View Full Version : Dying Cotton?

04-19-2007, 06:49 PM
Does anyone know of a food-based way to dye cotton? I know Kool-Aid and Paas don't work on cotton. Is there anything? Thanks.

Susan P.
04-20-2007, 08:23 AM
There are a number of foods or food 'types' that can be used to colour e.g. tumeric, beet juice, saffron, paprika and so on BUT the trouble with cotton is that none of these will be washfast as such. I read a great piece a year or two back that debunked the claim some people make of garments being 'naturally food dyed' and so on. It's rather like the colourings that are used to make glace cherries red because without the colourant they would be beige and so on. Many of those 'naturally food dyed' claims are really about the typical food colourants used in industry. That said, it's always worth contacting say a hemp sales place (hemp yarns etc) to ask how they 'fix' their dyes when they claim to use 'natural' dyes. See what they say.

Most very natural dyes will fade and streak (be careful washing with other items) BUT this link claims the process to be colourfast. It combines everyday common dirt basically (but remember, many indigenous peoples use ochres for painting) with soymilk and it's the soy that is claimed to be the 'binder' between the dye of the ground dirt or stone and the cotton material. Soy is put through a manufacturing process so it may not be quite as 'natural' as we think BUT this appears to be worth a try for you. Let us know how you go with it if you try it out??


As another tip my mother and grandmother used to always add salt to a new garment as it was first washed (add salt to the water) claiming it would 'hold' the colour.

04-20-2007, 09:56 AM
what about the Wilton gel or paste type colors (meant for coloring icing)? would they wash out too? just a little of those dyes goes a long way.

Susan P.
04-20-2007, 10:20 AM
marykz. The problem again is 'fixing' those dyes so that they will become colourfast. Very hard to achieve with cotton and I wouldn't use food colourants like that with any dying unless I had a superb fixative. Those dyes will tend to run really quickly and fade fast.

I'd just get a colour fast dye and be done with it :-)

Experimenting is fun though and a great project for kids in the backyard. Give them a bag of cut up white cloths and a couple of shallow tubs and various items and then encourage them to wander the yard to find leaves and flowers and things to try to (but not putting in mouth!). Oh, and a clothes line and pegs then can pin up finished items. They can also use elastic bands to try and tie dye etc also.


04-20-2007, 10:42 AM
Ah- I understand- thanks Susan P... I haven't tried dying anything.... yet. I bet my daughter would love trying it! now that our weather is finally warming up I think it would be fun...