Extend the Life of Slipcovered Furniture with Non-Toxic Dye

Extend the Life of Slipcovered Furniture with Non-Toxic Dye

Lauren Zerbey
Jan 21, 2011

Purchased nearly 7 years ago, our IKEA dining chairs have seen better days. After searching unsuccessfully for new chairs, we decided to extend the life of our current ones by dying the slipcovers. The new color gives them a fresh look while hiding some of the stubborn stains that were more noticeable on the lighter fabric. I started out researching natural dye solutions and learned that some options, like food coloring, don't work on cotton…

Other naturally-derived dyes require the use of mordants (a heavy metal that is needed to make the dye stick to the fibers) and were therefore less appealing. After consulting with a few local craft stores, I chose a Procion MX dye that is designed for cellulose materials (in this case, cotton). The dye is non-toxic and can be done in the washing machine, avoiding the need for large buckets or accidental spills. The ingredients and directions vary depending on quantity and color, but the process is fairly straight-forward.

After washing the slipcovers to remove any dirt, start a new hot water cycle and add the dye and salt (use rubber gloves to keep dye off your hands). Once combined, add the fabric to the wash and agitate for about 20 minutes. Next, add the soda ash solution (this helps to lock the color to the fibers) and continue the wash cycle for another 30-50 minutes. Finally, allow the washing machine to complete the load. As recommended, I then did one more complete cycle using detergent to ensure that no extra dye remained and to clean out any dye splatter on the inside of the machine.

This method produced a very consistent color and while it didn't mask every old stain, it's certainly an improvement. Best of all, we got four "new" chairs while saving money and resources!

(Images: Lauren Zerbey)

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