How to dye cotton-polyester blend fabric

Written by arin bodden
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How to dye cotton-polyester blend fabric
Use your washing machine to dye cotton-blend fabrics. (waschmaschine image by Stefan Häuselmann from

Sometimes you will have a piece of clothing or a home decor item that looks a bit worn. You can give new life to these items quickly and affordably by dyeing them. Many of these items, however, are made of fabric that is a mix of cotton and polyester. Dyeing a cotton-polyester blend fabric can take some trial and error, as dyes adhere best to 100 per cent natural-fibre fabrics. As long as the blend contains at least 50 per cent cotton, however, it will take the colour --- although the end result will most likely be much lighter than the colour shown on the box.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Powdered dye
  • Glass container
  • Washing machine
  • Rubber gloves

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  1. 1

    Test a swatch of the fabric to see how it will take colour. Cut off a 2.5 by 2.5 cm (1 by 1 inch) piece of fabric from a hidden area of the item. Mix 1 teaspoon of dye into 237 ml (1 cup) boiling water in a glass container. Place the fabric in the solution and stir gently. Let sit for at least 2 minutes. Take the fabric out and rinse it with cool water until the water runs clear.

  2. 2

    Let the swatch dry and assess the colour. If the colour is what you want, continue dyeing. If it has absorbed no colour, then the fabric you are working with isn't dyeable. If it is lighter than you envisioned but has some colour, resoak in a new mixture of water and dye at 2-minute intervals until you achieve the shade you want. Mark down the number of times you resoaked in the dye solution.

  3. 3

    Weigh the item you are dyeing. If it is 113 g to 454 g (1/4 lb to 1 lb), use 1 package of dye; for 454 g to 681 g (1 to 1 1/2lbs) use 2 packages; for 908 g to 1.135 kg (2 to 2 1/2lbs) use 3 packages; for 1.36 to 2.72 kg (3 to 6 lbs) use 4 packages. If you had to resoak your test swatch, multiply the number of dye packages to use by the number of times you had to resoak. For example, if you have a pillow cover weighing 454 g and you had to soak the swatch twice to get your desired colour, multiply the 2 packages of dye needed by the 2 times you had to soak it for a total of 4 packages.

  4. 4

    Fill your washing machine with hot water so that it will completely cover the item you are dyeing. Submerge the item you are dying in the hot water until it is completely wet. Remove it and set it aside.

  5. 5

    Dissolve the dye packages in 474 ml (2 cups) hot water, then add the mixture to the washing machine. Let the washer agitate the water and dye for a minute or so. Add the wet item you are dyeing to the washing machine and set your machine for an extended wash cycle.

  6. 6

    Adjust the washing machine cycle as needed so the item stays in the dye for at least 30 minutes. Then pause the washer and, wearing rubber gloves, remove the item from the machine. If the colour is still too light, run through another 30-minute wash cycle and recheck when the cycle is complete. If the colour is what you were expecting, place the item in a large sink or bath.

  7. 7

    Rinse the item in cool water if it is a pastel or light colour; for a darker colour, rinse in warm water and use washing powder formulated for delicate articles. Rinse until the water runs clear. Dry the item according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  8. 8

    Run a hot wash cycle in your washer so that the water level is at its highest. Add 237 ml (1 cup) of bleach and your normal amount of washing powder to clean the washer of dye and prepare it for normal laundry loads.

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