DIY Natural Dyes

Update: This post originally ran on September 21st 2011 but we wanted to bring it back as a reminder of how fun and environmentally friendly natural dyes are!

It’s time to share the results of my natural dye experiment! This was such a fun project – I definitely recommend it as a great rainy day activity :) For my first experiment I used beets, onion skins and spinach.  While the spinach did not work (as one reader also mentioned after my previous post) I was really pleased with the beets and onion skins!

The beets were such a beautiful deep red color! I chopped them up and added water and when I started boiling the water turned red almost immediately.

For the onions, I peeled off the skins and used only that part – I have seen other examples of this online that yielded really nice results but I was actually doubtful that this would really work.  Turns out I was pleasantly surprised!


I had high hopes for the spinach… if anyone has tried this with spinach and gotten good results let me know what your secret is :)


After bringing each ingredient to a boil, I let them simmer for an hour while I prepared the fabrics to dye.


Since I was working with all vegetables, I used a fixative of four parts water and one part vinegar.  I let the fabric simmer in this mixture for an hour, while the dye ingredients were also simmering.

Finally, it’s time to see the results!


I put the fabric in the dye and let it sit for a little while – the longer you let it sit, the deeper your shade of color will be. I removed the fabric when I felt like it had reached a nice shade of reddish pink – such a pretty color:



I was happiest with the color I got from the onion skins – a beautiful amber that worked so well on the fabric.



Wouldn’t it be cool to make friendship bracelets using naturally-dyed string?!


By the next day, the fabric dyed with the beets faded into more of a light pink color, but it was still really pretty! I think next time, though, I would leave the fabric in the dye for longer.  The fabric dyed with onion skins actually held out really well, and I LOVE the color it created. I loved it so much, I tried it out on one of my Free People bras :)


Now that I’ve got the technique down, I can’t wait to experiment and try to make more colors.  The drop cloths I was working on ended up looking tie-dyed, and now I want to try tie dying with natural dyes as well!



If any of you have tried this, let me know what ingredients you’ve had success with!

For instructions on making natural dyes, view the post here:
Wednes-DIY: Making Natural Dyes


  1. I need to try this. I love the earthy colors the vegetables create.. how does the color hold up when you wash it?
    How about grass instead of spinach? I remember some pretty bad green stains on my knees as a kid..

  2. Check out for more detailed information on steadfast natural dyes. Beets are a good example of something that may superficially present a strong colour, but doesn’t fix well to fabric.

    I’m impressed by the onion skin bra! Great job.

  3. I love those natural colors, I cannot wait to try this…I’ve never thought I would buy beets but now I definitely have to!! I was wondering if you have washed any of the items yet, do the colors stay right? Did you try tearing and ripping the spinach, they dye might seep out a little better!

  4. Another great natrual dye is tea, I boil water pop in a couple of tea bags,I had a lace top with 3/4 sleeves the white was a bit yellow,so I put it into a bowl of strong tea and loved the result,it came out a lovely creamy/amber colour, I wore that top until it almost fell apart.

  5. this is really cool. i really want to try it after seeing your results. i always thought doing natural dyes would be a difficult process so i’ve never tried it myself, but you made it seem fairly simple. i’m definitely trying it now!

  6. You can try with carrots and berries.. and some flower petals. I don’t remember so well but i think that with grass takes a really beautiful green.. Good luck! :)

  7. I tryed to make natural dye with carrot and cabbage and it was way under par, it wlooked awesome after i poured and let it dry but once i washed it it was like it was never there : ( maybe someone has a technique to help the color set ??? Thanks & good luck!

  8. this site helps me a lot because I’m studying to be a design and production of clothing, and tp is dyed with natural producctos and would like to know how tinie with red cabbage, thank you very much camila, then tell them how I was tp, kisses

  9. Ah this is great! I recently left some white clothes in bleach but I had so much going on at the time that I completely forgot about them. So, now I have yellow bleach stains on my clothes. :(

    I’m definitely going to be giving them a makeover now!

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. You can also use a red onion instead of the yellow onion. Never tried it but I have been saving the onion skins ever since I saw an episode of Little House on the Prairie where Laura asked for her mom’s onion skins so that she could dye some yarn. LOL

  11. I took Natural Dying class in college. I recommend you to use acorns for brown and dried saffron for bright yellow. And of course walnuts, just try them!

  12. With some plants you need mordants for the color to stay. I recommend Sasha Duerr’s book for more info on this. India Flint and Rebecca Burgess are great and work with natural dyes too.

  13. rust dyeing is another great natural dye and you can get some interesting patterns especially on fabrics like silk or velvet, depending on the shape and size of the rusty object you use…

    I rust dyed a silk velvet gown dress for my senior collection and I eco-bundled a yellow velvet skirt with flower petals and turmeric! Turmeric gives a really awesome neon yellow when you steam it long enough, its awesome! My entire collection was dyed naturally using various things from eucalyptus to rust to flowers to brazil wood…there’s so many possibilities!

    check ’em out here :)

  14. please,hw can i extract dyes from brazilwood,bixa(annato) and madder root…pls its impotant…i need d procedure.

  15. i made a dye with the onion skins and a really nice red dye with rasberries strawberries and blueberries i left the materials in for two nights and they coloured really well i also tried tie die which also turned out pretty cool i will put some photos up soon!! thankyou for putting this up i’m using it as a science experiment for school as well :)

  16. Iv used purple carrots and gotten a lovely lavender colour after washing im about to try sumac and tummeric there suposed to give bright /deep colour results

  17. Tengo una duda, lo que nosotros teñimos de una manera ecologicamente, y sin gastar dinero, ya sea lana o tela no se soltara el color en las siguientes lavadas?

  18. For the extraction of green-coloured chlorophyll dye from spinach, you should try putting those spinach leaves in ethyl alcohol (ethanol). And, you will definitely see amazing results. :) :)

  19. For the green, try liquid chlorophyll! It’s VERY green and is super healthy to consume too. It will give a lighter shade of green or a more vibrant color, depending on how much water you use to dilute it … or not dilute it. Blueberries also create a really beautiful shade of purple. :) I’ve only tried this with play dough for my little ne, but I’m planning to try it on fabric soon. The only thing I’m not sure about is how to ensure that the dye doesn’t fade. Any ideas?

  20. I tried tie dying with fresh turnmeric root that we grated. Please have a look and make suggestions or comments. We are considering other possible natural dyes. Thanks for this post as it gave me the idea of dying yarn for my Kumihimo projects. Odd how I never thought of doing that.

  21. Hi I’m just starting to homeschool my 11 year old grand daughter and thought dyeing fabrics using natural dyes like the above mentioned would be a great art lesson. Can you tell me what fabrics dye best? Thanks

  22. Barb, in my experience, natural dyes work better on animal /protein fibers than plant fibers. Silk and wool (from various animals) tend to absorb the dye better than say cotton or linen. I really like to use a mordant first before i use the dye itself. The mordant opens up the fiber to accept the colour more easily and will also help the dye last longer later. My favourite mordant so far is alum with a little bit of cream of tartar. It seems to work with everything, it can be safely disposed of down the drain and you can buy both in the grocery store. You can also let some nails rust in a jar of water to extract iron, but that’s more for brown dyes than brilliant colours.
    I’ve been using a combination of 90 % beets and 10 %pomegranate juice (it’s acidic) and i get a very deep, gorgeous red in my wool. If you add acid to the dye bath you get a deeper red, if you use something like baking soda you get more of a dark pink. Turmeric gives an amazing yellow. Blackberries give anything from grey-blue to red to purple, depending on the addition of acid or alkaline. There’s a LOT of information out there! Good luck with it! Experimenting is half the fun, and it’s also a huge Science lesson!

  23. Barb, why don’t you have her research what to use? That would be a lesson in itself. Julia, I had to laugh about the spinach. When I was 13, I dyed my hair with spinach cooking water for a special event. It was months before the green washed out and I was mortified!

  24. Chris how did you dye your hair with spinach? I have reddish brown hair and I’m trying to find a natural remedy to get rid of the red :)

  25. I love onion skins too! I usually use alum as my mordant, but vinegar is wonderful as well.
    Red and yellow onions both give beautiful colours and you can get a similar colour to your bra using tea dyeing. I like using berry teas for a bit of a blush tint.
    I’m doing a dyeing cloth class and this week is natural dyes. I’m trying beets with the leaves included because I’m told they carry a lot of pigment and ground tumerick. My friend is doing banana peels and I’ve used ground up grass and leaves previously for a great result.
    I loved this post! Thank you for sharing.

  26. Try blending spinach with water, then separate the pulp by draining the green liquid into a bowl and use that as a dye!

  27. My spinach didn’t work either. But I used Poke berries in one of my lots and it was an amazing fuscia or magenta when left an hour. Left less time it was pink and if you heated it during the hour dye process it turned a red. Vinegar or Alum mordents. Amazing! When I rinsed it I added salt to help set the colors better. Going to try onion skins and yellow mums this week!

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