Dyeing linen at home is an easy enough process and is a great way to give your linen a fresh new look. You can reinvent an old piece, or switch up your wardrobe to match the season, just with some appropriate dye!
It is better to dye natural fibers, such as cotton, wool, linen, and silk, as these take dye much better than other synthetic fabrics do, and you will be left with a better result.
How do you dye linen? There are a few methods you can choose from to dye linen, such as dyeing the linen in a hot water dye bath, on the stovetop, or in the washing machine. Whichever method you choose, preparation is important to ensure that the linen holds onto the dye, and aftercare is just as important.
To find out all you need to know about dyeing linen, we have compiled this complete guide with everything included so you can get started dyeing linen at home!
Which Fabric Is Best To Dye?
Natural fibers are always better to dye than synthetic fibers. They hold onto dye much better and have a beautiful natural look when dyed. Aftercare for natural linen which has been dyed is also fairly easy.
Linen is a great fabric to dye, but other natural options such as cotton, silk, and wool work well too. You also need to ensure that you are choosing the right dye for the fabric you are using. Certain dyes work best with certain fabrics, so do your research before picking one out!
Also, keep in mind that some dyes are not permanent, so you do need to know the finish you are wanting when picking out a dye, whether you want it to be temporary or for it to be long-lasting.
Dyeing Linen – Step By Step
Once you have your piece of linen ready to dye, you need to get all the other tools and items needed to get dyeing.
Keep in mind that the below instructions are specifically for dyeing linen, and might not be suitable for dyeing other types of synthetic fibers or even other natural fibers.
Also make sure that you have purchased the right dye for the natural linen, reading the instructions on the dye packet to make sure that you have picked the right one for the fabric you are dyeing.
It is also a good idea to use light-colored linen, or even a white linen, as darker colors might not hold onto the dye very well. Here is a step-by-step process on how to dye linen, and the three different methods you can use.
Here is what you will need to dye linen:
- Eco-friendly detergent
- Plastic to protect surfaces
- Rubber gloves
For Hot Water Dye Bath Method:
- Large pot or bucket
- Hot water
For Stovetop Dyeing Method:
- Stainless steel pot
- Hot water
For Washing Machine Method:
- Mild detergent
Preparing The Linen:
- It helps to know how much the linen weighs, so that you can work out exactly how much dye to use. Usually, 1lb of dry fabric requires around 4oz of dye. This should give you good saturation and a darker color, but if you want a lighter color, then you could use less dye.
- If the linen is new, then you might want to wash it in a mild detergent first, but do not dry the linen once it is washed. If it is an older piece of linen, then wet it by dunking it in water. By washing or wetting the linen, you are preparing it for dyeing. It allows the linen to hold onto the dye better and really does help to give you better results. When washing the linen, try to use a mild detergent or eco-friendly detergent, and cool water.
- Prepare the surfaces where you will be dyeing the linen. The dye can stain your countertops or floor and can be difficult to remove. To do this, you can lay down plastic tablecloths or sheeting or lay down old towels or sheets. Remember to protect your clothes too, by wearing an old apron. It is also best to wear old clothes that you won’t mind staining if any accidents happen. If you have sensitive skin or are worried about the dye staining your hands, then you can wear rubber gloves for extra protection.
- Once you have everything ready to get dyeing, you can get started on the actual dyeing process. There are three different dyeing methods that you can use, depending on what you have at home and what would be easiest for you.
Stovetop Dyeing Method:
The stovetop dyeing method is a popular method used, as it helps the dye penetrate the linen for darker, longer-lasting results.
- Fill a large stainless steel pot with enough water so that you can easily submerge the linen into the water.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, add in the salt. Work on ¼ cup of salt per gallon of hot water.
- Once the salt has been added in, add the dye to the water and mix it in well.
- Add the wet linen into the pot with the dye, and reduce the heat down to a simmer.
- Stir the linen in the dye for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, lift up the linen to check if the color has developed to the right color. If not, put it back in for another 5 minutes. Continue checking every 5 minutes until the correct color has been reached. The longer the linen stays in the dye, the darker and more vibrant the color will be.
Hot Water Dye Bath Method:
The hot water dye bath method is a good option if you do not want to work over the stove. It will take a little longer than the stovetop method, but it works just as well.
- Fill a large bucket or stainless steel pot halfway with boiling water. Make sure that the pot is large enough, when half full, to submerge the linen piece in comfortably with some space to move around.
- Add the right amount of dye to the water, with the right amount of salt. Add in ¼ cup of salt per gallon of water.
- Mix the dye and salt together well with the hot water.
- Carefully plunge the linen into the water and stir.
- Keep stirring the linen in the water continuously. How long you spend stirring the linen will depend on how dark you want the color to be. You will need to spend between 5-60 minutes stirring the linen.
- Once the linen reaches a color that is slightly darker than the color you want, carefully remove it from the pot.
Washing Machine Method:
The washing machine method is a favorite for many, as it is super easy and is not a messy method at all. However, while you won’t have to clean up much mess or stand stirring the linen for ages, you do not have as much control over the final color as the other two methods.
- You can use dye pods in the washing machine, which makes the process so much easier. Pop the dye pod into the washing machine and add in the linen.
- Run the washing machine on a 30-degree cycle for 20 minutes.
- Once the cycle has completed, re-wash the garment in mild detergent and with cool water.
If you use the washing machine method, then you do not have to complete the following steps.
Finishing The Linen (Final Steps)
Once you have left the linen to reach your desired color on the stovetop or in the hot water bath, and then removed it, rinse it under cool water until it runs clear.
This can take some time for the water to run clear, but it will happen eventually. It is best to do this over the sink or in the bathtub, where you have enough space to move the linen around to wash out all areas.
You can also place the linen into your washing machine and use the rinse cycle to remove any excess dye.
When the dye has been rinsed out from the linen, you can then place the linen into the washing machine with some gentle detergent. Leave the linen to hang on a line to air dry.
For the next few washes, you might want to wash the dyed linen on its own, just in case the dye runs some more when it is washed, which could stain other clothes.
Are There Risks With Dyeing Linen?
Dyeing linen at home isn’t very risky when it comes to safety concerns, and it is a great way to reuse certain garments at home and to liven up some old textiles you have.
However, you do need to understand that there is a risk that the garment might not turn out exactly how you wanted it to. You might follow the instructions down to the last letter, and the linen doesn’t take on an even color or is lighter or darker than you expected.
If the linen is blended with other fibers, or if it has polyester stitching or logos, then these might end up different colors to the rest of the linen.
Different fibers hold dye in various ways and can be very noticeable on one piece of linen that has been dyed together.
You just need to ensure that you properly prepare the linen, know its composition, choose the right dye, follow the instructions, and keep your fingers crossed!
Tips And Tricks For Dyeing Linen
While you should follow the above steps on how to dye linen, there are some extra tips and tricks that you can use to help with colors, to help dye larger items, and to care for the items after dyeing as well.
You can come up with your own shades and colors to get the unique look you want by mixing colors together. When doing this, it is a good idea to do a little bit of research on some color combinations, and do a test dye bath.
By doing a test dye bath, you can work out a ratio of the colors to mix together, and you can test it on a small piece of linen to see what the resultant color would look like.
If you do not have a small piece of linen to test the color on, you can use a paper towel. It will not hold the dye, but it should give you a good idea of what the color will turn out like.
Dyeing Large Items
Dyeing larger linen items can be tricky, and you will need a bigger pot to place the item in. It is a good idea to use the hot water bath method for bigger items, and use a large bucket placed into the bathtub to catch any spills.
You can heat water up in pots on the stove and pour this into the tub. Make sure that the fabric has enough space in the large tub to move around, so you can stir the garment in the dye as the color develops.
It does also help to have another large bucket close by to place the wet garment into when you lift it out of the dye, to carry it to the washing machine without it dripping all over the floor.
Washing The Dyed Garment
There is a good chance that the color might run in the first few times that you wash the garment in the washing machine. It is a good idea to wash the item alone just in case the color does run. To test this, you can place a white cloth or white sock in the washing machine with the dyed item to see if the color does run.
If the sock or white cloth comes out white after being washed with the dyed item, it is safe to assume that the color has stopped running.
Also keep in mind that continuous washing might cause the color to fade, but you can re-dye the item.
Using the above guide and tips and tricks, you should be able to easily dye linen at home. This gives you the opportunity to bring new life to textiles at home, or you can brighten up or tone down your wardrobe with a few simple color adjustments.
Linen works well with dye, but you need to make sure you choose the right dye for the fabric you are using, and you follow the instructions carefully to ensure you get the best results possible.
Get creative when dyeing linen at home, use different colors, mix together your own shades, and add some new dimensions to your wardrobe or living space!
What is the best way to dye linen?
When dyeing linen, it is always advised to add in salt to the water-dye mixture. The salt helps the dye adhere to the fabric, soaking into the fibers, and it also helps it be longer-lasting too.
To add in salt with the dye, a hot water bath method or a stovetop method of dyeing is best.
Can you dye linen with turmeric?
Turmeric is a natural dye, and it can give un-dyed natural fibers a warm yellow-gold color. The problem with using turmeric to dye linen is that it will fade quickly if the piece is washed often, so it is better used on items that won’t be washed frequently, such as bags or scarves.