Machine dry or air dry dyed clothing.

How to Dye Faded Clothes

by Hilary White

Refreshing your favorite jeans or bringing new life to old T-shirts may be as simple as buying a package or bottle of fabric dye. Inexpensive and available in a wide array of colors, easy-to-use dyes can brighten up your wardrobe while saving you money.

Assess the type of fabric to be dyed. Fabric dyes works best on natural, washable fabrics, including cotton, linen, silk, ramie and wool; and synthetics such as nylon and rayon. Fabrics with at least 60-percent cotton or other dyeable fiber will dye evenly but won't attain full color. Avoid dying clothing made of 100-percent polyester, acrylic, spandex or metallic fibers; clothing with bleach damage or excessive stains; clothing washable only in cold water; and garments labeled "dry clean only."

Wash the clothing to be dyed, removing any stains with a stain remover or color remover to ensure even color.

Calculate the amount of dye to use by the weight or size of the garment. For reference, a typical T-shirt weighs about 5 ounces, while a pair of jeans weighs about 1 pound. Consult the dye's label for instructions.

Select your colors. Use a single color or mix several colors to achieve the desired shade. Check dye manufacturers' websites for a color formula guide that tells you the exact amount of each dye to mix together to get your perfect color and hue.

Choose to dye your garments in a washing machine, in a pot on the stove top, or in a bucket or sink. Using the washing machine is easy and convenient for large items. Because heat helps the dye penetrate, the stove-top method is best when using black or dark-colored dyes. Choose to use a bucket or the sink for small or delicate garments.

Wear gloves to avoid staining your hands. Dissolve powder or liquid dye in water according to the directions on the package. Create deeper, more intense color by adding 1 cup of salt to the dye bath of clothes that contain cotton, rayon, ramie or linen; or 1 cup of white vinegar when dying nylon, silk or wool.

Fill the pot, bucket or washing machine with water according to the directions, adding the pre-dissolved dye and salt or vinegar, and immerse clothing. Let garments soak the maximum time for the deepest color, stirring or agitating as directed.

Remove clothes from the dye bath and rinse in warm water. Finish rinsing with cool water until the water runs clear.

Wash clothes in warm water with a mild detergent, finishing with a cold-water rinse, and machine dry or hang to dry.

Immediately clean your sink, bucket or pot with chlorine bleach. Clean your washing machine by running a full wash cycle, using the hot water and the highest water level along with 1 cup of chlorine bleach.

Items you will need

  • Liquid or powder fabric dye
  • Rubber gloves
  • Salt or white vinegar
  • Chlorine bleach


  • Test a swatch first if you're unsure how your clothing will accept the dye. Even if the fabric is dyeable, it's possible the thread used in your garment won't accept the dye.
  • Adding a tablespoon of laundry detergent to the dye bath may help garments dye more evenly.

About the Author

Hilary White is a professional writer and editor based in San Diego. White has been writing articles on fashion, style, fitness, nutrition, movies and entertainment since 1994. Her articles have been published in "Westways" magazine, "Pages" magazine, "Book Street USA," "Magill's Cinema Annual," and numerous titles from Visible Ink Press. White holds a bachelor's degree in English from Michigan State University.

Photo Credits

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