Tie-dye is so 1990s. Whether you’re planning a fun, summer project for your kids or just trying to give your drab wardrobe a bit of flair, there are some great natural ways to dye clothing. Classic tie-dye is fun if you’re going for a retro look, but sometimes a realistic color is what you want. Look no further than below for some fun options.

What Should You Dye?

It does matter which fabric you decide to dye, especially if you’re using natural materials. It is best practice to dye clothing that are made with natural material themselves. Options include cottons, linens, silks, and wools. Other materials that aren’t natural may hold a dye, but the shade won’t be as dark. The best advice is to just dye clothing that you are willing to throw out if it gets ruined.

Which Materials Should You Use?

You can’t dye clothing with any substance just because it’s natural. There are many items you can use that you might not have guessed would produce a dye.

  • Onion skins will produce an orange shade.
  • Oak bark and acorns give off a warm brown, perfect for fall!
  • Eat the edible part of an avocado and use the skin and seed to dye clothing! Don’t expect green, though. Avocados produce a pink shade.

Of course, this is just a small list of options, the possibilities are endless! Whichever natural ingredients you end up choosing, make sure that they are ripe and fresh (not dried). These materials can be frozen if it’s at its peak, but you don’t have a use for it, yet. Just don’t confuse it with your edible items!

Is Your Clothing Ready to Dye?

You’ve picked out your clothing and ingredients, now what? Just dunk the item in the dye? Not so fast! You must do some prep work on the fabric you’ve chosen to dye. First, get your fabric nice and clean by giving it a quick wash. Don’t toss it in the dryer, though. You want your fabric to be wet for this project. While your clothes are washing, prepare the fixative, which is a solution that helps fabric hold the dye better. If you’re going to dye clothing with berries, you’ll use a salt/water mixture. Otherwise, for any other material, you’ll use a vinegar/water combination. Let your fabric bathe in the fixative for an hour and then rinse it off with cool water.

Get Ready to Dye Clothing!

Unless you want to dye your work surface and your hands, cover up appropriately! This means gloves and newspaper. Also be sure to only use utensils that either aren’t receptive to dyes or you don’t mind throwing away. Put the natural materials you are using into a glass or other non-reactive pot. Then, fill the container with twice as much water as there is natural material. It’s time to play the waiting game one more time, as it will take about an hour for the dye to reach its peak color. Leave the mixture simmering nicely until the color looks right.

When the shade is what you desired, strain out the plant materials, leaving only liquid in the pot. It’s finally time to place your clothing into the dye! Do this carefully and bring the mixture to a gentle boil, stirring every 15 minutes or so. After about an hour, you should start seeing the color you imagined. If it looks too dark, don’t panic. Remember that the shade will lighten as it dries. Once you’re satisfied, rinse your clothing in some cold water and dry as usual. Before you know it, you’ll be either wearing or decorating your house with custom, naturally-dyed creations!


What are some of your favorite natural materials to dye your clothing with?




Kirstin Wright
Kirstin Wright
Kirstin is an IT worker by day and a freelance writer by night. When not behind a computer screen, she can be found exploring one of central Florida's famous theme parks or embarking on a new adventure. You can read about her adventures at Fun Orlando Ideas!