Can you dye polyester? If so, how do you do it? Don’t worry — you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’ll cover whether or not you can dye polyester fabric, how to do it, and give you things to consider.
Disclaimer: The information included in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal, financial, or DIY advice. We highly suggest consulting a professional before attempting any DIY home improvements or repairs.
Can You Dye Polyester?
You can dye polyester material when using the right type of dyes and the dyeing process. You must use disperse dyes, which are designed specifically for polyester and other insoluble fabrics. The fabric also needs to be heated for the fibers to absorb the dye.
How to Dye Polyester in 8 Easy Steps
The most effective way to dye polyester material involves using the same types of dyes used by manufacturers.
Disperse dyes are sold as a powder. The powder is not water-soluble, which keeps it from dissolving in liquid at room temperature. The water must be heated to boiling to open the fibers in the fabric and allow the pigments in the dye to stick.
Here are the steps involved in dyeing polyester fabric:
- Buy a synthetic dye and gather supplies
- Prepare the polyester material
- Pour water in a large pot
- Bring the pot to a boil
- Add the dye packet to the water
- Add the polyester material
- Rinse the polyester material
- Wash and air dry your polyester items
There are also a few things to consider before trying to dye polyester material. Dyeing your polyester clothes or fabrics won’t fix certain signs of wear and tear. Stains and bleach marks may still be visible even if you use a dark dye.
The base color of the fabric also impacts the results of the dyeing process. For example, you can’t dye black polyester cloth a lighter color. If you add yellow dye to a blue shirt, you’ll likely get a green color. You should also inspect the clothing or fabric to check the materials.
Not all polyester products are made with 100% polyester fibers. For example, a polyester blend made with cotton or other natural fibers may not work well with synthetic colorants designed for polyester.
You may also find it hard to dye polyester fabrics made with spandex. Spandex cannot withstand the temperatures needed during the dyeing process. If the polyester comprises less than 35% of the material, use a standard fabric dye instead of a disperse dye.
Standard fabric dyes are easy to apply, as you typically need to soak the clothes in a tub with water and the dye. For 100% polyester and polyester blends, stick with disperse dyes.
1. Buy a Synthetic Dye and Gather Supplies
You’ll need the following items to dye polyester items:
- Disperse dye
- Large cooking pot
- Oven mitts
- Long wooden spoon
A synthetic disperse dye is the best solution for dyeing polyester fabric. Standard dyes are water-soluble and don’t easily adhere to the synthetic fibers in the polyester material. An all-purpose fabric dye may slightly alter the color of the polyester cloth but doesn’t offer the same results as disperse dyes.
You’ll also need a pot that is large enough to hold the polyester material that you want to dye. As the water needs to stay boiling for about 30 minutes, the pot also needs to be able to rest on the stovetop.
2. Prepare the Polyester Material
Wash the material that you want to dye. Inspect the fabric for stains and dirt, as you want to remove any blemishes before you start the dyeing process. Use stain remover if necessary and wash the material again.
Don’t use fabric softener when drying the clothes. The softener and other treatments may interfere with the ability of the dye to adhere to the polyester fibers. Wait until the polyester fabric is completely dry before you start dyeing.
3. Pour Water in a Large Pot
Set a pot on the stovetop and add water. Follow the instructions on the dye that you purchase. The label should tell you how much water to add. The amount of water typically depends on the weight of the clothing. For example, you may need three gallons of water for every pound of fabric.
A large polyester jacket may weigh about four pounds, which would require 12 gallons (48 quarts) of water. The typical large cooking pot has a capacity of 8 to 12 quarts, which can hold about two to three gallons.
With a 12-quart pot, you can dye about one pound worth of clothing. Weigh the clothing that you want to dye using kitchen scales. If you want to dye multiple articles of clothing, you may need to repeat the dyeing process multiple times.
4. Bring the Pot to a Boil
You need boiling water for the fibers to soften and adhere to the pigments in the dye. It may take 8 to 15 minutes for the water to start boiling. Some manufacturers state the recommended water temperature, which may vary from 140 degrees Fahrenheit to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the water starts to boil, it should be within the right temperature range. You can also use a metal food thermometer to ensure that you get the right temperature.
5. Add the Dye Packet to the Water
Depending on the product you buy, you may have a packet or a large container of dye. Individual packets are easier to use, as you simply need to rip open the packet and pour the contents into the water. If the dye comes in a container, follow the instructions on the label to measure the dye.
6. Add the Polyester Material to the Pot
After adding the dye, add the polyester material. Slowly lower the material into the pot to keep the water from splashing out. Use a long wooden spoon to gently stir the polyester, the dye, and the boiling water. Stir continuously for ten minutes.
Set a timer to avoid agitating the polyester material for too short or too long. If you don’t agitate it for long enough, the dye may not adhere to the fibers. If you agitate it for too long, you risk damaging your clothes. Keep the polyester item in the pot for at least another 20 minutes after you finish stirring.
7. Rinse the Polyester Material
After 30 minutes of soaking in boiling water, carefully remove the polyester clothes or fabric from the pot and run under warm water in a sink or bathtub. To avoid scalding your skin, grab the polyester material with a pair of tongs. You may also want to wear oven mitts. Turn on the water in the sink or tub before bringing over the fabric.
Rinse the clothes in warm water for about a minute before gradually making the water cooler. Continue to rinse the clothes until the water runs clear.
8. Wash and Air Dry Your Polyester Fabric
Wash the clothes using a warm wash cycle without any other clothing. Allow the material to air dry.
You may want to avoid washing with other clothes for at least a few washes. After the initial washing and drying, wash the freshly dyed polyester material in cold water to help protect the colors from fading.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Dye Polyester With Food Coloring?
Food coloring may temporarily alter the color of polyester fabric. However, the results are not permanent.
Food coloring doesn’t set in the polyester fibers, as the water-soluble additives cannot penetrate the fibers. Polyester is hydrophobic, which means that it repels water.
Can You Paint Polyester Fabric?
You can paint polyester using acrylic paint. However, after the paint dries, it may start to crack. Acrylic paint markers may work a little better but are still likely to crack and peel away over time.
So, Can You Dye Polyester?
The easiest way to dye polyester material is to use disperse dyes in a pot of boiling water. You can also try dying polyester fabric with food coloring or acrylic paint, but the results may not last or match your expectations.