How to Dye Clothing With Food Coloring

    by Kelly Sundstrom

    About the Author

    Kelly Sundstrom is a national special needs spokesperson and writer. She writes content for major brands, magazines and newspapers, including Gather News, STACK Magazine, Colgate, Kudzu, LIVESTRONG and Lowe's Home Improvement. She currently has over 6500 digital and print articles in publication. Her awards include the 2012 Skyword High Flyer Award and the 2009 Demand Media Top Content Creator Award.


    When you dye clothing, it is common to use commercial fabric dye from a craft or art store. However, if you do not have any fabric dye on hand, you can dye your clothes with food coloring and perhaps come up with interesting hues and shades. Although food coloring is typically used to color baked goods and frosting, it can have the same effect on natural fibers like silk, cotton and wool. You can even make tie-dyed T-shirts, an exciting project for children and teenagers.

    Things You'll Need

    • Large stock pot
    • Water
    • Food coloring, any color (4 tablespoons per quart of water used)
    • Table salt (1 cup per gallon of water used)
    • Spoon

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

    Squeeze in 4 tablespoons of food coloring 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 tablespoons of food coloring. Select the color of food coloring that you prefer.

    Pour in 1 cup of table salt per gallon of water. Using table salt will help the coloring adhere to the fibers 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.

    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.

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

    Rinse out the dyed clothing in warm water until the water runs clear, then rinse it with cold water.

    • Concentrated fruit drink mix also works as a dye.
    • Food coloring will stain your pot and spoon.
    • Do not use food coloring dye on synthetic fibers -- it likely won't take.
    • Any stitching on your fabric will dye a shade lighter or darker than the fabric itself.
    • Wash the dyed clothing separately to avoid bleeding onto other clothes.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/ Images