A burn test can determine fabric content. Silk burns, while synthetic materials melt.

How to Fix a Sun-Faded Satin Dress

by Melissa J. Bell

A sad little satin dress, dull and faded by excessive exposure to sunlight, may regain its original bright color with a bit of extra dye. Fix up silk satin with a bold fiber reactive dye designed to color natural protein fabrics, or bust out a heavy-duty disperse dye for synthetic polyester satin. Success level depends upon the dye process originally applied to the fabric, as some factories layer dye repeatedly to fully saturate the fabric fibers and any later dye, no matter the type, will have no effect.

Polyester Satin

Wash the dress in a hot machine cycle with 1/2 teaspoon of Synthrapol detergent and 1/2 teaspoon of soda ash.

Suit up in protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, rubber gloves, a dust mask and safety goggles. Cover the work surface with plastic trash bags. Disperse dye powder is toxic to breathe and can stain skin and surfaces.

Set 1 cup of water to boiling in a stainless steel pot. Consult the manufacturing information on the disperse dye, as amounts will vary by brand, and add the dye to the pot. Typically, the more dye added at this stage, the darker the garment's final color.

Stir the dye mixture with a wooden spoon and let it cool completely.

Boil 1 cup of water in a second pot. Add 2 tablespoons of dye carrier to make a dye carrier solution.

Boil 3 gallons of water in a third, larger cookpot. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Synthrapol and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. Add 1/3 cup of distilled vinegar and then the dye carrier solution.

Stretch a pair of nylon stockings over the large pot to create a makeshift strainer. Pour the dye mixture through the nylons, into the pot. Discard the stockings and stir the dye bath.

Immerse the dress in the dye bath. Boil and simmer the bath for 30 minutes, then let it cool.

Bottle the dye bath and fill the pot with clean water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of Synthrapol and boil the water. Wash the dress in the pot.

Rinse the dress in hot, clean water continuously until the dye smell dissipates and no dye bleeds into the water.

Silk Satin

Wash the dress in a cold water cycle with 1/2 teaspoon Synthrapol detergent.

Wear protective gear to prevent stains and injury, including a ventilator mask, safety goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, pants and rubber gloves.

Add 4 tablespoons of fiber reactive dye to 1 cup of water. Add the cup to a 3-gallon bucket of hot water.

Add 3 cups of salt to the bucket, then add the dress. Stir the mixture.

Add 1/3 cup of soda ash to 2 cups of warm water. Pour the mixture into the bucket, then stir the dye bath for 1 hour.

Bottle the dye bath and fill the bucket with clean, hot water. Rinse out the dress, then wash it in a hot wash cycle in the washing machine to remove all the excess dye. Use standard detergent.

Items you will need

  • Synthrapol detergent
  • Measuring spoons
  • Rubber gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Measuring cups
  • Three large stainless steel pots
  • Wooden spoon
  • Disperse dye
  • Dye carrier
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Nylon stockings
  • Empty bottles or jugs with lids
  • Ventilator mask (optional)
  • Fiber reactive dye (optional)
  • 3-gallon bucket (optional)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Soda ash (optional)
  • Detergent (optional)


  • Never dye clothing that includes delicate details or embellishments, as they may not survive the process.
  • Do not dye gathered or ruched clothing, or those with decorative stitching, as these details will not dye evenly.
  • Never reuse utensils or pots. Dye is extremely toxic to ingest.
  • Dispose of bottled dye water at a hazardous waste disposal facility. Do not pour it down the drain.


About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images