How to dye upholstered furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

You've found the perfect upholstered furniture piece at a car boot sale, except for one problem -- it's the wrong colour. You don't have to abandon your amazing find; you may be able to transform the piece with fabric dye. This project works especially well with furniture pieces where fabric coverings are removable, and removable cushion covers or cushions that can fit into the washing machine are mandatory.

Remove small removable cushions and covers and wash them in your washing machine. Scrub the remaining upholstered areas with water and fabric-safe soap. Let the cushions and covers dry.

Fill the washing machine with hot water. Soak your cushions and covers in the hot water, then remove. Add your liquid dye. Add covers and cushions to the dye-filled wash. Set your washing machine to extended wash or to whichever wash cycle will allow for at least 30 minutes of penetration before the rinse cycle begins; set the rinse to cold.

Set up drop clothes beneath your furniture piece. Fill the bucket with hot water. Soak several towels in the hot water, then drape the soaking towels over remaining upholstered areas of furniture to soak the fabric-covered areas. Empty the bucket.

Refill the bucket with 118 ml (1/2 cup) hot water for every 2 tbsp of liquid dye you will use. Remove the wet towels from the furniture. Dip your sponge into the dye bath, then sponge on the dye. Repeat on remaining areas, working quickly to ensure an even application. Let the dye sit for 20 minutes. Dump any remaining dye and wash out the bucket and the sponge.

Place a dry towel over your dyed furniture and iron over the towel to set the colour. Repeat this until you've gone over the entire upholstered area. Fill your bucket with cold water. Soak your sponge and then sponge cold water all over the dyed areas to remove as much dye as possible. Refill your bucket with cold water as necessary. Repeat this process until run-off from soaking is clear, or mostly clear. Allow to dry, supplementing the process with fans if necessary.

Remove the covers and cushions after the washing cycle has completed and test for remaining dye. Re-rinse in cold water until the water rinses clear, if necessary. Hang to dry. Put the covers and cushions back onto the furniture piece.


Before you begin, you will need to test the fabric on the chair for colour fastness. Remove a cushion cover, turn over a cushion or locate an area that isn't normally visually exposed, like the underside of a chair. Use the fabric in the area for a dye test. Make sure the fabric will take the dye and that it won't leak dye after it has dried. Areas with sponged-on dye may always be a leak risk, and you should avoid spilling liquids or sweating against those areas. Poly-blend fabrics will not take dye well. Only attempt on wool, nylon and cotton upholstered furniture. Spray fabric paint is available for use on poly-blend upholstered furniture. Wash your washer thoroughly with detergent and bleach after dyeing.

Things You'll Need

  • Upholstered furniture
  • Fabric-safe soap
  • 946 ml (32 oz) fibre reactive liquid dye
  • Washing machine
  • Bucket
  • Hot water
  • Cold water
  • Large paintbrush
  • Large sponge
  • Fans (optional)
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About the Author

Katherine Harder kicked off her writing career in 1999 in the San Antonio magazine "Xeriscapes." She's since worked many freelance gigs. Harder also ghostwrites for blogs and websites. She is the proud owner of a (surprisingly useful) Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.