Fabrics natural fabric dye

Published on May 9th, 2012 | by Becky Striepe

24

How-to: Make Natural Fabric Dye from Turmeric

natural fabric dye

Conventional fabric dyes are bad news. The runoff from fabric dye pollutes waterways, and the dyes themselves are not so healthy for workers who are around them day in and day out, either. Luckily, you don’t need harsh, chemical dyes to tint fabric in lovely colors! You can use natural, food-based ingredients like fruits, veggies, and herbs to create your own non-toxic fabric dye.

If you’ve every cooked with turmeric, you know that it stains fabric like gangbusters. Heck, it even stains your hands, if you handle it too much. The property that calls for caution in the kitchen is your ally if you’re looking to dye fabric a cheery shade of yellow! Here’s how to make a batch of fabric dye from turmeric, water, and just one other ingredient that’s most likely already in your kitchen!

Materials

  • 4 cups of water + 1/4 cup table salt
  • undyed or light colored fabric of your choice. I used a vintage hankie that I picked up at Salvage:
vintage handkerchief for dyeing

Before Dyeing: I'm not 100% sure what this vintage hankie is made of, but it feels like cotton.

  • 2 cups water + 2 tablespoons of ground turmeric
  • non-reactive sauce pan (stainless steel or ceramic will work best)
  • wooden spoon

Directions

1. Combine the water and salt in your pan and bring it to a boil, then add your fabric and let it simmer for one hour. The salt is your “fixative,” which helps your fabric take the dye.

2. Drain your fabric, wring it out when it’s cool enough to handle, and rinse your pot.

3. Combine the water and turmeric in the same pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.

making natural fabric dye

4. Turn off the heat, add your fabric to the pot, and use your wooden spoon to make sure that the fabric gets a nice coating in the dye. Let your fabric soak. The longer it soaks, the more vibrant your color will be check it after the first 5-10 minutes, then just keep checking on the fabric every few minutes until you get the vibrancy you’re looking for. Make sure that each time you pull the fabric out of the dye that you use your wooden spoon to fully submerge it again – you don’t want the dye job to turn out uneven! I let mine soak for about 15 minutes, and you can see the result in the photo at the top of this page.

5. Rinse your fabric in the sink until the water runs clear, hang it to dry, and you’re ready to craft with your turmeric dyed fabric!

This made more than enough dye for my little handkerchief, so I poured the leftover dye into a glass jar and am storing it into the fridge for another project. I’m not sure how long it will keep, but a week or two sounds reasonable. Refrigerator pickles keep for about that long, and this is just turmeric and water. If anyone knows the shelf life for natural fabric dyes, I’d love to know!



Keep up with the latest in the world of green crafts by signing up for our free newsletter. CLICK HERE to sign up!


Tags: , , , , ,


About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • Pingback: How to Make Natural Fabric Dye | Glue and Glitter

  • http://ninthstreetnotions.com Amanda

    I love this idea! I’ve been wanting to get into natural dyes, and this seems like a great place to start. Bright and cheery!

  • Pingback: How to Dye Fabric with Turmeric | Glue and Glitter

  • mzfitz

    Do you know if it would work on hair?

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      I haven’t tried it, but if you give it a go, I’d love to hear how it works out.

  • kimberlee

    So cool! Such a pretty cheery yellow! I have read on all the natural things you can use to dye fabric. I am saving red onion skins hoping to use them someday. I should save my used coffee grinds and see what happens with that. Hope you have a series going. I’d love to see your future experiments!

  • Pingback: Link Party #14: EV’s, Guaranteed Income, and Volcanoes, oh my! | Important Media Insights

  • Pingback: Explore Important Media’s Weekly Link Party

  • Sarah

    Hello! I’m using raspberries and blueberries right now — trying to dye a newborn onesie. I set the material with water and sea salt, but I’m still wondering if anyone has had success with washing their dyed clothes? Will my onesie’s colors bleed in the washing machine?

    Thank you for your help! :) And for this fun recipe!

  • http://google Wendy

    what can I use to create a green coloured dye?

  • Keesha Doss

    Hi, this is great news! Love it! Was wondering if anybody could kinda give me the length of time this will last after washing? Seems like it would wash out in 1 or 2 washes. How long has your own dye lasted you?

  • wendy

    hi, may i know what can i use to make an off-white/champange colour dye? i need to dye a lace top which is too white to suit my gown.

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      Tea might work for that. I’d test it on a scrap of fabric before dyeing the top, though, just to be sure.

  • Monica Nissley

    So, was trying to do too many things today, and didn’t completely follow directions as I should have. I let my turmeric cook for probably close to three hours, without the fabric at first, then with the fabric in it, then, left it still on for another hour on accident, then threw something else in there (i also had boiled about 1/2 a cup of water with two avocado skins and put that in with the original water because I was going for a more mustard yellow) but man! I ended up with a really cool color somewhere between yellow and burnt orange! Now I am afraid to put it down the drain, because I want to be able to use it again! Just wanted to share in case someone is going for that color!

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      That sounds awesome! Do you have a photo you can share?

  • http://n/a stephen p

    My kids and I have just begun and dandelion flowrrs were first it produced a light yellow as one would expect. I am just experimenting right now so i used the same shirt in the turmeric, a beautiful mustard orange. i then tied my sons sleep shirt into a bunched ball and dropped it in I let it go for about ten mins when i pulled it out I rinsed and dropped my dove handsoap bar on it. Amazingly it turned it purple. It now has a hippie tie dye look. lol the kids love it hopefully it stays that way

  • Pingback: c. 1787 chemise: natural dyes | la couteriere

  • veronica

    I had experimented with this yellow tumeric dye on a couple onesies over christmas. After rinsing til it ran clear it dried to a beautiful strong yellow. So today I went for it again. Honestly, i just winged it. I started to boil water, threw in some tumeric (forgot all about adding salt to fix) and the onesie and once it boiled, turned it down to simmer, set the timer for an hour an came back 2 hrs later? (what’s on te stove? Oh crap!). Anyways, i was afraid I had burned the fibers with how hot it was, but they looked fine when I began rinsing and rinsing. When it finally ran clear, I wanted to remove the tumeric smell (since it was a gift) and added some detergent. It’s not a regular detergent (called “ROMA” and my mom swears by it) and it’s made in Mexico. Anyways, as soon as I added the powdered soap, ton’s of orangy-yellow dye came out and it turned a darker orangy color! I kept rinsing til it ran clear. Then, just to make sure, added another soap rinse. Again, TONS! of color coming out and now the onesie isnt yellow anymore, its kind of dark orangy-red! After several (8-10) of these soap-rinses (everytime releasing a lot of yellow dye), the color is burnt orange, not so dark anymore, but certainly not yellow at all! lol FYI folks, give your completed natural dye project a little mexican soap rinse to make sure it wont leak tons of yellow color in the wash OR that it doesnt change color. I wish I knew what was causing this color change reaction, I felt like a scientist. LOL

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      How cool! Yay for SCIENCE!

  • Laura

    I tried this method for dyeing a cotton shirt. It worked quite well. I may have made the turmeric bath a little too concentrated because the colour was more orange than I was going for. I rinsed it out after and hand washed it with some liquid detergent. This seemed to make it more orange-y. So I splashed some white vinegar into a bowl of water and dunked the shirt in there. The colour instantly lightened to a truer bright yellow. I think the vinegar also stopped the colour from bleeding because my rinse water was totally clear. So vinegar may be a good way to fix the dye more permanently.

  • Fiddler

    I wonder if heat setting would help the colors not fade as quickly? Throwing something in the dryer, even on extra low, to dry instead of hanging it might help. Of course, the trade off is shrinkage.

Back to Top ↑