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Dyeing fabrics - instructions + the best home remedies and natural colors

Dyeing fabrics is a great way to upgrade textiles and adapt them to your own taste. With little effort, your clothes, curtains or pillow cases can be given a completely new design in bright colors. In addition to the most uncomplicated variant with ready-made textile paint, there are also effective alternatives from natural sources. If you pay attention to a few important details, you will achieve an intensive result with all methods exactly as desired.

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Dyeing fabrics at home

The bed linen looks rather gray and colorless? Or have you sold out the shade of the new shirt? No problem, just try dyeing these fabrics instead of parting them directly and buying new ones. This sustainable and therefore environmentally friendly approach ensures amazing results and lets your creativity run free. You will be surprised at the change.

Provided that the fibers are dyeable, you can achieve almost any desired color.

More about the fabrics

Regardless of which of the following methods you choose to dye your fabrics, the following approach applies: All textiles should be freshly washed and free from stains. Because such flaws would only intensify through the dyeing and remain visible despite the new radiance. In order for the pieces to survive the dyeing process undamaged, they must also be washable at at least 40 degrees. Check this on the label beforehand.

The original color of the fabrics also plays a role: It quickly becomes apparent that the little black can never become the little yellow. The basic color is simply too dark for that. The lighter the starting tone, the cleaner and stronger the result will be. White is therefore ideal, but a base in light blue, pink or light yellow, for example, can also produce beautiful results. In these cases, the color achieved will be a little darker and influenced by the undertone that is already there. Example: A light blue shirt that you dye over with a fabric dye in strawberry red will result in a slightly bluish darker red.

Unfortunately, not all fibers take on the same color. Basically, pure natural fibers can be optimally dyed, whereas synthetic fabrics cannot. Mixtures develop a lighter, pastel tone. The more natural fibers there are in your piece of textile, the better your result will be. Here is an overview:

Dyeable fibers:

  • cotton
  • Linen, half linen
  • viscose
  • cellulose
  • Mixed fibers with at least 60% of the above natural fibers

Non-dyeable fibers:

  • Synthetic fibers such as polyester, acrylic, polyacrylic, polyamide
  • Silk (except with natural colors)
  • Wool (except with natural colors)

Important: Even textiles made from natural fibers that can be easily dyed are often provided with synthetic seams. Since these hardly take on the color, if at all, as described, they remain in the original tone. In particular, if you dye fabrics in very large color jumps or want to achieve very dark target colors, there is a strong contrast between the seams and other textiles. It may look chic - or it may not. Make sure you include this factor in your color choice.

With fabric paint

You need:

  • Textile dye in the shade of your choice and in sufficient quantities (e.g. Simplicol, available from the drugstore or online)
  • possibly additional coloring salt (if not included in the main product)
  • Washing machine

Manual:

Step 1: First, weigh the laundry to be dyed when dry. This way you can safely determine how much color you want to use to achieve your desired color result. The more fabric, the more packs are needed. Please refer to your product for details.

Tip: As a guide, with Simplicol, around 600 g of fabric reach the target color shown on the package. 1200 g, on the other hand, produce a slightly lighter, but still very color-intensive tone.

2nd step: Then moisten the clean laundry well. This works best with a small bowl in the bath or shower. Dip everything in and then wring it out again.

3rd step: Put the completely moistened laundry in the washing machine as usual.

4th step: Carefully cut open the bag of the dye fixer and also put it in the washing machine.

5th step: Now start an easy-care program at 40 degrees.

6th step: Wait about five minutes.

7th step: After this time, pour the dye into the detergent compartment and rinse with one liter of clear water.

8th step: Now wait until the washing program has finished completely.

9th step: Then start the washing program again, but this time as normal with detergent.

10th step: Dry the laundry and you're done! Any stains on the washing machine can be easily removed with vinegar or cleaning agent.

Color gradient

A special creative option is not to dye the entire piece of textile, but to achieve a great color gradient with a matching darker shade. Example: A yellow garment could be spiced up with a bright red. The color gradient would then range from this red to a flowing orange to the starting tone yellow.

Materials:

  • Textile paint
  • two large bowls of 40 degree hot water
  • long spoon or similar - household gloves
  • optional: floor covering with newspapers or painter's tarpaulin

That is how it goes:

Step 1: Fill both bowls with water at 40 degrees. Then work quickly so that the temperature does not drop too much.

2nd step: Use your spoon to stir the dye and the associated dye salt or dye fixer into one of the bowls.

Tip: don't forget your gloves! Also protect the surrounding objects and possibly the floor from splashes.

3rd step: Now dip your fabric in the bowl of clear water to moisten it well. As a result, it will then absorb the color better.

4th step: Wring something out and then carefully dip the side you want your gradient color to begin on into the bowl of paint, as far as you want the gradient to go.

5th step: Now pull the textile a little further out of the color. However, the lower area always remains in it. This is how it takes on the most color, which then gradually becomes lighter towards the top.

6th step: Immerse again to the desired end of the color gradient.

7th step: Repeat steps 5 and 6 for about five minutes.

8th step: Then let the lower part of the gradient rest in the color for another five minutes. The upper part remains wetted with the paint that has already been sucked in, but does not lie in it.

Tip: Move the fabrics in the bowl gently with the wooden spoon when dyeing. In this way you smooth out wrinkles that could otherwise take on stains of color.

9th step: If you like the color, go back to the clear water and wash the fabric a little. Otherwise, repeat the procedure until the nuance is intense enough for you.

10th step: You can now completely rinse your laundry in the shower or bathtub or wash it in the washing machine to remove any paint residues.

With vegetable colors

If you prefer it natural, you can also achieve great results with the power of plants and simple home remedies. Even in the Middle Ages and far earlier, it was popular to embellish fabrics with vegetable colors. Naturally, the results are somewhat gentler than with chemical dyeing. However, the natural process has the advantage that wool and silk can also be treated. In addition, every textile becomes unique, as all dye baths react in a unique way in this way. And last but not least, this gentle variant also gives allergy sufferers the opportunity to dye their fabrics.

So that the fibers absorb the colors correctly, you need an extra step before the actual fabric dyeing: the stain. The chosen mordant can also influence the color intensity. Therefore, in advance, an overview of the possible natural colors and their suitable mordants:

  • Beige to brown -> black tea (stain: vinegar)
  • Brown -> coffee (stain: vinegar)
  • Light yellow -> chamomile (stain: vinegar)
  • Strong golden yellow -> turmeric (stain: vinegar or alum)
  • Orange -> onion skin (stain: vinegar)
  • Light green -> spinach (stain: vinegar)
  • Green -> birch, nettle, yarrow (stain: iron sulfate)
  • Blue -> indigo (stain: not necessary)
  • Violet -> elderberries (stain: alum)
  • Pink -> blackberry, cherry, raspberry, strawberry (stain: salt), red cabbage (stain: vinegar)
  • Red -> madder (for light red stain: alum; medium red stain: copper sulfate; wine red stain: chromium potassium)

Tip: Alum and other pickling agents that do not occur in the household are available from the pharmacy.

You need:

  • the plants or berries for your color preference
  • the associated dressing agent
  • a large pot
  • stove
  • Household gloves

Manual:

Step 1: Wash your fabric at 40 to 60 degrees and without conventional detergents or fabric softeners to rid it of chemicals.

2nd step: Prepare the pickling bath. In a large saucepan, mix:

  • about a liter of water and a quarter of a liter of vinegar
  • about a liter of water and half a liter of salt
  • about a liter of water and a teaspoon of alum or other pickling agents

Tip: The more fabric, the more water is of course needed. Then increase the amount of stain evenly proportionally.

3rd step: Depending on the amount, let your fabric soak in the stain over low heat for one to two hours.

4th step: Then rinse the fabric thoroughly with clean water in the bathtub or shower.

5th step: Now prepare the dye bath. Heat several liters of water in your pot according to the amount of laundry to be dyed. Bring to a simmer.

6th step: Now add the dye, i.e. your plant parts or berries.

7th step: How long your fabric remains in the dye bath depends on how intense you want the result to be. As a guide, about an hour on medium heat is used.

Tip: In terms of exposure time, it is advisable to experiment a little, as the individual conditions of stove, water quality, type of fabric, etc. can vary greatly and thus also influence the necessary intensity of the procedure.

8th step: Stir every now and then so that the paint can distribute evenly and there are no paint stains in possible fabric folds.

9th step: If the fabric in the pot shows the desired color, remove it from the dye bath.

10th step: Now rinse your textiles thoroughly with cold water until the color stops flowing.

Decorative pattern

Similar to batik, you can not only dye your fabrics, but also provide them with pretty patterns at the same time. To do this, tie your textile tightly with elastic or fabric straps. The color cannot work so well on the binding points and folded edges. As a result, these areas remain lighter and result in the creative patterns.

As with the batik technique, different types of tie are available, which in turn achieve different designs. Here it is worthwhile to simply try out what suits you best, as the result is always very individual. An overview of some of the options for binding:

  • Knot off individual areas for ring-shaped patterns. For shirts or sweaters, make one or more knots evenly spaced on each sleeve.
  • Wind up all of the fabric as you would when wringing it out and then tie it with ribbons. Spiral patterns are created here.
  • Fold symmetrical shapes such as curtains or towels edge on edge to form a small package. Fix this with tape. This results in parallel stripes or checks.
  • Pull up a piece of fabric and tie it all around. In this simple way you can conjure up a circle.

We have detailed instructions for you to tie-dye here: Tie-dye instructions