Using fabric dye is an excellent home hack, whether for rescuing your favourite pair of jeans, giving your old curtains a bit more oomph or doing a bit of DIY tie-dye. Many of us are becoming more conscious of our spending habits and our impact on the environment too, so fabric dye is perfect for giving your home or wardrobe a new look without costing the earth.
Brands such as Rit, Jacquard and Dylon sell dyes of all colours for every fabric from denim, linen and canvas to wool and even synthetics, but where do you begin in finding the right product? Have no fear, with the help of this step-by-step guide and ranking of the best dye kits, sprays and powders, you're guaranteed to find the perfect match no matter the project.
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There are several things to consider before taking the plunge and purchasing your fabric dye. You need to find the right dye for the right fabric, otherwise, you'll end up with a right mess! Follow this guide and you'll be able to choose with confidence.
Deciphering the many different types of fabric dye can be confusing at first, but read these descriptions and you'll be on your way. Just remember this rule – the better suited your dye formula is to your fabric, the better the result! There are actually more types than are listed below, but we've included only the most light-fast, colour-fast and wash-fast examples on the market.
Fabric reactive dyes are considered amongst the home-dyeing community to be the most permanent of all the options for dyeing animal and plant-based fabrics. This means that you don't have to worry about your fresh new colour running after a couple of washes.
Fibre reactive dyes are made for cellulose and protein fibres. Cellulose fibres are usually made from plant materials. Fabrics that fall under this category include cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, ramie and rayon. So, next time you're thinking of switching up the colour of your jeans or your sheets, this is the way to go!
Many DIY-ers love all-purpose dyes because they are suitable for many fabric types, so it saves you from having to buy different dyes for different projects. All-purpose dyes work well on fabrics with a blend of fibres and are perfect for cellulose and protein fibre.
Although they are very popular and economical, it is usually more effective to opt for a dye type that is specifically catered to your fabric as the results tend to be more vibrant and longer-lasting. One other thing to note is that all-purpose dyes cannot be used to dye synthetic materials like polyester or acrylic.
When choosing between all-purpose and fibre reactive dyes, find out whether the item you're dyeing has a blend of fibres (more than one type of cellulose and/or protein fibre). If it is a blend, then go for all-purpose, if not, then fibre reactive dye is your best bet.
Disperse dyes are your ideal fit if you're looking to dye nylon, acrylic, polyester or acetate fabrics. If your fibre is not protein or cellulose, it's likely to be one of these popular synthetic fibres or a blend.
Synthetic fibres are notoriously difficult to dye, but do not be disheartened – it is not impossible. Disperse dye should definitely be your first choice when dyeing polyester as it tends to respond to the fabric well. Top tip: if you are dyeing polyester, hike up the heat! This'll produce a better result.
It is also tricky to get the colour to be as vibrant as desired and dyed synthetics tend to run in the wash, so make sure to wash them separately. A final piece of advice is that, while spandex is a synthetic, it is best to use acid dye for this fabric, which we'll introduce below.
Do you have a wool jumper that you love but there's a massive stain on it that you just can't shift? Read on! Acid dyes are perfect for protein fibres such as wool, silk, cashmere, angora, mohair, alpaca and fur. This term might sound weird, but it's just a technical way of saying any fabrics made from animal hair, which happen to be high in protein.
When choosing between an acid dye and a fibre reactive dye for colouring protein fibres, your best bet is to go for acid dye as it tends to give you the best, brightest and most durable results.
Don't let the term 'acid' put you off, either – many different brands have non-toxic acid dyes, though you should always be sure to read the label as some can be carcinogenic.
Lastly, it's important to explain what colour fastness is, as this is an important term when deciphering which fabric dye is best for your needs. Colour fastness means your new colour's ability to resist fading and running in the wash – so the better the colour fastness, the less likely your new garment is to harm your other clothes.
You may also want to check the dye for other kinds of fastness. Light fastness refers to your newly-dyed fabric's susceptibility to fading due to exposure to visible light and UV, which might be worth considering if you're dyeing curtains or fabrics that will be used outside a lot.
Wash fastness refers to how adequately it stands up against repeated washing, so this would be a good one to look for when dyeing well-loved clothing. Finally, rub fastness refers to a resistance to, well, rubbing!
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Intensive Fabric Dye
Best Fabric Dye for All-Over Colour and Vibrancy
A Fantastically Versatile, All-Purpose Solution
DyeMore for Synthetics
Breathes New Life Into Synthetic Materials
Vibrant Dye That Resists Washing and Colour Running
iDye Poly Fabric Dye
The Holy Grail of Polyester Dyes
All-in-1 Fabric Dye Pod
Easy-Peasy All-Purpose Machine Dye
Fabric Hand Dye
A Great Choice for Natural Fabric Delicates
Procion MX Dye
The Ideal Fibre Reactive Dye for Creative Projects
TBC The Best Crafts
Tie Dye Kit
For a Tie-Dye Party Extravaganza
Fabric Textile Spray
Quirky Fabric Spray to Liven Up Your Upholstery
This fibre reactive dye (for cellulose fibres) is an ideal choice for those looking for an all-over, vibrant and even colour. Everything you need is included in the packet, so you don't have to provide your own salt which is a plus. It's more environmentally friendly than Dylon's pods but equally quick and easy to use.
As well as being colourfast, washfast and non-toxic, this product is also hypoallergenic, which is brilliant news for those wanting to dye their clothes but are worried about their sensitive skin. This quality dye is available in 17 gorgeous colours to suit all your projects.
For many, Rit's liquid All-Purpose Dye ticks all the boxes. Not only is it non-toxic and comes in a huge variety of colours, but it is super versatile in the ways you can apply it. You use it to create an ombre effect, tie-dye or simply pop it in your machine for all-over colour.
It works wonders on both cellulose and protein fibres such as cotton, linen, silk and wool (and nylon too), as well as craft materials like wood, cork, wicker and paper! This product is pretty hard to beat as an all-purpose option.
It used to be notoriously difficult to colour synthetic materials at home, that is until Rit produced this dye! These include nylon, acetate and acrylic as well as polyester. Like all of Rit's products, this one is also non-toxic and cruelty-free, which is always a win in our books.
The best method of dyeing synthetic fibres is using warm water and the stove-top method, which is a bit more labour intensive than just sticking it in your washing machine and letting it do its magic. It might take you more time, but it's the price you'll have to pay when dyeing synthetic fibres.
Firstly, don't be put off by the slightly more expensive price! Although this one may seem like it costs more in relation to the other dyes, this powder is super concentrated and the colours are so bold and brilliant. It can be used either in the machine or using a pan on the hob.
The formula is also is non-toxic and the colour doesn't run when washed, nor does it fade when exposed to light. If you're looking for a vibrant, all-over colour for your protein fibre fabrics and aren't afraid to spend a little more to get it, then this is the dye for you.
This disperse dye is hailed as the holy grail of synthetic fabric dyes, working a treat on polyester, nylon and acrylic in addition to cellulose and protein fabrics like cotton and silk. You can even dye plastic wigs with it! However, it is still difficult to dye fabrics that are fully synthetic, so bear this in mind before dyeing.
Jacquard's products can look a little daunting for amateurs as they don't come with loads of instructions, but this is much more user-friendly. Lastly, this dye is notorious for staining sinks, so be sure to use gloves and give your sink a wipe with bleach afterwards!
DYLON's machine pods are a fabulous place to start when dyeing clothes and soft furnishings. Simply pop it in your washing machine with your desired materials and voila! This is great for people who are concerned about the corrosive nature of dye as you don't have to handle it at all.
Although it is super easy to use, there are some downsides. The washfast quality isn't that great, so we recommend washing items by themselves for the foreseeable. Additionally, it can dye your machine if used a lot, so make sure to clean the drum and door seals afterwards.
Worried about dyeing your delicates in a washing machine or only want to dye a couple of socks or a crop top? This is the product for you. It works best on 100% cellulose or protein fibres, so if you're dyeing a mix then expect the colour to be a bit lighter (you may have to do a double dye).
Something that puts people off using this dye is that you have to keep stirring it for a long time in order to get all-over coverage. You also need to provide 250 g of table salt. These are minor things, though, and all in all, if you're worried about using your washing machine to dye your delicates, you should give this one a go.
Jacquard's Procion MX is a fibre reactive dye so it will work best on cellulose fibres. This is a great buy if you're looking to experiment with creative dye methods such as tie-dye, screen printing, airbrushing, ombre dyeing and painting.
Another plus is that you can make your own custom colours by following the Jacquard colour chart. Keep in mind that although this dye is not super difficult to use, the sheer amount of ways you can use it can be overwhelming to beginners. You'll also need to get hold of some soda ash and salt.
This tie-dye kit is a bit more on the expensive side, but it's so easy to use and so much fun that we reckon it's worth it. Plus, it's good value as it comes with 26 non-toxic colours, rubber bands, a (much-needed) table cover and a case to keep it all together. Apparently, there's enough dye for 96 projects!
Whether you're looking for something new to do with the kids or you just want to funk up some of your old T-shirts, this kit is a great pick. The one downside is that, for best results, you'll need to stick to cellulose and protein fibre fabrics like cotton, viscose, wool and silk.
We thought this would be a fun addition to the list because it's something a little bit different. Pébéo's textile spray comes in loads of colours and allows you to get a little more creative with your projects. All you need to do is spray on your design and then fix it with an iron or by putting it in the oven!
Although it advertises that it works on both natural and synthetic fabrics, it is unlikely to work on polyester. These cans are also small, so if you are working on large curtains or sheets, you'll have to purchase quite a few cans. It's probably best to try this out on a smaller material first to get a feel for the product.
Finally, don't forget to read and follow the instructions, even if you've dyed fabric before. The method will vary depending on the product, whether that's popping it in your machine or tie-dyeing it. All dyes come with directions on how to use that specific product to the best of its ability and many have lots of advice on their websites too.
Fabric dyes can also contain chemicals that are harmful. Make sure to always read the label of your chosen fabric dye and to use safety equipment (goggles and gloves, for example) if advised to. Some fabric dyes can burn or stain your skin so be careful and keep them out of the way of children.
There are tie-dye kits on the market that are suitable for use with children, but only when supervised by an adult. We would also recommend that you do your dyeing either outside or somewhere with wipeable surfaces because even if it's not harmful to the skin, it is messy!
Feeling inspired to get creative and act more sustainably when it comes to your fashion and homeware items? With help from the guides below, you could tie-dye some faded T-shirts or bedding, braid a macrame bag or even start making your own clothes!
We hope this article and ranking of the best fabric dyes on the market helped you in your quest for fabric dyeing wisdom. Whether you're looking to achieve that hippy chic look this summer with tie-dye or to infuse some much-needed colour into your living room, we've got you covered.
Author: Lara Delmage
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