You could be interested in dying materials to produce exactly the perfect look, whether you’re a cosplayer creating a specialized replica of Wonderwoman’s vivid costume or a DIY artist developing your own apparel. Polyester, a synthetic fabric that does not respond to most colorants in the same manner that natural fibers do, now makes up a large fraction of all clothing. You’re undoubtedly thinking how to dye polyester after reading this.
Polyester must be dyed with disperse colours and water that has been heated to at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Polyester fiber molecules are hydrophobic, meaning they won’t absorb water-soluble pigments. Disperse dyes will only color synthetic textiles like polyester and nylon, not natural fibers.
You’ll learn how to dye polyester at home, which coloring tools perform best on synthetic materials, and even how to tie-dye polyester in this article.
Can You Dye 100% Polyester?
If you apply the right processes and a special colorant especially for synthetic materials, you can dye 100 percent polyester.
Polyester is a synthetic fabric derived from a petroleum-based polymer. It’s a type of plastic that’s made into fibers and then woven or knitted into cloth.
Polyester fibers do not absorb liquids–such as water-soluble colorants–in the same manner that most natural fibers do. This means that, unlike cotton, polyester is difficult to dye. Instead, heat or chemical treatments are needed to open up the polyester fibers enough for the specific dispersion dyes used to color synthetics to absorb.
Polyester dyeing is a labor-intensive procedure used by most manufacturers. Large companies employ heavy machinery, such as jet dyeing machines that can continually soak the cloth in a hot colorant mixture at a temperature of 280°F.
Other facilities use a carrier liquid to transfer the dispersed dye into the polyester by soaking the cloth in enormous vats. The carrier chemical, on the other hand, might make the resulting cloth stiff to the touch.
Some manufacturers use customized roller machines to continually expose the cloth to the heated solution without the high pressure of heated jets for very fine polyester materials like sheers and faux-silks.
These intricate chemical and mechanical setups frequently occur during the manufacturing process, sometimes while the cloth is still in yarn form and sometimes after it has been woven or knitted into the material.
The beautiful thing about this time-consuming method is that because the color is heat-set into the polyester, it never bleeds or fades.
Are you wondering why you’d want to try dying polyester at home now that you’ve read all of this?
The truth is that polyester is present in more than half of all clothing sold around the world today. This implies that if you want to color your clothes, you’re kind of trapped!
Many sewing and crafting projects require the ability to dye synthetics, so you may wish to learn how to do so. If you want to make a cosplay outfit, for example, you’ll almost probably need some synthetic or plastic components.
The good news is that you can dye polyester at home without the need for all of the heavy machinery seen in production plants.
What to Consider When Dyeing Polyester Fabric at Home
Before you start dyeing polyester at home, there are a few things to think about.
To begin, you must first determine the type of fabric you will be dealing with. Check the end of the fabric bolt to see if you’re getting 100% polyester or a polyester blend if you plan to dye an unworked piece of cloth. This information can be found on the manufacturer’s label inside a ready-made garment.
What is the significance of this? Polyester is frequently blended with another fiber, such as cotton, to make a softer, more breathable fabric. If the material comprises more than 35% synthetic fibers, you should use a special synthetic colorant.
Polyester and spandex (popular in leggings and sportswear) are two blends that can’t be coloured at home. Spandex won’t hold up to the high temperatures required to make disperse dyes work.
It also depends on the style and condition of the object you wish to color. Many ready-made clothing, for example, contain unique curves or pleats that are heat-set to keep their shape indefinitely.
One of polyester’s greatest assets is its long-term resilience. If you re-dye the polyester at home, however, you risk damaging the pleats, curves, folds, or patterns of the original garment.
You must also determine whether or not your object can be safely submerged in water. If it needs to be dry-cleaned, it won’t withstand the dye bath in boiling water.
You should also look for rips, tears, stains, and bleached or faded areas on your garment. All of this will be seen in the final colors. Even if you use black colorant, a fading region will appear lighter than the remainder of the garment once it’s finished!
Next, how much do you recall from your first art class in elementary school, when you learnt about the color wheel? You presumably used finger paint to combine blue and yellow to make a sickly green color.
Well, dye works in the same way as finger paint does! If you want a yellow shirt to turn green, don’t use green dye. You’ll need blue dye for this.
Finally, the colorant you choose is important. Continue reading to learn about the various types of synthetic dyes on the market today!
Dyeing Polyester With Disperse Dyes
Disperse dyes can be thought of as a very fine powder suspended in a liquid. Water-soluble or acid-based colorants dissolve in the liquid, however these small pigments don’t. Instead, they use heat to open up the fibers of synthetic fabrics, allowing the dye bath’s colors to penetrate the textile.
Disperse dyes are used to color polyester permanently. Thankfully, you can use these things at home on a much smaller scale!
Today, Rit is the most well-known DIY brand for disperse dyes. This brand may be purchased on Amazon or at most local arts and crafts stores. However, make sure you read the label or product description to ensure you’re buying disperse dyes rather than the water-soluble variants that Rit also sells!
Because you are unlikely to have a large set of manufacturing equipment at your disposal, keep in mind that you will need to wash or pre-treat the item before you begin.
You’ll also need a technique to heat the object you’re coloring. On a stovetop, most people use a large metal pot.
How to Dye Polyester With Rit
Let’s have a look at how to dye polyester with Rit dyes, step by step. To begin, keep in mind that standard Rit All-Purpose dye will not work on 100% polyester. Rit, on the other hand, offers a new product called Rit DyeMore, which is a disperse dye.
To prepare your object for a dye bath, you’ll need to do some preliminary work, like with other undertakings. Examine the item carefully for any stains and try to remove them as soon as possible, as they will detract from the end product.
The item should then be washed with soap but no fabric softener or other treatments.
Weigh the object on a kitchen scale. One package of Rit DyeMore should color up to 2 pounds of dried cloth, so you’ll need to figure out how much dye you’ll need based on the weight of the cloth.
If you make any splattering while working, get some gloves and cover everything surrounding your stove with paper or plastic sheets as a last prep step. You don’t want your kitchen counters to get stained!
Now it’s time to get started! Rit recommends using three gallons of water for every pound of cloth, so you’ll definitely need the biggest metal pot you have.
- Add 1 teaspoon of dish detergent to the water in an appropriate amount for the pounds of cloth you wish to color.
- Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. If you want to make sure the water is at 200°F, you can use a cooking thermometer.
- Open the sealed dye packet and stir it into the hot water after shaking it.
- Carefully place the textile object in the boiling dye bath. For the first ten minutes, make sure to stir the pot constantly. This guarantees that the item’s entire surface is evenly colored.
- Allow at least 30 minutes for your polyester garment to soak in the saucepan.
- The best way to remove the object from the dye bath is to carry the entire pot to your kitchen sink. Remove the item with tongs or something other than your hands and place it under the sink faucet.
- Rinse in heated water frequently, then in cooler water gradually until the water runs clear.
- Finally, in your washing machine, run the textile item through a warm wash cycle and air dry it.
As a result, Dylon dye can be used safely on a wide range of items, including cotton blend t-shirts.
The good news is that using Dylon makes the process a whole lot easier! Because this colorant dissolves in water, you don’t need to use boiling water to heat-set it.
- To begin, weigh the thing you’ll be coloring. According to Dylon, one packet of powder will color half a pound of cloth, so buy enough packets.
- Then, while the item is still damp, wash it with soap and remove it from the washer.
- Fill a glass bowl or metal saucepan halfway with water; each dye package will require 2 14 cups of water. Stir in five tablespoons of table salt for each packet as well.
- Stir in the dye until it is completely dissolved.
- In the dye bath, place the textile object. Allow to rest for 45 minutes after gently stirring for 15 minutes.
- Remove the object from the bath over your kitchen sink while wearing gloves and rinsing it in cool water until the water runs clean.
- Finally, put the completed item through a warm water washing machine cycle and air dry it.
How to Dye Polyester with Acrylic Paint
Acrylic paints work better on polyester than most fabric paints or oil-based paints. You probably want to know what kind of paint to use for brushing, stamping, or painting on polyester if you’re into fabric art!
If you’re going to paint directly on the polyester, you’ll need a fabric medium to thin the paint and keep it from splitting as it dries.
Acrylic paint markers, which work similarly to fabric markers and allow you to produce elaborate work on the surface of the cloth, are also available.
Many artists use acrylic paint to stamp images onto polyester cloth, but in this case, you need also test the fabric medium to ensure that your stamped design doesn’t fracture or crumble over time.
How to Dye Polyester With Food Coloring
You can dye polyester with food coloring for a short time, but it will wash away at the first sign of dampness.
Some artists pre-treat natural surfaces that will hold food coloring designs with a wash of water and vinegar. This works particularly well on wool and silk, which have proteins in their fibers that allow them to hold onto these colors.
Food coloring, on the other hand, will not adhere to polyester. This is due to the fact that water-soluble colorants cannot penetrate polyester fibers, which are hydrophobic and reject water.
If you’re working with a polycotton blend, you might be able to color or tint it with food coloring for a short while, but the color will most likely fade after the first wash.
Can Coffee Dye Polyester?
Coffee may give many natural materials a gorgeous natural cream, tan, or brown tint, but it cannot color polyester.
You can get a slight brown colouring by boiling pure white polyester in a pot of exceptionally strong black coffee for an hour. The color will, however, most likely come out in the wash.
Natural colorings are not accepted by most synthetic fabrics since they do not absorb water-soluble colorants as well as food coloring.
When you consider that natural or plant-based colorants work best with natural fabrics, it makes sense. On a cellular level, synthetic materials don’t mix well with natural colorants.
Can You Dye Polyester in the Washing Machine?
Attempting to color 100 percent polyester in the washing machine is unlikely to yield satisfactory results. Heat is required for all disperse dyes currently on the market. This implies you can’t color 100% polyester in a washing machine because even the hottest settings won’t get the water to 200°F, which is required to transfer color to polyester.
If your item contains less than 50% polyester, you can use a water-soluble colorant like Rit All-Purpose or Dylon in the washing machine. Because only the natural fibers in the weave will change color, you should use a dark hue when coloring a polyblend. As a result, if you color the cloth red but only half of the fibers turn red, you’ll end up with a pink cloth!
Please keep in mind that you’ll need to run your machine through a couple of wash cycles to get rid of any leftover stains before loading a load!
Can You Dye Polyester Curtains?
You may color polyester curtains with disperse dyes, but you may need to take a few more steps to obtain an even, thorough color.
Determine the type of fabric the curtains are made of first. Even 100% polyester can be woven or knitted into a wide variety of fabrics. Many polyester curtains are patterned sheer panels or thick broadcloth drapes.
Before you begin, double-check that your kitchen can handle dying a large object like a curtain. Do you have a metal container large enough to hold a curtain as well as the liters of water required to distribute the dyes? Furthermore, do you have a stovetop large enough to accommodate this massive pot?
Heavy broadcloth drapes should be washed in a warm-water machine cycle with 12 teaspoon soda ash and 12 teaspoon Synthrapol, a specific detergent that aids in the coloring process, for every pound of dry cloth. This will get rid of any starch or chemical treatments on the fabric’s surface.
Following the techniques outlined earlier in this article for dying polyester with Rit DyeMore after the specific pre-wash, you can dye polyester using Rit DyeMore.
Instead of totally coloring your polyester curtains, you might want to consider utilizing fabric art to embellish them. You could, for example, use acrylic paint to stamp a creative design on white drapes.
If your polyester materials are sheers, you may have trouble dyeing them evenly. This is particularly important if the sheers are already patterned, since the pattern will show through the new color and may not be appealing.
For your home, you might desire custom-dyed drapes. In that case, these procedures should assist you in achieving the exact look you desire! However, you should take into account the fact that polyester curtains are often inexpensive. You could be better off saving time and effort by simply getting new polyester curtains in a color you like.
Can You Tie-Dye Polyester?
Polyester is more difficult to tie-dye than natural materials like cotton knit. Sharpies and rubbing alcohol don’t work as well on polyester as they do on cotton for spreading interesting tie-dye patterns. If you follow these methods, you can tie-dye even 100 percent polyester fabric:
- Pre-wash the item you wish to tie-dye first. It is not necessary to dry it.
- After that, scrunch up little tufts or handfuls of damp fabric and fasten them with a firmly knotted string or a rubber band. When you’re through, these bunches will form a circular tie-dye pattern.
- Now you must complete the fundamental disperse dyeing procedure, which includes mixing water and disperse powder according to the number of pounds of dry fabric you intend to color.
- You’ll also need to follow the whole stirring and boiling procedure outlined in the Rit DyeMore section.
- Only submerge a bit of your tie-dyed item in the dye bath at a time if you want different sections of your tie-dyed item to be colored in contrasting colours.
- Finally, rinse the finished product in warm water several times.
- Some artists propose soaking the item in warm water and then applying Synthrapol as a final step.
What is the Best Dye for Polyester?
Disperse dyes produced specifically for synthetic fabrics are now widely available. Not long ago, everyone thought that coloring polyester outside of a factory was impossible, therefore you’ve stumbled upon this project at an exciting period in the fabric design world!
Rit DyeMore, iDye Poly, and KraftKolour are some popular DIY disperse dye brands.
Are you ready to get your biggest pot out of the cupboard and start boiling that polyester? Hopefully, you now know how to apply synthetic disperse dyes like a pro. You also understand why water-soluble and natural colours are ineffective on polyester.
What type of polyester do you intend to dye? Have you ever attempted to dye a large piece of fabric, such as a curtain? Please let us know in the comments section below!