How to Dye Polyester & Cotton Fabric

Written by samantha volz
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How to Dye Polyester & Cotton Fabric
Different fabrics require different dyeing techniques. (fabric image by from

Shopping for important events such as weddings or parties often involves finding just the right colour of fabric. However, if you want to wear that special garment more than once, you may need to change the colour to fit a new occasion. Polyester and cotton are two popular fabrics for garments, and both require certain methods for dyeing. If you are ready to tackle the challenge yourself, make sure you know the specific instructions for each of your garments in order to ensure best results.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Water
  • Pot
  • Disperse dye
  • Stove
  • Soda ash
  • Fibre reactive dye

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  1. 1

    Fill a pot large enough to hold your polyester garment with hot water. Mix in your disperse dye; the amount of dye needed will depend on your product and size of your garment. Consult specific product instructions for details.

  2. 2

    Wet the fabric in hot water and place it into the dye bath. Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil.

  3. 3

    Boil the garment for at least 30 minutes, until the polyester reaches the desired shade of colour. Stir the water every five minutes to ensure that the dye is evenly dispersed.

  4. 4

    Remove the dyed garment and rinse it in hot water to remove residual dye. Hand-wash the garment in hot water and laundry soap to remove all excess dye and help the dye to stick to the garment. Dry the garment in a heat dryer for final setting.


  1. 1

    Mix one cup of soda ash (also called sodium carbonate) into one gallon of room temperature water. Presoak the satin garment in this mixture; the soda ash will make the fabric more accepting of the dye. Allow the garment to soak for at least 15 minutes; it can safely soak for up to one hour.

  2. 2

    Mix four tsp fibre reactive dye per cup of water into a large container. Read product instructions to verify this measurement; some shades of dye may require more dye per cup. Transfer the dye mixture to spray bottles for easier application.

  3. 3

    Wear rubber gloves to prevent dye from staining or harming your skin. Lay the garment flat on a workspace and spray the dye onto the garment. Massage the dye into the garment with your hands; continue to apply dye until you reach the desired shade.

  4. 4

    Allow up to 24 hours for the dye to settle onto the fabric; specific dye products may have specific drying times. Keep the garment moist during this time by spraying it with water; keep the garment in an area where the temperature is at least 21.1 degrees Celsius to help the dye set.

  5. 5

    Wash the dyed clothing in a washing cycle once with cold water to rinse the dye away. Wash twice in hot water to help the dye settle for good onto the fabric.

Tips and warnings

  • Adding urea to the cotton dyeing process is optional. According to scientist and dyer Paula Burch, urea allows for more dye to be dissolved in the water, creating darker colours.
  • Polyester will only respond to a disperse dye; it will not take colour from any other type of dye.
  • Polyester is an extremely difficult fabric to dye. If you are dyeing a sensitive garment and are unsure about your ability, take the garment to a professional.

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