.
    My hubby’s grandmother used to dye her mohair sofa with a paint brush and liquid dye. It took her the better part of a day to painstakingly brush on enough red dye to refurbish her sofa but Grandma had the best looking, 40 year old sofa around. She too would not let anyone set on the sofa for a week but once totally dry it never came of on anyone’s clothing.
    As for dying clothing, only tie-dyed t-shirts. I might have to try dying my black jeans black again. Good idea!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Her sofa was mohair. Old school. As far as I remember she just painted it on and let it dry. Maybe because it was that rough wool it didn’t matter if it was rinsed or not. Always figure that natural materials work better with dyes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve done the dyeing in the washing machine many years ago – probably in the 80’s when Dylon was all the rage 🙂 . You’ve given me a great idea, I’ve got some cushions too for my garden chairs, which have faded with the sun, will try that!!

    Years ago I ruined a perfectly good pair of trousers with bleach marks – the trousers were almost new, so I was very cross, but it served me right for wearing nice clothes for cleaning! I got some dye but bleached the entire garment before dyeing it, so the bleach marks did disappear completely after being dyed. I had those trousers for quite some time afterwards! It’s a great way of reviving clothes that are otherwise perfectly good. The sun here is so brutal that just air-drying will fade clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I actually have two articles of clothing belonging to my daughter that I have been intending to dye because balsamic vinegar stains just don’t seem to want to leave. I dyed some clothing eons ago and I loved the way they turned out. One of them was a tangerine-colored tank top which was so pretty! We’ve just got to get to the store to see what they have. Dying clothes is just such a magical process, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, I dye clothes to change their colors, or to turn white things into colored ones. I like to make clothes and to refashion things from the second hand sellers, and dyeing is often part of it. I only wear cotton, linen and rayon and all of those natural fibers dye very well. I’ve done a lot of research on it, and you are supposed to be sure the dye is okay for the fabric you want to use it on. Some dyes only work on synthetics, others only on cotton/linen. I’ve experimented a little with natural dyes, which is more difficult. I have a yellow dress I made from an old white sheet to test the pattern; I was trying to dye it green but used a pan that changed the color to yellow by mistake! But it looks fine. I have some of the vintage white cotton chemise type undergarments from the French brocantes, usually €5 or less, and I have dyed them numerous colors and added bits of fabric etc. to them, and they are great summer tops. Dyeing is fabulous!!
    bonnie in carpentras

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi lesley, bonnie replying as I think I know the answer. Different fabric. The label is probably dense polyester or other man-made fiber, which would not take the dye. I suggest you experiment on an article of clothing that you don’t want and are planning to give away, and see what happens. Most important in my experience is the right dye for the fabric, you need to know the fiber content of what you plan to dye. Machine dyeing is easier, stovetop has to be monitored to be sure all of the fiber stays down in the dye, as it tends to rise to the top and be out of the dye bath. There are a lot of excellent websites that discuss dyeing, have a look, and good luck!
      bonnie in provence

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve dyed clothes occasionally, often to change a colour, for example an unflattering (on me) oatmeal coloured wool cardigan became a nice jungle green colour and is worn more often. I’ve also dyed a faded navy blue top navy blue to darken the colour. Generally natural fibres, wool, cotton, silk and so on, take dye better than polyester or nylon, although greyed once white nylon undies can be dyed a colour and so look a lot better!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.