Dying textiles is a great way to give new life to an old blanket or pair of jeans. If you're working on a small item, a plastic bucket is ideal, but if you've got something sizable like a quilt, a large enough container to properly cover and agitate the item in can be difficult to come by. You already knew you could use a top loading washing machine, but did you know you can also use your front loader? Well, you can!
I was handed down an ivory quilted blanket a few months ago and while it was pretty, it wasn't...colorful, and I needed it to be. I'd been wondering about the whole dying items in a front loading washing machine process for a while, and figured this would be a great piece to practice on since I wasn't really committed to it one way or the other.
I followed the instructions for dying in a front loading washing machine that the dye company has listed online and have to say, I was pretty impressed with the final results —and the ease! Oh my, was this easy —and the cleanup process was super simple as well.
What You Need
- Liquid dye
- Hot Water
- 1 cup of salt
- 1 tablespoon laundry detergent
- Front loading washing machine
- Measuring cups
Before starting, check the fabric content of the item you plan to dye. Regular old Rit dye works best on washable fabrics like 100% cotton, linen, silk, and wool. Determine the amount of dye you'll need by weighing your item (dry). Generally speaking, one box of powder dye or 1/2 bottle (1/2 cup) of liquid dye will color 1 lb of dry weight.
1. Prewash your item to remove any dirt or deposits that could interfere with the dying process.
2. Set your washer to "hot" and soak your item. Drain, then spin. If you are working with a smaller item like a cotton shirt or thin fabric, remove the item after the spin cycle and smooth out any areas where it might be sticking together. I didn't do this with my blanket because I could see that it after the spin cycle it was pretty loose and fluffy.
3. Immediately after soaking your item, set your machine to the hottest wash cycle and set the water level to high. Add an extra rinse/spin if this is an option on your machine or add an additional 30 minutes to the cycle. The longer your item is able to sit in the dye the darker it will be.
4. Shake your bottles of dye and pour them the solution into the dispenser at the time you would normally add the detergent.
5. Refill the total amount of dye bottles used with hot tap water and flush the detergent dispenser. I used two bottles of dye, so I flushed the dispenser with two bottles of hot tap water.
6. Next, add one tablespoon of laundry detergent. This helps the dye to evenly distribute while agitating. At this point you should see the dye going to work on your item, it's very exciting!
7. After 10 minutes has passed, dissolve 1 cup of salt in 4 cups of hot tap water. Stir well to be sure it all dissolves. Add this mixture to the dispenser.
If you're dyeing a silk or nylon, follow with a 1 cup vinegar + 2 cup water solution. Add to the dispenser and flush with a few more cups of hot tap water.
8. After the cycle has finished, start another normal cycle. Wash in warm water with a mild detergent.
9. If fiber content allows, pop it in the dryer -or just hang it outside.
10. This last step is very important and should not be skipped in all the excitement of your newly dyed garment: Clean your machine! Set your washer to "hot" and "high" water settings. Add a few old rags to the machine (they may come out dyed, so grab the gross ones!), pour 1-2 cups bleach through the dispenser and run a full wash cycle. I don't use bleach in my home, so I substituted with two cups of vinegar and ran a full cycle. Once the cycle had finished, I used the rags and my vinegar spray to wipe down any remaining dye that had dripped on my machine or lingered in the dispenser. Shortly after I ran a load of bath towels through and they were perfectly fine—no sight of pink dye!
Notes: My blanket was a queen size and I have a smaller washing machine, so I was really happy with the final results, given the circumstances. There were a few blotchy areas, but nothing unsightly. I used two bottles of "fuchsia" liquid dye and felt like I wasn't able to achieve that exact color and wish I had added one more bottle than recommended—you might want to keep that in mind when purchasing your dye.
Best of luck!
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