Capsule Wardrobe | Dying Clothes

Getting rid of clothes and deciding on a uniform, or rather more of a “dress code”, made my life easier. However, I still had clothes that fit well and that I liked, but weren’t exactly the colors I wanted. So I decided to dye some things.

I wanted to reconstitute three pieces: a pair of dark blue skinny jeans that were embarrassingly faded in the knees, jean capris that were too light for my taste, and (formerly) white shorts that were plagued by stubborn berry stains.

I used Rit Liquid Dye that I bought at my local Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store for $3.99. I used one 8 fl. oz. bottle in black and followed the directions for sink dying, but used a bucket instead. (Washing machine dying seemed like it would be the easiest, but I didn’t want to risk dying the barrel of my washer. I also didn’t want to dye my sink, which is why I used a bucket, but the bucket probably wasn’t necessary anyway.)

I followed the directions on the bottle and did a little research online for other tips and other people’s experiences. I measured out the hottest tap water that would flow from my faucet and added a full cup of table salt (to help set the color in the cotton fabrics). I used an old wooden ruler to mix the contents almost constantly for a half hour. (An hour is recommended, but I had a deadline before work.) I wished I had an outdoor tub sink to use when the rinsing portion of the process came, but was forced to use my kitchen sink.

I lined my sink with a trash bag, the bottom of which I had cut a hole cut into for the strainer part of the drain. This didn’t work as well as planned, but still turned out okay in the end.

The rinsing was the hardest part and seemed to use SO MUCH water. Directions say to rinse with water until it runs away clear. I think the rinsing took as long as, or longer, than the prior dye setting process. I splashed grey dye-water on my sink and some nearby dishes (should’ve moved them beforehand). The trash bag slowed the drain process and a lot of water escaped to the outside of it anyway, so I soon abandoned it. I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and cursed the splash droplets that found their ways onto my kitchen counters. Thankfully, a Magic Eraser cleaned up the entire area perfectly for me. The dishes came clean with an immediate swipe of a paper towel.

Then I had to run the three items for a cycle in my washing machine. And now I can’t remember if I dried them in the tumble dryer or hung them up… I think I used the tumble dryer, hoping the heat would help set the dye even more.

And I’ve been quite happy with the results. They came out a bit more dark grey than black, but I’m fine with that. I think they would have come out darker if I had used two bottles, as suggested in the directions, but I wasn’t that picky. I haven’t had any dye come off on anything during wear and even wore some out in the rain. I have not, however, washed them with any of my other clothes so far, for fear of bleeding. (I haven’t washed them at all yet since wearing them, but plan to wash them separate with just blacks when I do.)

Although I am happy with the results and that I can get more use out of these three pairs of bottoms, I really didn’t enjoy the process. It was messy and time-consuming and my home just isn’t set up very well for it. I like the idea of dying clothes to repurpose them or make them last longer, but would prefer, going forward, to buy strong, lasting colors in durable fabrics that adhere to my dress code, than to try this again.


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