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How to Dye Fabric with Food

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If you’re looking for sustainable fabrics for sewing, chances are you know that conventional cotton is a no-no, and you probably shy away from petroleum-based fabrics like polyester, but what about the dyes that give all of those fabrics their vibrant colors?

Luckily, many organic fabric-makers already use dyes that are far superior to conventional fabric dye. Fiber reactive dyes, for example, are much easier for fabrics to absorb, which means less pollution in the waste water from the dye process.

Water pollution is one of the major problems with many fabric dyes. After clothing goes through the dye bath, companies need to dispose of all of that water. In China, the Pearl River is heavily polluted because denim factories have been dumping their waste water there for years. Here’s a video that illustrates how much damage conventional dye processes can do:

So, how can you opt out of this process? If you’re a crafter, one sustainable (and fun!) option is to dye your own fabric at home with natural, food-based dyes that you make yourself. If you’ve never tried making your own fabric dyes, don’t fret! Check out the next page for basic instructions and some ideas for kitchen ingredients that make the best fabric dyes.

Next>> How to make food-based fabric dye

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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8:14AM PDT on Aug 1, 2013

I'm new to this, so what happens if you dye cotton? And what fabric can I use besides organics, that would still get bright colours?

1:10PM PDT on Aug 24, 2012


9:27PM PDT on Aug 6, 2012

Nice, thank you. The world needs more sustainable products. Now can someone post a petition to help the Pearl River ...

1:07PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

My daughter(of my heart) will love this..I'm emailing it to her now...thanx so much.... Fun!!

1:12AM PDT on May 29, 2012

Well, if you want a pink blouse then spill Merlot on it and wash it, and voila there's your pink blouse

9:27PM PDT on May 28, 2012

Works for eggs too.

7:50AM PDT on May 28, 2012


8:28PM PDT on May 26, 2012

Thanks for the first step, salt water. I had a huge failure with beets because I didn't have the right mordant and the fabric turned an awful washed out brown.

12:56PM PDT on May 26, 2012


10:38PM PDT on May 24, 2012

I have a blue shirt I spilled mustard on. Looks cool!

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