How to Refresh Black Clothing with Fabric Dye

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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!

28 thoughts on “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. 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. 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?

    1. 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. 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. 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!

  6. I was thinking of dying my Jeans but my wife will not allow me to use the washer. After reading your ideas I am thinking of using a steel bucket on my outdoor grill. What do you think?

  7. I have a great black 100% cotton dress that has faded over time. I would like to revive the black. what is the best method and dye to use?
    “Black is always the new Black”

  8. Might sound dumb, but do I have to heat the water on the stove up? How long do I leave a faded pair of jeans on the stove with dye? Do I air dry them? Can they be washed again after dying? Will they bleed in the washer with the first wash afterwards? Can I dye both my jeans at the same time?
    (I have a very big pot that will fit both pairs of my jeans, 2 shirts and some socks, I’m planning on just doing my two pairs of jeans)

  9. My black sweatshirt has started to fade. It has a cute design on it ans I’m afraid trying to revive it will possibly damage the design. I believe ithat is ink though. Can you tell me if it would be safe to dye?

    1. Well, it could indeed damage the design. Sometimes you have to let something reach the point at which you can say, “Yes, this experiment might ruin it, but I’m also not going to wear it again in the state that it’s in, so why not?”

  10. I work in as an automotive tech and I wear dickies shirts. The shirts last forever, but the back of them fade to an almost reddish brown. They’re too expensive to buy every time the color goes, and now that they have discontinued the slim line, I can’t even find any that fit. Sorry for the long story, but I’ve tried to dye them before and nothing happened. Any advice? I feel like dickies are special dye resistant clothes…

    1. I just looked it up, and Dickies are a cotton/polyester blend, which is probably why your dye didn’t work. What works for cotton doesn’t work for other fabrics, so fabric blends can be tricky. RIT makes a polyester/polyester blend dye, although I’ve never tried it. I have heard, however, that even that polyester dye won’t dye something true black. I wonder if you’re required to buy the Dickies brand, or if you’d be permitted to buy a 100% cotton shirt that could be more easily re-dyed.

  11. Great article, useful info. But have you got any idea on how to prevent the white stitching on my black hoodie from being dyed in the process? That’s something I’m adamant on avoiding, if possible.

    1. I doubt that your thread is cotton, and if it’s not cotton, it won’t dye. Commercial thread is usually acrylic, or a blend, so it won’t take the same dye that works on cotton. My kid has two pairs of shorts, one blue and one orange, that got so weirdly stained and faded that I overdyed them both black, and now one pair of shorts is black with orange stitching, and the other is black with blue stitching. I’d say try dyeing a small test swatch and see if your thread holds the dye after it’s rinsed.

  12. Michelle Bouffard

    I have work ants that have completely faded and I need to refreshen them, so it is better to use the liquid or powder dye in the washing machine?

  13. Pingback: Save thousands this year by living like a homestead granny | Diamonds N' Denim

  14. how do youu dye clothes all black using Ritz Dye. Ive got a few dresses all colours but want to dye black. and what salt or vinagar do you use.

  15. I have black adidas sweatpants that are faded. I want to dye it black agai. Would the dye effect the white stripes????

  16. I have a black polo shirt that has a few bleach stains on it..what’s the best way to put color back into the shirt. …help

  17. You meantion RIT being a cheaper
    Not so great alternative to better tint/dyes.. What are some examples of the “better” tint/dyes?

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