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How to dye clothing with food coloring

Updated February 21, 2017

When you dye clothing, it is common to use commercial fabric dye to dye the fabric. However, if you do not have any fabric dye on hand, you can still dye your clothes by using regular food colouring. Although food colouring is typically used to colour baked goods and frosting, it can have the same effect on fibres. You can even make tie-dyed T-shirts using food colouring, which can be an exciting project for children as well.

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  1. Fill a large stock pot with water. If you are only dying a small amount of clothing, fill the pot halfway full. If you are going to dye a larger amount of clothing, fill the stock three-fourths full.

  2. Squeeze in 4 Tbsp of food colouring per quart of water that you have added into the stock pot. For example, if you fill the stock pot with 3 quarts of water, you will need to add in 12 Tbsp of food colouring. Select the colour of food colouring that you prefer.

  3. Pour in 1 cup of table salt per gallon of water. Using table salt will help the colouring adhere to the fibres in the clothing and will produce a more vibrant finished product. Stir the water well with a spoon to help the salt dissolve in the water.

  4. Heat the stock pot over medium-high heat until the water begins to boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low. The mixture should be simmering.

  5. Insert your clothing into the dye bath, and submerge it completely. Stir the clothing in the dye bath for 20 minutes while the dye bath simmers.

  6. Rinse out the dyed clothing in warm water until the water runs clear, then rinse it with cold water. Wash the clothing as usual, keeping like colours together.

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Things You'll Need

  • Large stock pot
  • Water
  • Food colouring, any colour (4 Tbsp per quart of water used)
  • Table salt (1 cup per gallon of water used)
  • Spoon

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