Dyeing your clothes is fun and fashionable, but it can also be expensive. If you want to save some cash, you need to make sure that you use the right dye and know how to dye your fabric properly.
If you’re interested in learning how to dye polyester, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide for each type of dye below.
In this section, we’ll cover everything from choosing the right color to finding the best method for dyeing polyester.
We’ll also show you how to find out if your polyester needs to be pre-washed before dyeing.
And finally, we’ll give you some tips on how to keep your polyester looking great after the dyeing process.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Polyester Made Of?
Polyester is a synthetic fiber made from petroleum. It was first created in the 1930s by DuPont. It’s a strong, durable material that’s used for everything from clothing to carpeting.
Like cotton, polyester has lots of uses because it doesn’t shrink or stretch as much as other fibers do.
There are two main types of polyester: PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PBT (polybutylene terephthalate). Both of these materials have their pros and cons.
PET is more popular than PBT because it’s cheaper, easier to work with, and more forgiving when it comes to heat.
However, PBT is stronger, more resistant to chemicals, and less likely to fade over time.
So if you’re looking to dye polyester, you should probably use PBT polyester fabrics.
Can You Color Or Dye 100% Polyester?
Yes, you can color or dye 100% polyester just like any other type of fabric.
However, unlike a natural fiber such as cotton, polyester isn’t very water absorbent. This makes it more difficult to color with paint or dyes.
For this reason, polyester fabric requires chemicals or heat to open up its fibers to dye this synthetic fiber.
This means that you need to add a bit of extra care when coloring your polyester clothes.
You don’t necessarily need to buy special equipment to dye polyester. You can easily make this process happen on a stovetop or in an oven.
You just need to know what kind of chemicals you need to get started.
The most common way to dye polyester is through chemical processes.
These methods include dying with food-safe colors, dying with liquid paints, dying with dry paints, dying with acrylics, dying with waxes, or dying with oils.
When manufacturers dye polyester in their factories, they use a lot of heavy machinery to create high temperatures to get the synthetic materials to open up to the color.
The most common technique in polyester manufacturing is soaking the fabric in large vats with dye. However, this process requires a carrier chemical that can make the final product feel rough and stiff.
The better quality polyester is dyed with special rollers that apply the color to the polyester with consistent heat.
These highly chemical processes for dying polyester can take place either when the polyester is still a yarn, or when the fabric has been woven already.
While this process is complex, it means that polyester is one of the few fabrics that never fade. This is thanks to the extreme heat which has set the color deep into the fiber.
However, this sounds like a daunting process for trying at home, and you may wonder why you would want to dye your clothes at all.
Unless your clothes are all made of 100%, you likely have a large amount of clothing in your closet which is made of a fiber mix.
From spandex and cotton to wool and polyester, synthetic and natural fiber are commonly combined by clothes manufacturers to create a better fitting product.
So, it’s likely that you will encounter polyester in your clothes, and giving them a new color doesn’t have to be as complicated as the large manufacturing processes.
Thankfully, there are many ways to dye polyester without using chemicals.
What You Need To Know Before Dyeing Polyester Fabric At Home
Before you get to work with dying your polyester clothes at home, there are a few things to consider.
Understand Your Fabric
First, you need to understand how your polyester fabric was created. If the fabric you want to dye is 100% polyester or a polyester blend can make a big difference to the end result.
You can check the fabric type either on the label, or most manufacturers also print the fabric name and mix on the fabric itself.
If it was made from a blended yarn, then you should expect to see some variations in the color between different pieces of the same garment.
If it was manufactured from a single yarn, then you should only see one shade throughout your entire piece
Polyester is often blended with another type of material to give it more flexibility, make it breathable or make the synthetic fiber softer.
Bear in mind that you will need to use a specific synthetic colorant if the fabric you want to dye is made of more than 35% of synthetic fibers.
It’s also important to know that some polyester blends, such as spandex and polyester which are commonly found in sportswear, cannot be dyed at home.
Spandex is very sensitive to heat, so any fabric which contains spandex can’t be dyed at home without a big setup and equipment.
Check The Fabric Condition
Your first step should always be checking the condition of the fabric before starting to dye. This way, you won’t waste time on dyes that don’t work well together.
If your fabric is already covered in stains that won’t come out then the dye will likely make them look more prominent. Dye doesn’t cover up stains.
You should also check for any faded spots. Similar to stains, the dye will not cover any faded spots. Instead, the spot will be lighter than the rest of the fabric.
The Fabric Style Makes A Difference
When you are using a ready-made retail item, like a t-shirt or blouse, you will find that any pleats, curves, or special appliques may change with the heat of the dying process.
Also, the dye may not distribute evenly across different pleats. This is something to be aware of when you are dyeing your clothes at home.
Don’t Use Dry Cleaning Fabric
If your dry fabric needs to be dry cleaned or it cannot get wet, then it will not survive the heat of the dyeing.
Dyeing Time And Temperature
As mentioned above, the temperature of the dying solution plays an important role in getting the best results.
Use the right temperature for the fabric and the dye you choose. The dyeing temperature will be indicated on the dying product you use.
Depending on the dye you choose, you might need to keep the fabric in the dye bath for several hours to achieve the desired effect.
Choose Your Color Combination Wisely
This is the time to spruce up your knowledge of the color wheel. Remember that the colors of the dying products you buy will determine what kind of color you get.
This is not difficult when you have white or untreated fabric but if you have a colored polyester fabric, then you will need to consider this.
For example, a dark blue fabric needs a yellow dye to make it a darker green.
Pick The Right Dye
There are many types of dye commercially available, or you can use food coloring as an alternative. Take a look at the section on how to choose your polyester dye below.
Choose Your Polyester Dye
Choosing the perfect color for your polyester is important because it affects the outcome of the entire process.
There are two main types of dyes commonly used to dye polyester. They are called direct dyes and disperse dyes.
Direct dyes are applied to the surface of the polyester before weaving. Disperse dyes are added during the weaving process.
Both types of dyes work in different ways. Direct dyes are usually more permanent than disperse dyes, but they also require a longer time to achieve full saturation.
Disperse dyes are easier to work with, but they tend to wash out faster.
The best type of dye depends on how much you want to keep the color from fading over time, and how well you can apply heat during the process.
Disperse dye is a very fine powder added to a liquid. These tiny color particles don’t dissolve in water, and you need to heat the fibers to allow these color pigments to enter the fiber properly.
Disperse dye is commonly available in craft stores, so you can easily dye your polyester fabric with it at home.
There is a vast range of disperse dye brands available. It’s important to check that the dye you buy is not water-soluble. It should state disperse dye on the product label.
Food Safe Colors
Food safe colors are the easiest way to dye polyester. These colors are not harmful to humans, pets, or plants.
They’re also easy to find at any grocery store. Some examples of these colors are yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, green, brown, and black.
You can buy these colors in powder form or ready mixed with water. If you choose to use ready-mixed colors, always read the label
Acrylic paint is another option for dyeing polyester. This type of paint is made from acrylic resin, which is similar to glue.
It’s often used by artists to create paintings. Some acrylic paints contain waxes to help them dry quickly.
Preparing Your Fabric For The Dyeing Process
As you are likely not dyeing your fabric with a lot of equipment and machinery, there are only a couple of steps to prepare your fabric for the dyeing process.
Clean Your Fabric
Before you start dyeing your polyester, make sure that your fabric is clean. Check for any stains and if you spot any, just wash the fabric before you dye it.
Your fabric must be as clean as possible as any stains or spots could impact the dyeing end result.
Wash With Soap
Put your fabric in a big bowl full of water and wash it with soap. You shouldn’t use any softener, detergent, or other treatment.
How To Dye Polyester With Disperse Dye
You can easily dye polyester with disperse dye. It’s important to note that this type of dye doesn’t work on 100% polyester.
So if you have a polyester blend fabric, this dye is ideal.
Here is our step-by-step guide on how to dye your polyester with disperse dye.
Weigh The Fabric
After you prepare your fabric, you need to weigh it.
This step is very much dependent on what disperse dye you buy. Most dye brands indicate how much dye you need to use according to the weight of the fabric.
This means you will need to weigh your polyester fabric. You can do this by using kitchen scales.
Protect Your Surfaces
When you are dyeing your polyester fabric, you need to protect all surfaces around where you are working.
The reason why we say this is because some dyes are toxic. They can stain walls, floors, furniture, and even your skin.
If you want to avoid getting stained, then you need to be careful when you dye your polyester.
To protect your clothes, you should either wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting stained or wear an apron.
Heat Water In A Large Pot
After you’ve weighed your fabric, you will need a large pot and fill it with water. Make sure that it’s large enough for the instructions of your disperse dye.
Most disperse dyes require around 3 gallons of water for every pound of fabric. Put the water into the large pot and add a teaspoon of washing-up liquid.
Then bring your water up to a boil. It should be around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add Dye And Fabric To The Hot Water
Once the water has reached the boiling point, stir your disperse dye into the boiling water. Then carefully place your fabric into the dye.
You need to make sure that your fabric is completely submerged under the water, and you need to continually stir for around 10 minutes.
The continued stirring will help to disperse the dye evenly across the fabric.
Your fabric needs to stay in the hot water-dye mix for a minimum of half an hour.
Remove The Fabric
When it’s time to remove your polyester fabric from the pot, you need to remove the pot from the stove and place it near the kitchen sink.
Be careful with any surfaces as the pot is extremely hot.
Then use tongs or a similar tool to take the fabric out of the pot and hold it under running warm water.
You need to rinse the polyester for quite some time in warm water. When you see that the water doesn’t contain any dye anymore, you can rinse the fabric in cool water.
Wash And Dry
Then you can place your polyester item in the washer dryer and use a normal washing cycle. It’s best to allow your fabric to air dry. This will ensure that the color doesn’t fade.
How To Dye Polyester With Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paint is a great way to dye your polyester because it is usually much more readily available, and it works better than other fabric paints.
Acrylic paint is usually used for drawing, brushing, and stamping on polyester fabrics.
If you want to apply the paint directly onto your polyester item, then you will need to make sure to add a fabric medium to the acrylic.
This will thin the paint enough so when you apply the acrylic paint to your fabric, it won’t crack or peel off.
Alternatively, you can also use acrylic paint markers which are ideal for any fabric artwork which contains a lot of detail.
We also often use acrylic paint for stamps on fabric but for these designs, you must apply the fabric thinner because they tend to create a much thicker coat of paint.
The fabric thinner will ensure that your stamp won’t crack when it’s dried.
How To Dye Polyester With Food Coloring
It’s fair to say that this isn’t a fully permanent method for dyeing your polyester blend. This method also doesn’t work with 100% polyester. It only works with polyester blends with natural fabrics.
However, if you’re looking for something quick and easy, then food coloring might just do the trick.
We found that when you apply a mix of vinegar and water to the material before painting, then the food coloring will hold a little better.
Saying this, polyester is still a very difficult fabric to dye with food coloring. It’s much easier with cotton fabric or other natural threads.
This is because natural fabrics can hold the color and water in, while polyester fibers are closed and can’t soak up the water.
That’s why we only recommend this method of dyeing your fabric when it’s a polyester blend. Even then, it’s likely that your color will wash out with the first drop of water.
Can You Dye Polyester With Coffee?
While coffee is a popular choice to dye cotton thread and other natural materials, it’s not suited to dye polyester.
The beautiful tan, brown, or creamy shade would look great on polyester. However, even if you try to boil a white polyester fabric in a seriously strong, black coffee, you will only get a hit of brown.
And even this light shade of color will come out in the first wash again.
Due to polyester not being water-soluble, it cannot absorb water and therefore can’t hold the natural food coloring of coffee.
This is the reason why many experts recommend that natural dyes only go with natural fabrics.
Can Tea Dye Polyester?
Similar to coffee, tea is another natural dye that does not work well with synthetic fibers. And although tea is an excellent choice for dyeing cotton fabric, it’s not suitable for dyeing polyester.
Polyester is water-resistant so the tea cannot penetrate the fiber. Instead of getting a rich, deep color, you’ll end up with a pale yellowish tint.
So if you want to dye your polyester fabric using tea, then your fabric item needs to be mostly made of natural fibers.
Is It Possible To Dye Polyester In The Washing Machine?
This depends on your type of fabric. You will likely not be able to dye 100% polyester in a washing machine because the required disperse dye would need a significantly higher temperature than washing machines can offer.
With most disperse dyes needing around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, the color of the dye would not set into your polyester fibers.
This means that the dye would only get stuck in your washing machine.
Saying this, you may be able to use a water-soluble dye in your washing machine if your fabric is made of less than 50% polyester.
If you want to color a blend of this kind in your washer, then it’s best to use a dark colorant as the natural fibers in the fabric will also change colors.
It’s important to remember that when you choose to dye your polyester in your washing machine, you will need to clean the washer properly after the dyeing process.
This involves running the washing through a few empty cycles to ensure all the dye has been removed from the inside and tubes.
Polyester is a popular material for many reasons. It’s cheap, durable, easy to care for, and versatile.
However, there are some downsides too. For example, it’s prone to wrinkles and it’s not breathable. So, while it’s great for some everyday wear, it might not be suitable for sportswear.
Its natural water resistance means that polyester isn’t an easy fabric to dye. However, there are still plenty of ways to dye polyester blends.
And if you’re looking to make something special for yourself or someone else, then we hope this guide has helped you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s The Best Polyester Dye?
We found the best polyester dye to be disperse dye. It lasts longer than any other type of dye and gives a much more vibrant color.
Can I Dye 100% Polyester?
Yes, you can dye 100% polyester. However, this is going to be difficult and you will need a good-quality disperse dye and very hot water to ensure the colorant sticks to the polyester fiber.
Can I Use Rit Dye On Polyester?
Rit is one of the best disperse dyes on the market. It is often used for fabric art projects and clothing.
It lasts considerably longer than other dyes, and the colors are much more vibrant.
Can I Wash My Dyed Polyester Fabric In A Washing Machine?
You can wash your dyed polyester fabric in your washer. As the dyeing process uses a much higher temperature than your washing machine, the colorant won’t come out of the fabric.
How Long Does It Take To Dye Polyester?
Dyed polyester takes anywhere between 10 minutes and 2 hours depending on the size of the project and your dye.
Most disperse dyes will require you to keep your polyester fabric in a hot dye bath for at least half an hour.
Can You Use Dylon To Dye Polyester Fabric?
Dylon dye doesn’t work with 100% polyester but you can use it for polyester blends. They work particularly well for items that contain natural fibers.
The brand itself recommends that you only dye fabrics which contain less than 50% synthetic fibers.