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DIY Natural Dye for Clothing

Learn the joy of DIY natural dye for clothing, and explore this fiber art with your kids. It’s a great way to add new life to old clothing!

Click to read also: Dye Yarn With Kool-Aid!

DIY Natural Fabric Dye for Clothing

We’re always looking for new activities to enjoy with our kids. Dyeing clothes naturally together will provide you with a cool, eco-friendly activity to fill your weekend with excitement.

Dyeing fabric introduces children to surprising uses for everyday items like spices, leaves, or even waste materials like nut shells and cooking water.

This activity encourages sustainable thinking and boosts creativity. Plus, DIY projects like this build children’s confidence and allow them to wear their own creations.

You can refresh an old T-shirt, pajamas, or faded cotton socks (even using different colors for a pair of socks if you like). 

In this guide, you’ll find step-by-step instructions and some cool tips to make it happen. Let’s dye in!

Safety Precautions & How to Get the Most From the Activity

Each step in the dyeing process offers a learning chance for your child. Allow them to handle as many tasks as they can. If they need help, either guide them while they lead or work together.

***Be cautious, especially when using a knife or dealing with hot water. Teach your child to share safety responsibilities in a calm, confident manner.

If you are doing the activity with more than one child, manage it to ensure it will not become a one-kid-show and be an upsetting experience for the other.

Lastly, I suggest you also pick a garment from your own wardrobe to dye. This will enhance the bonding experience and will make the process more fun for you too.

You can choose a shawl, T-shirt, or your own pair of socks (: 

Dye clothing naturally at home

Natural Dyes You Probably Have at Home

Let’s find out what colors you can get out of your kitchen: 

  • Red/Pink: Use beetroot or mashed raspberries and strawberries.
  • Purple to Pink/Blue: Red cabbage makes purple. Add lemon for pink or baking soda for blue. 
  • Blue/Purple: Use blueberries or black bean liquid (soak beans overnight, then boil liquid; don’t boil the beans).
  • Yellow/Orange: Use dry white onion skins or turmeric powder. Turmeric stains strongly; use one to two tablespoons for every two cups of water.
  • Green: Spinach or nettle leaves are good options.
  • Brown: Black tea bags are the most accessible dye for getting beautiful brown shades.
  • Grey/Black: Walnut shells, acorns, or ashes for outdoor use (since it can be messy). 

What You’ll Need

  • Large pot
  • Metal tongs
  • Pasta spoon
  • Strainer
  • Big bowl
  • Natural ingredients for your desired color

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Let The Adventure Begin!

Follow these steps for the best results:

1# Wash and Dry

If the garment is dirty, the stains may cause trouble and uneven coloring during the dyeing process. You can use this opportunity to teach your child about laundry and let them do as much as they can on their own.

2# Mordant

Two main mordants for natural dye are:

Salt – Best for fruit scraps or leaves. Use 1/4 cup salt + 4 cups water.

Vinegar – Best for vegetable scraps. Use 1 cup vinegar + 4 cups water. 

Soak the garment in the mordant solution before dyeing. Simmer for an hour, then rinse in cold water. Some dyes like onion skins don’t need a mordant. The longer you simmer, the richer the color will be. This step teaches the concept of process and patience since, of course, you will all be eager to start dying.

3# Prepare the Dye

Chop your chosen ingredient into pieces. Guide your child for general safety and on how to keep the fingers safe while chopping. 

Put the ingredients in a large pot, cover with water, and simmer for 60 minutes. Avoid boiling the ingredients to maintain bright colors. 

The color usually starts showing after 30 minutes.

Let your child remove particles with a pasta spoon, then strain out the water into a dense strainer. You should do this part yourself as it requires strength and extra caution. 

Compost the leftover food pieces and keep the liquid for dyeing.

A few tips:

  • If you want multiple colors for small items like socks, use smaller pots and different ingredients for variety.
  • To intensify color, either increase the concentration of the natural product or extend the fabric’s soaking time.

You’re now ready for the next step: Let’s Get Colorful!

4# Dye!

This is the exciting part – Let your kid add his wet garment to the colored water (If the garment has dried since the mordent process, simply rinse it in cold water).

Soak the garment in the dye and go do something else. The longer you allow the piece to sit in the dye, the stronger the color will be. You can leave it for one hour or overnight, depending on your desired shade and definitely depending on your child’s patience (:

#5 Take it out

Give your kids some time to familiarize themselves with the metal tongs. Let them play around, understand how the tool works, and try lifting some objects. 

Then, carefully, work together to use the tongs to lift the heavy, wet garment out of the dye pot. Place it in a clean bowl and rinse it with cold water. Keep in mind that once rinsed, the fabric will typically appear lighter than it looked in the pot.

6# Dry it up

Let your child hang it to dry, after it is dry, wash it again on a gentle cycle – by itself (it’s going to bleed color; A lot of it!).

There you go, you all made it – Your DIY natural dye project is ready! 

Take the time to make this last step uplifting. Make matches from your kids’ wardrobe, or just look together at the outcome and give them a pat on their back.

how to dye clothing at home with items you already have in your kitchen
In the photo above, the T-shirt was a yellowish white before, and I used charcoal to make it light gray. The shawl was off-white before, and I used black tea bags to make it camel. The camel shawl I’m wearing is the dyed version of the fabric, and the white dress is made from the undyed fabric.

A Note on Expectations

Since we’re dealing with natural dyes and not “perfect” chemical ones, the end color can differ due to factors like fabric type, dye material, quantity of dye, and soaking time. For instance, natural fibers absorb well, turmeric is potent, and fresh leaves work better than old ones.

Before starting, paint the activity as a mystery quest for your child, an adventure with an unpredictable outcome. Be open to surprises, as results can differ.

Important Laundry Tip

Naturally dyed clothes tend to bleed color during subsequent washes. It is recommended to wash these items separately (preferably hand wash) until the garment no longer bleeds.

Frequently Asked Questions About Natural Dyeing

Can we make patterned designs while dyeing, like tie-dye?

Absolutely. Just follow our Tie-Dye With Kids Guide, and you’re good to go!

What can we do with leftover dye?

Old towels and rags can be easily renewed with the leftover dye. Just keep in mind that the color will likely be weaker than the first dye.

natural dyes to try with children

Let’s Tie it All Up

When kids are wearing their own creations, it provides them with such a great feeling of accomplishment. Plus, it’s a great way to create unique and colorful clothes and to encourage them to develop their own style!

Wishing you and your family a fun, colorful adventure!

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Pazit Reuven
Pazit R.

Pazit R. is a fashion designer with over a decade of experience. She’s a seasoned digital nomad, and that allows her to meet the expression of fashion in different cultures around the world. In 2022, she started her fashion blog,Shawlovers.com, where she shares valuable info and tips about shawls and wraps of all kinds. She’s also a huge DIYer and frequently dyes her own garments.

1 thought on “DIY Natural Dye for Clothing”

  1. If you dry the garment/fabric in a dryer, the heat will set the colors better, but it will still continue to bleed for quite a while and the colors will fade fairly fast, but it’s a really cool activity.

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