DIY Natural Fabric Dyes

Mar, 29, 2018

Here on Green Mom, we’ve discussed the dangers of food dyes and some brilliant natural alternatives to chemical food dyes. Today, let’s cover natural fabric dyes. From those unnaturally neon-bright colors to the dangers of added flame retardants, there are many good reasons to try dyeing your fabrics at home.
A 2014 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group and Duke University found evidence of exposure to TDCIPP, a cancer-causing flame retardant, in the bodies of all 22 mothers and 26 children tested. In the children, the average concentration of a chemical biomarker was nearly five times higher than the average concentration in the mothers. Young children are particularly susceptible to the toxicity of flame retardant chemicals.
Do you have any idea what’s in a typical bottle of Rit dye? They’re not sharing, but it does have this ominous warning:
“Eye irritant. Contains salt (sodium chloride). Avoid contact with eyes. Wash thoroughly after handling. First aid: in case of eye contact immediately flush with water for 15 minutes. Call physician. Keep out of reach of children.”
Read enough? Let’s get started! First, you’ll need clean, untreated fabric. Natural fabrics like cotton, silk, linen or wool absorb dyes far better than synthetics do. Soak the fabric overnight so it is fully saturated. This helps the fabric pick up color evenly.
Next, decide on your color(s) of choice and gather your dye ingredients. Onion skins are a very common and easy-to-use dye, and you’re repurposing something that would otherwise be discarded (unless you’re composting). Onion skins release their color easily and produce lovely shades of pale yellow to deep amber. Here are some other options you can try:

  • Yellow/Orange: Yellow onion skin, Turmeric, Marigolds, Zinnias, Calendula, Carrot peelings, Lemon peels
  • Red/Pink: Avocado pits, Prickly Pear, Annatto Seeds, Strawberries, Beets, Pomegranates, Cranberries, Cherries, Hibiscus flowers
  • Blue/Purple: Purple cabbage, Blackberries, Blueberries, Purple grapes, Purple iris
  • Green: Frozen spinach, Artichokes, Nettle
  • Beige/Brown: Coffee grinds, Boiled acorns, Walnut hulls
  • Grey/Black: Red onion skin, Sumac leaves, Walnut hulls, Meadowsweet

Now, place one part chopped ingredient to two parts water in a large stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour. Then add one part vinegar and four parts water to the pot. Use a strainer to remove the solids. Bring dye back to a boil, add wet fabric, and reduce heat to simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, if you’re happy with the color, you can remove the fabric; or for deeper color, remove the pot from the heat and let it soak overnight. Rinse fabric in clear cool water. Hang to dry.

Fredrika Syren

Fredrica Syren, the author and founder of Green-Mom.com, was born in Sweden. Her mother was a classically trained chef who introduced her to many eclectic flavors and skills at a young age. Her mom’s passion for the outdoors and gardening planted the seed for her own love of nature and healthy eating. She received a degree in journalism and has worked as a print, Internet and broadcasting journalist for many years with big businesses within Europe and the United States. After her mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she with pre-cancer, Fredrica changed her career to become a full time yoga teacher and activist. A longtime world traveler, foodie and career woman, she was exposed to many facets of life, but nothing inspired her more than becoming a mom. After her first-born, Fredrica began a food blog focusing on local, seasonal, organic & vegetarian dishes. Years of food blogging developed into the cookbook Yummy in My Tummy, Healthy Cooking for the Whole Family. Upon the arrival of her second child, Fredrica founded Green-Mom.com. Her vision was to establish a site providing insight about gardening, home and personal care, baby & child, and of course food & nutrition. Green-Mom.com hosts many talented writers shedding light on ways to incorporate eco-friendly and nutritious practices for busy families. She is an advocate for organic, local and sustainable businesses. Fredrica hopes to inspire social change through her lifestyle, passion and business. Fredrica lives with her husband James Harker-Syren and their three children in San Diego, CA.

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Hello there! My name is Fredrika and I’m a Sweden native living in San Diego, California with my husband James and our three children. I’m an environmental writer and have been sharing my family’s journey of living zero-waste since we shifted our lifestyle back in 2016.

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