How to Dye Your Jeans
- Introduction: Giving Your Denim a New Lease on Life
- Before You Begin
- Method 1: How to Dye Your Jeans in the Washing Machine Using Dylon Textile Dye
- Method 2: How to Dye Your Jeans in a Bucket or Sink with Rit Dye
- Method 3: How to Dye Your Jeans Naturally
Introduction: Giving Your Denim a New Lease on Life
My favorite fabric is denim. The word "denim" derives from "Serge de Nîmes," the French name for a very rugged cotton fabric in twill weave. Levi Strauss made the first classic jeans from denim.
I love jeans because they are simple, casual, and comfortable. I have many different types of jeans, but my favorites are a pair made from dark-blue denim. The idea for this DIY first came when I noticed some jeans in my wardrobe I hadn't worn for quite a long time. I asked myself what should I do with them—throw them away? No, they were too good for that. That's when I came up with the idea of dyeing them. I have tried many different techniques, and the following methods are my personal favorites.
Before You Begin
Choose What Color You Would Like to Dye Your Jeans
Light-colored jeans can be dyed almost any color. Dark-colored jeans must be dyed a color darker than what it is already. So for dark blue jeans, sometimes the only option is to dye them black.
Seams, Rivets, and the Like
Many seams are sewn with synthetic fibres. Often the seams will not accept the dye. This results in a seam that contrasts with the rest of the newly-dyed pants, something to keep in mind when dyeing. Rivets, appliqués, and rhinestones may also be a problem during dyeing.
Tip: Try to remove any leather bits (such as the patch bearing the brand's name) and appliqués from the jeans before dyeing. Afterward, you can sew these parts back on.
Nowadays you can dye your clothes with high-quality textile dyes, such as those made by Dylon and Rit. These dyes can come in liquid or powder form and are available in different colors. You can either dye your jeans in a bucket/sink or in your washing machine at 30 degrees C (85 degrees F) to 40 degrees C (105 degrees F). How much of the textile dye you need will depend on the weight and desired color intensity of the jeans. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on the package.
Tip: Please avoid cheap textile dyes as they often result in patchy coloring. On certain fabrics, such as cotton, a cheap dye may not work at all.
Method 1: How to Dye Your Jeans in the Washing Machine Using Dylon Textile Dye
Dylon has a wide range of dyes, which makes it a cheap way to jazz up your old clothes and fabrics. Here's how you dye your jeans in the washing machine using Dylon textile dye.
- Weighing scale
- 500 grams (1.10 pounds) salt
- Dylon dye
- Washing machine
- 1. Weigh the jeans to determine how many packets of dye you will need. One packet of Dylon dye can dye up to 600 grams (about 1.32 pounds) of clothes or fabric, so this is usually enough for a pair of jeans. If it weighs more than that, adjust the amount of dye accordingly.
- 2. Wash your jeans thoroughly in the washing machine. You do not need to dry them.
- 3. Put on a pair of gloves and fill the washing drum (not the dispenser) with the Dylon dye. Next, add 500 grams (1.10 pounds) of salt to the dye. This amount of salt is used no matter how many packets of dye you may need.
- 4. Put your damp jeans in the washing machine. Wash it at 40°C (105°F). This temperature is usually called the cotton cycle, permanent press, or whites. Make sure that the cycle is set to normal, not pre-wash, half-load, nor economy wash.
- 5. After the first cycle, wash your jeans again at a 40°C, but this time add detergent.
- 6. Finally, take your jeans out of the washing machine. To clean your washing machine, put some detergent in your washing machine and run once more at 40° while empty. If you using a particularly strong-colored dye, such as black, dark blue, or dark purple, you may want to repeat this step once more.
- 7. Let your jeans air dry—avoid direct sunlight and heat. The next two times you wash your jeans, wash them separately or with similar colors and air dry once more, as colors may still fade.
Tips and Warnings
- If you are dyeing a material that is already colored, the colors will mix. For example, a yellow dye on blue jeans will make them green.
- When dyeing dark jeans, first use a Dylon pre-dye to lighten them.
- Spots, bleach marks, and faded patches will dye more brightly than their surrounding material.
- Do not use more than five packets of dye at once.
- In order to avoid patchy coloring, never fill your machine above half-capacity when dyeing clothing.
- Use gloves to protect your hands from the dye.
- In case any dye gets into your eyes or mouth, wash it off instantly.
Method 2: How to Dye Your Jeans in a Bucket or Sink with Rit Dye
If you are afraid of messing up your washing machine, you may also dye your jeans the old-fashioned way. The following instructions will show you how to dye your jeans in a bucket or sink with Rit dye.
- Bucket (a plastic storage container will work) or sink
- Hot water
- Large spoon or stick
- 1 package of Rit dye powder or 1/2 bottle of liquid Rit dye
- Mild detergent
- Chlorine bleach
Warning: You should never use Rit Dye in a sink or tub made of plastic or fiberglass as it may stain.
- 1. Soak your jeans in hot water. If you have more than one bucket or a divided sink, leave them soaking as you prepare. If not, set them aside on the counter. Thoroughly soaking the jeans allows the dye to spread more evenly.
- 2. Fill your bucket or sink with the three gallons (11.35 litres) of hot water.
- 3. If using powder, pre-dissolve it in two cups of hot water.
- 4. Pour the pre-dissolved mixture or the store-bought liquid dye into your container (bucket or sink). Stir until it has mixed evenly with the water.
- 5. Add the jeans to the dye bath. Then use the spoon to stir constantly for about 30 minutes.
- 6. Afterward, drain your container, then rinse your jeans in warm water. Gradually lower the temperature of the rinsing water until it runs clear.
- 7. After you have rinsed your jeans, wash them in warm water using a mild detergent.
- 8. Rinse thoroughly once more in cool water.
- 9. Finally, let the jeans air dry or use a dryer.
- 10. Clean your bucket or sink with chlorine bleach. You may also use chlorine-based powder, liquid, or gel cleanser.
How to Dye Jeans in a Bucket
Method 3: How to Dye Your Jeans Naturally
Clothes existed in many beautiful natural colors before the chemical dyes were invented. If you are interested in learning how to dye your jeans without chemicals, read the following instructions.
- Red cabbage, cranberries, or beets—a beautiful red
- Strawberries of raspberries—pink
- Onion skin or coffee powder (preferably espresso)—brown
- ½ cup of salt
- Natural foods or herbs like onion skins, coffee powder, black tea, red cabbage, or saffron
- 2 pots
- 1. First of all, pretreat the jeans for accepting the dye. The fibers are more able to accept great amounts of dye when they have been pretreated. You don't need chemicals for this. Salt and water are enough. Mix ½ cup of salt and eight cups of water in a pot. You may use common table salt. Soak your jeans in the salt solution. If the amount of solution is not enough to soak your jeans, you can make additional salt water at a ratio of 1 part salt to 16 parts water.
- 2. Put the pot with the soaked jeans on the stove and heat the liquid for one hour. The salt solution must not boil but should be hot. Don't worry: cotton fabric is very durable, and your jeans won't get damaged.
- 3. Remove the jeans from the solution and drain the pot. Congratulations: you have pretreated your jeans without chemicals. Carefully press out the water out of the fabric and lay them aside.
- 4. Add the chemical-free dye of your choice (see natural dyes, above) into the pot and add water so that you have a ratio of one part dye to two parts water. Place the pot on the stove. Let it simmer for one hour on a small flame.
- 5. Pour the content of the pot through a strainer into a second pot.
- 6. Place the jeans in the freshly-strained dye. Make sure that the jeans are submerged and the fabric is not too crumpled—you want the dye to be able to soak freely throughout. The jeans should be soaked at least 12 hours in this dye. The longer they are soaked, the stronger the color will be.
Vinegar as a Natural Fixative for Dyed Jeans
How to Fix Your Naturally-Dyed Jeans
You have to expect your naturally-dyed jeans to fade with every washing. You can slow down this process if you treat your naturally-dyed jeans with a fixative solution. There are commercially-available fixatives. However, if you want to avoid chemicals, you may protect your jeans against fading with a handy, household ingredient: vinegar. Just prepare a vinegar fixative by mixing one part vinegar with three parts water, then soak the jeans in the mixture for a few hours.
Note: You may try out different natural products to dye your jeans like different berries, herbs, vegetables, roots, and the like. Just experiment a little bit first by using a test piece of cloth to see how it will result.