How to Dye Upholstery Fabric at Home

Updated February 21, 2017

Make classic upholstery fabric look fresh and new with dye. Upholstery fabric can be dyed; however, this does pose some challenges. The methods you will need to use for your upholstery fabric will depend upon the fabric type and the desired end result. You will have the best success dyeing silk, wool, or cotton upholstery fabrics for an even and attractive end result.

Determine the fibre content of your upholstery fabric. You may have a label or information to refer to; however, if you do not, you can burn test the fabric (see Resources) to determine which type of dye you will need for your upholstery fabric.

Collect the right materials for vat dyeing your upholstery fabric. You will need a very top loading washing machine to dye your fabric. Be sure to choose a receptacle that is more than large enough for even upholstery fabric dyeing. You will also need fibre reactive dyes for cotton and plant fibres or acid dyes for wool or silk and appropriate mordants or dye fixatives. Fibre reactive dyes rely upon non-iodised salt and soda ash, while commercial vinegar is used for acid dyes.

Prewash your fabric in hot water and a good detergent. Dye suppliers offer speciality detergents for this purpose that work especially well.

Fill the washer completely full, using lukewarm water for cotton fabrics and fibre reactive dyes and quite hot water for acid dyes. Slurry the dye in a small amount of warm water, allowing approximately 9.45gr to one ounce of dye per pound of fabric. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine silk to avoid any lumps of dye. Add to the washer, mixing well, then place wet fabric into the dye bath.

Add 1 cup of non-iodised salt to your washing machine or vat if you are working with fibre reactive dyes. Avoid allowing the salt to spill onto the fabric and add a small amount at a time. Add one cup of white vinegar to the washer or vat for acid dyes.

Reset the washer to the maximum cycle length, then allow the cycle to complete. If you are working with wool, avoid agitating the fabric. Keep the washer lid open, stirring the fabric manually, then allow the washer to rinse and spin your fabric.

Run a long rinse cycle. Rewash with a speciality dye detergent or your usual washing powder, then dry as you plan to dry the finished product.

Things You'll Need

  • Natural fibre upholstery fabric
  • Appropriate dye for your fabric
  • Dye mordants
  • Large tub or washing machine
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About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.