How to dye a canvas awning

Updated February 21, 2017

Canvas awnings add a decorative touch to your home's exterior while also cutting the heat and brightness of the sun. When repainting or siding a house, however, the canvas awning may not match the new colour or style. Instead of investing in a new awning, consider dying the one you have. Outdoor awnings are typically made with a synthetic, polyester-based canvas, which typically rejects common dyes. Colour polyester canvas by immersion dying it, a process that is somewhat more involved than that of dying natural, more absorbent fabrics.

Remove the canvas from the awning's framework and wash it in the washing machine before dying. Wash with tepid water, using mild laundry soap. Do not place the canvas in the dryer once finished.

Stuff the canvas into a large stainless steel pot and cover it with water. Clip a cooking thermometer onto the edge of the pot with the probe in the water for temperature monitoring.

Warm the water on the stove to 60 degrees C. Add approximately 1/2 tsp of synthrapol and 1/2 tsp of soda ash for every 3.5 yards of canvas. Soak the canvas at 60 degrees C for ten minutes and stir gently using a stainless steel or wood stirrer. Remove the canvas from the water and rinse it well in the sink with warm water.

Boil 1 cup of water in a smaller pot. Stir in the desired colour of disperse dye. Use 1 to 2 tsp of dye for lighter colouration and 2 to 3 tsp for darker colouration. Once dissolved, strain the dye solution through nylon and pour it into a separate container. For dark colouration, also dissolve 2 tbsp of disperse dye carrier in a cup of water, using a separate pot.

Rinse and fill the large pot with fresh water. Heat the water to 48.9 degrees C. Mix in 1/2 tsp of synthrapol, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, the dye water and the dye carrier. Stir with the stainless steel or wood stirrer.

Place the canvas back into the water, bring the water to a boil then leave the canvas to simmer. Bring another large pot of water to a boil in the meantime. After 30 to 40 minutes, transfer the canvas from the dye water to the clean, boiling water.

Empty the dye water, rinse the pot and fill it again with fresh water. Heat the water to 71.1 degrees C and add 1/2 tsp of synthrapol. Remove the canvas from the clean water and transfer it to the water with synthrapol. Move the canvas gently around with the stirrer for five minutes.

Rinse the canvas with warm water in the sink. Hang the canvas to air dry. Do not place the canvas in the dryer.


Wear protective, latex gloves when working with disperse dye.

Things You'll Need

  • Mild laundry soap
  • 2 large stainless steel pots
  • Clip-on cooking thermometer
  • Stainless steel or wood stirrer
  • Soda ash
  • Synthrapol
  • 2 small stainless steel pots
  • Disperse dye
  • Nylon
  • Disperse dye carrier (optional)
  • White vinegar
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About the Author

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.