Ideas & Inspiration

How to Dye Linens

Gather Your Supplies
Supplies are gathered on a counter.

This is fairly easy DIY project, where most of the work is done through chemical reaction rather than personal exertion. Most of what you’re doing is merely preparing materials. First up, you’ll need to gather the supplies: 

  • Linen fabrics for dying – any light color will do, but white is preferable (pillowcases are a great subject for this project)
  • 1-cup soda ash
  • 1-gallon cold water
  • Plastic bin, tub or bucket
  • Roasting or grilling rack, or drying rack that will fit in your tub of choice
  • 1 packet of dye in your color of choice, or several colors if you want to layer or make different items different hues
  • 1 bag of ice 
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rubber gloves
Get Prepped
A woman fills tub with linens and soda ash.

This process of dying fabrics is quite easy. That said, dying is irreversible – there is no editing as you go, so make sure you read through these steps carefully to have a clear understanding before you get going. 

  

Prepare

  • You need to start off with clean linens. To ensure you’re applying dye to linens free of oils, dirt and fabric softeners, you should put the fabrics through a single wash cycle in the washing machine
  • Create a soda ash solution by dissolving 1-cup of soda ash in 1-gallon of water. Use this ratio and double or half depending on how much fabric you’re dying. We find that this 1-cup to 1-gallon portion works well for two standard-sized pillowcases. 
  • Soak and Sprinkle: Once its clean, soak the fabric in the soda ash solution for fifteen minutes.
  • While the fabric soaks, prepare a tub for applying dye to the linens. 
Transform the Fabric
Wet linens are placed on a drying rack.

Tip: It’s important to use a tub and not a piece of cookware you have stashed in your kitchen to avoid staining

  • Fit a roasting rack or wire drying rack in the tub. This is what your fabric will sit on top of. 
  • After the fifteen minutes of soaking is complete and your linens are primed for absorbing dye, ring the fabric out. Do not rinse it, as that will undo the good priming work you’ve just accomplished. Once they’re no longer dripping, set the linens on the rack that is nestled in the bucket. 
  • Cover your linens in ice. To be fully effective, ice must cover every inch of fabric. 
Choose Your Color
A woman sprinkles purple dye on her linens.

Tip: If you’re combining colors, consider the color wheel. For example, red and blue make green; purple and orange make brown; orange and red will give you a pretty warm color somewhere in between the two.

  

You can choose to stick to a single color or apply a second at this time. On your first attempt at this DIY project, it might be wise to stick to a single color. When mixing colors, you can get gorgeous results, but if you mix the wrong colors, the end result can look a bit muddy. 

  

Sprinkle powder dye on top of the ice that now sits on the fabric. You don’t have to apply with too heavy a hand – a little will go a long way. Within moments, the dye will bloom and its color will become vivid and darker. If you prefer a super-saturated color, sprinkle a bit more dye after the initial bloom. If you stick to a single application, things will turn out a restrained, pastel hue. 

Wash, Dry and Enjoy
Two throw pillows dyed purple are fluffed.
  • After you’ve applied your preferred dye, move the tub out of the way and cover it in plastic wrap. Let the ice melt completely and the color set by leaving it sitting for a full 24-hours. 
  • Wearing gloves, remove the linens and rinse them under cold water until the water runs clear.
  • Follow this thorough rinse with a spin in the washing machine, using detergent this time. Dry in a dryer according to your fabric’s directions and you’ll have a new set of linens at the ready!