How to Make Natural Dyes for Clothes

Natural dyeing is a wonderful way to add color to your clothes while minimizing your environmental impact.

Unlike synthetic dyes, which are made with harmful chemicals and often contribute to water pollution, natural dyes use plant, fruit, and vegetable matter to create beautiful hues.

If you’re interested in learning how to make natural dyes for clothes, this beginner’s guide will walk you through the process of choosing materials, preparing fabrics, creating dyes, and dyeing your clothes.

With some patience and experimentation, you can create vibrant colors that are truly one-of-a-kind!

A Beginner’s Guide to Making Natural Dyes for Clothes: Simple Steps and Recipes

How to Make Natural Dyes for Clothes

Materials Needed

Before making natural dyes, you’ll need to gather a few materials. Most of these materials can be found at your local grocery store, craft store, or online.

Here’s a list of what you’ll need:


You’ll need natural fibers such as cotton, wool, silk, or linen to dye. Synthetic fibers like polyester won’t absorb the color as well.

Dye materials

This can include plants, fruits, vegetables, and even certain insects. Some common examples include onion skins, avocado pits, turmeric, and indigo.


A mordant helps the dye adhere to the fabric and can also alter the shade of the color. Common mordants include alum, vinegar, and iron.

Large pot

You’ll need a pot large enough to hold your fabric and the dye material you’re using.


A strainer can be helpful for removing plant matter from your dye solution.


Wearing gloves can keep your hands from getting stained by the dye.

Stirring utensil

A spoon or stick can be used to stir the dye solution.


You’ll need plenty of water to soak your fabric, prepare your dye, and rinse your dyed fabric.

Heat source

You’ll need a stove or other heat source to boil your dye solution.

Choosing the Right Fabric

Choosing the right fabric for natural dyeing is important to achieving vibrant and long-lasting colors. Natural fibers work best with natural dyes, absorbing and holding the color better than synthetic fibers.

When choosing fabric for natural dyeing, it’s also essential to consider the fabric’s weight and weave. Lighter materials will typically show the dye more vibrantly, while heavier fabrics may result in more muted colors.

Similarly, tightly woven fabrics produce more even and uniform colors, while loosely woven fabrics may create more organic, uneven patterns.


A popular choice for its versatility and affordability, cotton is a natural fiber that works well with most natural dyes. Opt for unbleached or white cotton to ensure the truest color results.


Made from flax fibers, linen is another great option for natural dyeing. It’s highly absorbent and produces beautiful colors when dyed with natural materials.


Known for its luxurious feel and sheen, silk is also a natural fiber that takes well to natural dyes. Due to its protein-based structure, silk can yield rich and vibrant colors with natural dyes.


As an animal-based fiber, wool has a unique affinity for natural dyes, often resulting in deep, intense colors. Remember that wool requires gentle handling and lower temperatures during the dyeing process to prevent felting or shrinkage.


An eco-friendly alternative to cotton, hemp is another natural fiber that works well with natural dyes. It’s strong, durable, and absorbs color effectively.


While not a completely natural fiber, rayon is derived from cellulose and can be used for natural dyeing. Its absorption properties are similar to cotton’s, making it a suitable choice for dyeing with natural materials.

Preparation Process for Fabric

Preparing your fabric for natural dyeing is crucial to ensure that the color adheres properly and lasts longer. Here’s a simple process to follow:


Start by washing your fabric in hot water with a mild detergent to remove dirt, oils, or sizing. This will help the dye penetrate the fibers more evenly.


Mordants are substances that help fix the dye to the fabric and improve color fastness. Some common mordants include alum, iron, and copper.

To mordant your fabric, dissolve the mordant in hot water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and soak the fabric in the solution for several hours or even overnight. Be sure to wear gloves when handling mordants, as they can irritate the skin.


After mordanting, rinse your fabric thoroughly in cool water to remove any excess mordant and prevent it from interfering with the dye uptake.


Before dyeing, soak your fabric in cool water for several hours or overnight. This will help the fabric absorb the dye more evenly and create a richer color.

Once your fabric is prepped and ready, you can begin the dyeing process. Remember that different dyes and fabrics may require different preparation methods, so follow the recipe or instructions for the specific dye you’re using.

Recipes for Making Natural Dyes

Experimenting with different plant materials and combinations can yield various colors and shades. Record your recipes and methods for future reference, as natural dyes can produce unique results each time.

Here are some simple recipes for making natural dyes using plants, fruits, and vegetables:


Turmeric is a potent yellow dye used to dye cotton, silk, and wool. To make the dye, mix 1/2 cup of turmeric powder with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out the solids and add your pre-soaked fabric to the dye bath.

Simmer for 30-60 minutes, depending on the intensity of color you desire.


Beetroot is a great source of red/pink dye. To make the dye, boil 2-3 peeled and chopped beets in 4 cups of water for about 30 minutes.

Strain the liquid into a bowl and add your pre-soaked fabric to the dye bath.

Simmer for 30-60 minutes, depending on the intensity of color you desire.


Indigo is a potent blue dye that has been used for centuries. To make the dye, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparing an indigo vat.

Add your pre-wetted fabric to the vat and let it soak for several minutes. Take the fabric out and let it oxidize in the air for about 20 minutes.

Repeat this process until you achieve the desired depth of color.


Spinach or other green leafy vegetables can create a lovely green dye. Boil 2-3 cups of chopped spinach in 4 cups of water for about 30 minutes.

Strain the liquid into a bowl and add your pre-soaked fabric to the dye bath.

Simmer for 30-60 minutes, depending on the intensity of color you desire.


Onion skins are an excellent source of brown dye. Collect a handful of onion skins and boil them in 4 cups of water for about an hour.

Strain the liquid into a bowl and add your pre-soaked fabric to the dye bath.

Simmer for 30-60 minutes, depending on the intensity of color you desire.

Tips for Achieving Desired Colors and Shades

Achieving the desired colors and shades when using natural dyes can be a trial-and-error process. Here are some tips to help you get the color results you want:

Adjust dye concentration

To deepen or lighten the color, adjust the dye concentration by adding more or less plant material to the dye bath.

Play with pH levels

The acidity or alkalinity of your dye bath can affect the color outcome. For example, adding vinegar to a dye bath can create a more vibrant red or pink hue, while adding baking soda can produce a deeper blue.

Modify the mordant

The type and amount of mordant used can affect the final color. For instance, using iron as a mordant can darken the color, while using alum can create a brighter hue.

Experiment with techniques

Different dyeing techniques like bundle dyeing or resist dyeing can create unique patterns and effects that can enhance the color of the fabric.

Be patient

Natural dyes require more time to soak and develop than synthetic dyes. Allow enough time for the dye to penetrate the fibers and set properly.

Test before dyeing

Always test the color on a small piece of fabric before dyeing the entire garment to avoid disappointment.

Consider the fabric type

Different fabric types can absorb the color differently, affecting the final result. Experiment with different fabrics to find the ones that yield desired colors.

Remember that natural dyes can yield variations in color due to the inherent variability of natural materials. Part of the charm of natural dyeing is embracing the organic and unpredictable nature of the process.

Techniques for Dyeing Fabric

There are various techniques for dyeing fabric with natural dyes, each offering unique results.

When selecting the dyeing technique, consider the type of fabric you’re using, the color you want to achieve, and the effect you’re trying to create. Experimenting with different techniques can yield exciting and unexpected results that enhance the natural beauty of your fabrics.

Here are a few popular methods to try:

Hot water dyeing

This is the most common method of dyeing fabric with natural dyes. To do this, add your pre-wetted fabric to a pot of dye solution on the stove and heat to a simmer.

Stir occasionally for 30-60 minutes, depending on the intensity of color you desire. When you’re happy with the color, remove the fabric from the pot and rinse it thoroughly.

Cold water dyeing

This technique involves soaking your fabric in a container of cool water with the dye material for several hours or overnight. This method works best for lighter colors and can result in a more muted, subtle effect.

Bundle dyeing

This technique involves binding your fabric tightly with string or rubber bands before immersing it in the dye bath. The bound areas will resist the dye and produce interesting patterns when unwrapped.

You can use various materials to bind the fabric, such as wood blocks or clamps.

Resist dyeing

Like bundle dyeing, resist dyeing involves applying a resist material like wax or flour paste to prevent the dye from reaching certain areas of the fabric. This can create intricate designs and patterns, such as tie-dye or batik.

Solar dyeing

This technique involves creating a dye bath and placing your pre-wetted fabric in a clear glass jar or container. Then, expose the jar to sunlight for several days to allow the color to develop naturally.

This method can produce unique color gradients and variegated effects.

Aftercare for Dyed Fabrics

Proper aftercare for dyed fabrics is essential to ensure the colors remain vibrant and don’t bleed or fade. Here are some tips for taking care of your naturally dyed fabrics:

By following these simple aftercare tips, you can extend the life of your naturally dyed fabrics and keep them looking beautiful for years to come.

Rinse thoroughly

After dyeing, rinse your fabric thoroughly with cool water until the water runs clear. This will remove any excess dye and prevent it from bleeding onto other materials.

Wash gently

When washing your dyed fabric, use a gentle detergent and avoid harsh chemicals or bleach. Hand-washing is recommended, especially for delicate fabrics like silk or wool. If using a washing machine, wash on a gentle cycle with cold water.

Dry carefully

Avoid using a dryer, as high heat can cause the color to fade or bleed. Instead, hang the fabric to air dry in a shaded area, away from direct sunlight, to prevent the color from fading or changing.

Store properly

Store your dyed fabrics in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, as exposure to light and heat can cause the color to fade over time.

Test before ironing

Before ironing, test a small inconspicuous area of the fabric to ensure that the heat doesn’t cause the color to fade or bleed.

Avoid harsh chemicals

Avoid chlorine bleach, fabric softeners, or harsh detergents, as they can strip the color and damage the fabric.


Once you’ve mastered the basics of natural dyeing, don’t be afraid to experiment with different mordants, fabrics, and dyeing techniques to achieve the desired colors and effects!

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