Clothing + Fashion Best of Crafting Green

Published on January 15th, 2013 | by Julie Finn


How to Refresh Black Clothing with Fabric Dye

How to Refresh Black Clothing with Fabric Dye

black clothing in the dye pot with black fabric dye

Black clothing is the hardest clothing to maintain, because it’s so vulnerable to fading. Even red clothes fade more gracefully than black! Here’s how to use black fabric dye to refresh your faded black clothing.

When the blacks in my outfits start looking faded, and my black shirt no longer matches my black hoodie, and my partner’s black work pants start showing wear at the knee, instead of buying new clothes I grab a couple of packs of cheap fabric dye, and over the weekend I make our black garments look like new again. Here’s how

How to Refresh Black Clothing with Fabric Dye

BEFORE: black shirt faded to grey shirt

1. Buy some cheap dye. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but normally I HATE Rit dye. It’s hard to work with and tends to not dye evenly, so even though it’s way cheaper than professional cotton fabric dye, you get what you pay for, you know?

However, there is one circumstance in which Rit dye works great, and that is when you want to refresh the color of an article of clothing. Rit, or any other amateur-level fabric dye found at any crafts store, can re-dye black clothes reliably, without a ton of fuss, and without any uneven spots showing. Buy a pack of black RIT fabric dye for approximately every two shirts or one pair of pants, knowing that you can also throw an extra pair of socks or underwear into each pot.

black shirt dyed back to black shirt

AFTER: black shirt dyed back to black shirt

How to Refresh Black Clothing with Fabric Dye

You can dye a shirt in a stovetop dye bath, but probably not a pair of pants.

2. Choose your method. I dye silk in a pot on my stove, but most articles of clothing will need to be dyed in your washing machine, because unless you’re a witch, you don’t own a cauldron big enough to give a pair of pants enough room to agitate. You can get away with stovetop dyeing if you’re just dyeing, say, one shirt at a time, and if you’re really afraid to dye in your washing machine (although I swear it will be okay if you do!), you can finagle yourself a workable set-up for larger items in a big Rubbermaid bin.

Follow the instructions on your package of dye to re-dye your black clothing.

3. Don’t over-dye garments of any other colors using the cheap stuff! I’ve had a small amount of luck with overdyeing using the cheap, amateur fabric dye–for instance, that black shirt in my photo above had light grey ribbing, which I like much better as the dark grey that it turned after dyeing, and I threw the jeans that I mended in my last article into the dregs of the dye bath after most of the black dye had discharged, just to add some color to them, and I like the chalky grey that they turned.

How to Refresh Black Clothing with Fabric Dye

Over-dyeing my faded blue jeans with the cheap stuff worked out just okay.

Any other color of garment, however, is just too hard to dye evenly to be worthwhile. For instance, if you want a certain Jack-o-lantern orange T-shirt to be any other color than Jack-o-lantern orange (and I do!), I wouldn’t try to do it with Rit. Stay tuned, however, because my older daughter is just plain SICK of the pinks and purples that make up most of the colors of her hand-me down clothing, and so I promised her that I’d help her over-dye a bunch of her clothes one day soon. We’ll be using the good stuff to dye them, and I’ll be taking lots of notes so that I can show you how to do it, too!

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

7 Responses to How to Refresh Black Clothing with Fabric Dye

  1. Love this!! I do have a dye question that’s been nagging me. I washed a (brand new!) white shirt recently and it came out covered in brown splotches that won’t come back out. Can I dye it another solid color to make it wearable again? I don’t want to do tie dye or applique, because the whole idea with this shirt purchase was to have a foundation piece in my wardrobe for layering etc.

  2. Julie Finn says:

    Yikes! Did you Oxyclean it, even? Anyway, you absolutely could dye it a different color, but I’d try a few more times to clean it first, and even then go for a pretty dark over-dye, because the stains can dye unpredictably. Mind you, stains are one of the main reasons WHY I over-dye, but it doesn’t always work perfectly.

  3. Kay Small says:

    I have blue and black jeans that have had close encounters with chlorine bleach. Spots of “pink” show where that’s happened. Can I simply dye them back to their original color or do I have to ‘bleach’ them completely?

    • Julie Finn says:

      I’m afraid that it WOULD be splotchy if you dyed them as-is. If I had it to do, I’d probably bleach them in the wash, then re-dye them. I’ve heard of others who combine colors successfully for more realistic denim dyeing–black + navy, say, for a dark wash. If you really want them to look great when you’re done, I’d suggest scoring a couple of pairs of old jeans just to experiment on, and only dyeing your own jeans when you’re happy with the experimental jeans.

  4. eugenia says:

    Congratulations for your blog… I love it …. I have a question … Did Rite work for Batik crafts like Dylon used to woork for it ???? Because Dylon doesn´t sell this product anymore….. Thank you…

  5. Julie Finn says:

    Yes, I do know that. Often, when you try to craft green, you’re not going to be able to make the perfect choice on every green front. A recycling/reuse craft is different from an all-organic, natural materials craft, and this craft, that keeps a wardrobe of black clothing usable, doesn’t use all-natural materials. If any reader has suggestions for a black dye that is all natural, I’m sure other readers would appreciate seeing them in the Comments, too!

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