Do you want cheap black jeans to pair with a new goth wardrobe or just a bold, black update to a few faded t-shirts? Maybe you need a nice dress to wear to a funeral? Either way, you can learn how to dye your clothes black in a few simple methods!
Popular ways to dye clothes black include using a dye bath and RIT dye or using RIT dye in the washing machine. Other popular methods include using a hot water bath on the stovetop or using dyes designed for specific types of material, such as polyester. Natural products such as coffee and walnuts can also work in place of commercial dyes.
In this article, you will learn how to dye clothes black using nine popular methods that feature both store-bought and homemade dyes. You will discover how to make the black dye permanent. Finally, you will find tips on the best black dyes.
- Can You Dye Clothes Black?
- How to Dye Clothes Black: 9 Methods
- How To Dye Fabric Black Without Dye
- How Can I Permanently Dye Clothes at Home?
- Can You Dye Any Fabric Black?
- What is the Best Black Dye For Clothes?
- DIY Black Fabric Dye
Can You Dye Clothes Black?
You can dye most clothes black so long as you use the correct methods and the right kind of dye. To pick the right kind of dye for your garment, you need to start by finding out what type of fabric fibers it contains.
Does the tag inside your jeans, dress, or shirt say “100% polyester”? Or maybe 50% polyester, 50% cotton? Different types of fabric react best to different coloring agents, so you need to make sure you match the fabric to the dye!
Cotton, rayon, and linen all have natural plant-based fibers that easily absorb liquid, making them quite easy to dye black. You can use a wide variety of dye types, including basic RIT dyes, with these kinds of materials. But you do have to watch the temperatures you employ during the dying process because cotton can shrink dramatically in high heat.
Silk and wool come from animals, and the fibers in these types of fabric are protein-based. This means that they need a different kind of dye. Acid dyes work best with protein-based fibers.
Synthetic fabrics also have their own set of rules. Some, like rayon, have a high absorbency and will react more like cotton during the dying process. But most, including polyester, will not absorb water-based dyes at all!
Polyester comes from petroleum and its “fibers” are tiny bits of plastic treated to look like bits of thread! About a hundred years of innovation have turned this man-made fabric into one of the most popular fabrics to use for clothing, home goods, and industrial purposes because it is so much cheaper than natural fabrics.
This means you have about a 50/50 chance that any garment you want to turn black will contain polyester. So, can you dye polyester black?
You can color synthetic fabrics, but you generally need to use a special product called disperse dyes. These commercial products can react with the plastic fibers in the synthetic fabric and permanently bond with it.
Besides choosing the right kind of coloring agent for your garment, you also need to consider its original color. In some cases, you can successfully re-dye a black garment that has faded with time. But your best chance of success is to start with a white or off-white garment.
You should not try to dye a colorful or printed garment black. The old and new dye may mix, giving you very strange results! Plus, any printed pattern will likely show through the black in shades of gray.
One final thing to consider is the condition of your garment.
Old stains or bleach spots on your garment may show through your new dye job. Some types of dye can create an even shade across the whole surface of a stained garment, but many types will show lighter in previously stained or bleached areas. For example, if you dye a stained shirt black, the stains may show through as gray, while the unstained part turns a true black.
How to Dye Clothes Black: 9 Methods
Once you have a garment in good condition ready to dye, you can choose from several methods to dye it black, including using a hot dye bath on the stove or your washing machine.
1. In the Washing Machine
The easiest way to dye clothes black is in the washing machine. You don’t have to stand over a boiling pot of water or haul heavy, waterlogged clothing around for this method!
The downside to putting dye into your washing machine is that it can stain the inside walls of the machine. If you do not clean your machine after the dyeing process, the color could bleed onto other clothing the next time you do laundry.
Also, you should know that some fabric will not become colorfast unless your heat-set it using the stovetop method, so make sure you read the instructions on your dye packet!
- Run your clothing through a warm water cycle in the washing machine with detergent to get it clean.
- Next, set aside the damp garment and prep the machine. You will want the hottest water possible and a long wash cycle if you have that option.
- Use the instructions on your dye packet to measure out the correct amount of dye for your garment.
- Mix that dye into four cups of very hot water.
- Measure one cup of table salt into another four cups of hot water.
- Add the garment and start the wash cycle.
- If you have a detergent chute in your machine, pour the dye dissolved in water and then the salt dissolved in water. (If you do not, just add these into the main basin before you start the wash cycle).
- Once the cycle ends, you can rinse the garment and then wash it by itself in the washing machine with a gentle detergent to make sure the color holds.
2. On the Stovetop
In many cases, the best way to set black dye permanently into fabric is to use high heat in a boiling dye bath. You can do this using the stovetop method!
Every type of dye will require slight variations on this method. For instance, disperse dyes often need additional ingredients like synthrapol.
But the basic concept remains the same. You will heat a large pot of water on your stovetop and bring it to a boil. You add the dye and/or various other ingredients and the garment.
Steeping times vary, depending on the fabric in your garment and the kind of dye you choose. But the key thing is that the garment and the coloring agent must sit in the boiling water.
You can find step-by-step guides for RIT and Disperse dyes on the stovetop later in this section!
3. Black Rit DyeThe RIT company suggests several modifications to the instructions for their products if you want to dye clothes a true black. You can find those modifications here!
Before you start, check the label inside the clothing to see what kind of fabric it contains. Regular RIT dye works best on cotton. The company also sells an alternative called Rit DYEMore, which can work on polyester.
Also, you can use this kind of dye in a regular bucket full of water or for the washing machine method. But RIT suggests using hot water for the best results with black dye, as you will see!
- First, wash the garment, though you do not have to put it through the dryer. Dyeing always works best on clean fabric!
- Find a very large pot that can easily contain several gallons of water and your clothing at the same time. Fill the pot halfway full of water and put it on your stove over high heat.
- Heat the water until it begins to boil. You will see frothy bubbles on the surface of the water when this happens.
- Read the instructions on the package, but make this key adaptation: use double the amount of dye recommended on the package. Usually, this will mean using a whole bottle of dye per item of clothing.
- To color a cotton garment black, add one cup of table salt to the water after adding the dye. For silk or wool, add one cup of white vinegar instead.
- Next, add the garment! You will want to keep it in hot water for at least 30 minutes, stirring often with a long spoon.
- Finally, RIT recommends using an additional measure called a color stay fixative after you complete the dying process. You need to soak the garment in this product before you wash it in your washing machine.
4. Procion DyeProcion reactive dyes work best with cellulose fibers and can chemically bond to the fabric without heat. This kind of coloring agent fixes inside the fibers of the fabric instead of just on the surface, so it creates a more permanent coloring!
In some cases, you can also use procion reactive dyes on animal-based fabrics like silk or wool, but you will probably find it easier to use acid dyes on those kinds of materials. Companies like Dharma Trading and Jacquard sell this.
- Start by weighing your garment. Write down how many grams the garment weighs.
- Wash the garment in your washing machine. You can throw it in with a regular load of laundry. Make sure you take it out damp instead of putting it in the dryer.
- Next, you will set up the dye bath. To do this, you need to do a bit of math–you will need two liters of water for every 100 grams of weight in your garment measurement. So if you have a pair of jeans that weighs 300 grams, you will need six liters of water in your tub or basin.
- Adding the correct amount of dye gets a little more tricky. Some brands, like Dharma trading, suggest double or even quadruple the recommended amount if you want to get a true black. Then again, Jacquard’s MX says to just add the amount indicated on the package.
- Besides dye, you will need to add salt to the water. The package will tell you how much salt to add depending on the weight of your garment. Usually, you will want to add 60 grams of salt per every 100 grams of weight in your garment.
- Gently add your damp garment to this solution. Let it soak for half an hour, but stir the bath every couple of minutes to keep the color evenly distributed over the fabric.
- Next, you need to add one final key ingredient, known as a fixer. Often this will come with the dye, but you can also buy soda ash and use that if you prefer. Just like the salt, you measure this depending on the weight of your garment, usually about 26 grams per 100 grams of weight in the garment.
- After weighing the fixer, stir it into a small cup of hot water and then add it to the solution.
- Let the dye bath sit for 45 minutes.
- Carefully rinse the garment in cold water until you do not see any color running off with the water.
- To make sure the color has bonded to the fabric properly, wash the garment by itself in your washing machine using hot water.
5. Disperse DyeDisperse dyes do not dissolve in water, making them unsuitable for dyeing natural fabrics, but perfect for polyester! This synthetic dye can color polyester clothes and is also used in sublimation printing for t-shirts.
Disperse dyes typically require a lot of heat as part of the process, so you will need to use a version of the stovetop method. It is a little more dangerous and messy than using your washing machine, but this is the only way to successfully dye polyester clothes black at home.
- First, you need to wash your polyester garment. For the best results, consider adding half a teaspoon of synthrapol and soda ash. Some dye brands skip the soda ash, but most recommend the synthrapol.
- To create a strong black, you will probably want to use 6 teaspoons of the dye.
- If your dye comes in powdered form, dissolve it in a cup of boiling water and then let it cool. After it cools, strain it through a fine sieve or a piece of nylon stocking. If it comes in liquid form, you can skip this step.
- In some cases, your dye will come with a separate “dye carrier” product. You will want to add that to another cup of boiling water, let it dissolve, and then allow it to cool.
- Now that you have your ingredients ready, you can start the dye bath!
- Place a large metal pot filled with two gallons of water on your stovetop.
- Measure another half teaspoon of synthrapol into the boiling water. Add eleven teaspoons of white vinegar. Finally, add the dye carrier and the dye.
- Add your damp, pre-washed polyester garment to the pot.
- Turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil, stirring in slow, constant circles.
- Once the water boils, you can turn the heat down to low and allow the dye bath to simmer for 45 minutes. You only need to stir occasionally at this point.
- During the last few minutes of the dyebath soak, start another large pot of water on your stove. You will need this for a boiling-water rinse. Bring this water to a temperature of at least 180℉.
- Use tongs to carefully transfer the garment from the dyebath to the pot of clean, hot water.
- Carefully pour out the dye bath, rinse the pot in your sink, and then prep it for a final wash.
- For the post-dyeing wash, heat clean water to 160℉. Add half a teaspoon of synthrapol.
- Place the garment in this final wash and let it sit in hot water for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After this, you can finally rinse the garment under running water in your sink! Let it dry, hanging up outside if possible.
6. Hair DyeHere’s the thing: you can successfully dye clothes like jeans black using hair dye. But hair dye usually costs a lot more than fabric dye. Also, fabric dyes let you pick special products for every different kind of fabric, which will work more effectively than hair dye.
If you have a few packages of black hair dye sitting around, you may still want to try this method! It’s pretty simple:
- Use the stovetop method to create a simmering dye bath. To do this, bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Add the hair dye and make sure it dissolves in the water.
- Then add the garment. Let it simmer for a while–at least an hour. You can also turn off the heat and allow the dyebath to sit overnight.
- Rinse the garment under cold water to see if the color held. If it did, make sure you wash the garment by itself in your washing machine the first time!
7. With CoffeeIf you don’t like using strong chemicals, you may want to try dyeing your clothes black using coffee!
In all honesty, using coffee may not turn your clothes a true, rich black. You’re more likely to get various shades of dark brown. But the process is cheap, fun, and worth a try!
- You will need strong enough dark coffee to fill a large pot two-thirds full. The kind of coffee you use doesn’t matter a whole lot–you can even use instant!–but it does need to be brewed very strongly.
- Bring the coffee in the pot to a boil.
- Add the garment to boiling coffee, and stir the fabric with a long spoon to ensure no air pockets build up in the material.
- Turn the boiling coffee down to a low simmer and allow the garment to steep in the strong, dark coffee. The longer it sits, the darker it will get! In most cases, you will want to leave the coffee bath for at least an hour.
- Once your garment looks dark enough, remove it from the coffee and rinse it under cool running water.
- Coffee “dye” is not colorfast, so you should never wash this garment in your washing machine. Instead, gently wash it by hand by itself, so the coffee does not stain anything else.
8. Natural Ingredients
One of the most popular all-natural black dyes comes from walnuts. You can’t use the kind in the grocery store, though–you will need to find a walnut tree nearby and get permission to collect a sackful of fallen nuts!
Walnut dye often works best on animal fiber fabric but can also work on cotton or plant-based fabrics.
Also, as a safety note, you cannot use utensils that will come into contact with food for this process. This means that you cannot use any pots, spoons, etc., that you use with walnut dye to make your dinner later! You will also want to wear gloves and protective clothing because the walnut dye can stain your skin.
- Break the walnut shells with a hammer or with nutcrackers. Place the whole mess inside a large mesh bag.
- Place the bag in a large pot and add enough water to cover the walnuts.
- Take the pot to your stove and bring the water to a boil.
- Lower the heat till the water holds a low simmer, and let it simmer for an hour.
- Let the water cool, and then strain it through muslin or cheesecloth, so no bits of shell get through.
- Then return the dye to the pot, heat it again to a boil, and add your clothing. Let that simmer for another 30 minutes.
Walnuts contain something called tannic acid, which makes them pretty colorfast. You should wash your garment by itself the first time, but the color should hold!
9. Household Items
One of the most adventurous ways to dye your clothes back is to make dye out of household items like nails and screws! You will also need a bunch of acorns to balance out the iron in this method.
- First, you will need to find about a cup of old, rusty nails, screws, nuts, or bolts.
- Add the nails, one cup of white vinegar, and two cups of water to a glass jar with a tightly sealing lid.
- Let the nail jar sit outside for two weeks. It should look orange or yellow at that point.
- Pour the “nail water” into a basin large enough to fit your garment.
- Put five pounds of acorns and enough water to cover them in a large pot. Simmer this on low heat for one hour.
- Now, you will soak the garment in the acorns, then the nail liquid, repeating this back-and-forth until the garment looks as dark as you would like.
- Place your garment in the acorn water for about 45 minutes.
- Use tongs to transfer the wet garment from the acorn water to the nail water. Let the garment sit in the rusty nail water for ten minutes.
- Once your garment looks dark enough, rinse it under cold water and let it dry outside.
How To Dye Fabric Black Without Dye
You can dye fabric black without dye using several natural ingredients such as walnuts and acorns or coffee. You can also use household items like rusty nails to add an essential amount of iron to a special coloring mixture.
Most natural DIY coloring agents do not create a true, dense black color. For that, you often need a commercial dye product.
How Can I Permanently Dye Clothes at Home?
You can permanently dye clothes at home using several tricks such as using a fixative or using heat.
Most coloring agents, including water-soluble dyes and disperse dyes, will remain more permanent if you use a heated bath. For natural fabrics, heat often allows the fibers to relax or open up, allowing easier bonding. For synthetic fabrics, heat is essential to activate the bonding that happens between synthetic dyes and synthetic fibers.
You can also add certain ingredients, like synthrapol, dye fixatives, or soda ash to help some types of fabric bond permanently with fabric.
Can You Dye Any Fabric Black?
You can dye any fabric black so long as you use the right dye for that material.
Cellulose-based fabrics like cotton and linen often take dye most easily. Protein-based fabrics like wool can hold color beautifully, but they need acid dyes for this to work. Synthetic fabrics like polyester can prove quite tricky to dye black, but you can accomplish this if you use disperse dyes and boiling water.
Before you try to dye a garment, you should check the label inside to find out what fabric it is made out of.
You should also check to see if it has any warnings. Some garments cannot survive exposure to water or heat and only allow dry cleaning. These delicate garments may not survive the dyeing process.
What is the Best Black Dye For Clothes?The best black dye for your clothes is a commercial product designed specifically for the type of fabric in your garment. For instance, if you have a polyester shirt, you will need to use synthetic disperse dyes to turn the shirt black!
Several popular brands of black dyes include:
- Jacquard iDye, for silk and rayon, and Jacquard Procion MX for cotton, linen, and other plant-based fabrics.
- RIT all-purpose dye for plant and animal fibers, and RIT DYEMore for synthetic fabrics.
- Dritz Permanent Fabric Dye for poly-blend fabrics.
You can find these popular brands of fabric dyes at most craft stores or online from places like Etsy or Amazon.
DIY Black Fabric Dye
You can make your own DIY black fabric dye using strong coffee, walnuts, or acorns and old nails!
You can also make a natural dye using iris roots, but this method is poisonous, so you should approach it with care!
- For this method, you start by filling a pot two-thirds full of water and adding four cups of vinegar. Then add your garment and let it simmer on low heat for one hour.
- Rinse the garment to remove some of the vinegar after this.
- Next, chop up two cups of iris roots. Add the roots and four cups of water to another pot.
- Add the wet garment and let this dyebath simmer for another hour.
- Stir the garment every few minutes.
- After the hour is up, turn off the heat and let the dyebath sit overnight.
- The next morning, wash the garment by hand using a gentle detergent.
You can dye clothes back using lots of different methods, from soaking the garment in strong coffee to using special synthetic dyes and a pot of boiling water! Every kind of fabric works best with specific kinds of dye, making it important to select the right coloring agent before you begin. Cotton and other plant-based fabrics are the easiest kind of fabric to dye, and synthetic materials like polyester require the most work to dye black.
Popular types of commercial dyes used to dye clothes black include RIT dyes that work on most types of fabric, Procion dyes that work on plant and protein fabrics and disperse dyes that work on synthetics. Brands like RIT, Jacquard, and Dritz make well-regarded black dyes.