Style

RIT Dye Tutorial

Aka Instant Wardrobe Transformer.

It happens to me every year. The second spring hits, I’m standing in front of my closet going, I am so sick of all my clothes, if I see that shirt again I’ll throw up, but I don’t have any money for new stuff, I’M SO TIRED OF EVERYTHING I OWN. You know that feeling?

Let’s kill it with instant-wardrobe-transformer (aka RIT dye). RIT is a brand of clothing dye that’s been around since the 1930s. It turns drab-colored clothes and accessories into bright works of art, and I am obsessed with it. You can go from these:

to these!

And it’s not even hard.

Now, there are other kinds of clothing dye out there, but I chose RIT because it’s got simple instructions on the back of the package, it costs about $3 per box, and you can find it almost everywhere in the U.S.—fabric stores, craft stores, or places like Target. It comes in boxes of powder and bottles of liquid, and either kind works the same way.

I’m gonna show you how to do a basic stovetop dye job. It’s such a cheap and fun way to transform your wardrobe. You’re gonna get addicted to this.

But! Before we start, A WARNING: Dyeing your clothes has the potential to be really messy. EXTREMELY MESSY. And PERMANENT. With the right preparations, it doesn’t have to be a disaster, but there are no second chances with dye. You spill this stuff, it will last forever. This may be one of those times that you want to tell whomever you live with what you’re up to. Also, the back of the package says that you can dye clothes in a washing machine, bathtub, or kitchen sink. Nooooooooo. Don’t try any of these unless you’re already a skilled dyer, OK? You could potentially leak dye all over the inside of your washing machine or turn your kitchen sink say, permanently orange if you’re a beginner.

OK! Let’s get started!

You will need:

  • Something to dye: choose a white, off-white, or beige item of clothing made of natural fiber (cotton, wool, silk, linen), a blend of natural fibers (like a cotton/linen blend), nylon, or rayon. RIT dye doesn’t work very well on clothing made of 100% polyester, acrylic, leather, fake-leather, or acetate. Items that dye especially beautifully are: vintage slips, underwear of any kind, fabric purses, wool sweaters, T-shirts, socks, most pants, and leggings.
  • RIT dye in whatever color you fancy.
  • A BIG pot (like two gallons) you don’t care about and can put nasty chemicals in (i.e., you’re not gonna eat out of it—ever).
  • A spoon or chopstick for stirring
  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • Rubber gloves—you don’t want to get this stuff on your hands, or they will be a weird color for a very long time.
  • For mess prevention: paper towels, a sponge, and a bowl to hold your stir-spoon.

So now that we have our materials, let’s dye this elegant-yet-boring purse I found at a garage sale for a dollar!

Step One:
Fill your pot ¾ full with water. Turn your stove burner on, around a medium heat.

Step Two:
Examine your item. What’s it made of? If it’s made of a not-from-nature fabric (like nylon), add one cup of white vinegar. If it’s made of a natural fiber, like this silk purse, add one cup of salt to the water.

Step Three:
Carefully tear open the box of RIT dye. This is where you want to use EXTREME caution. Don’t let little grains of dye spill anywhere. Dump the whole package into the now-hot, but not-yet-boiling water in your pot. If you’re using liquid RIT dye, pour in half the bottle. Stir.

Step Four:
Gently drop your item into the pot. Poke it down with a spoon, until everything is covered with dye.

Step Five:
The water will start to boil. Turn the flame down low, and let everything simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring it often to make sure everything dyes evenly. You can dye more than one item at a time if you’re so inclined—I’m also dyeing a vintage slip in this picture, along with my purse.

Step Six:
Turn off the stove. Using two spoons or your gloved hand, carefully lift the item you’re dyeing out of the pot and drop it in the kitchen sink. PLEASE NOTE: I have a stainless-steel sink that dye doesn’t affect. If you have a worn enamel or porcelain kitchen sink, take your item to the sink in the laundry room where you live. This is also where you can dump your dye water. If you don’t have a laundry sink, you can carefully dump the dye water into a cellar or basement floor drain or a shiny, non-worn porcelain toilet, and then carry out step seven over your now-empty pot in the kitchen sink.

Step Seven:
Run HOT water over your item(s). Lots and lots of dye will come out, but don’t worry—that’s supposed to happen. Run gradually cooler and cooler water over it until the water coming off your item is clear. Then run ice-cold water over it. This helps set the dye.

Step Eight:
Hang up your item somewhere to dry, making sure to put an old towel underneath, where it drips.

Step Nine:
Come back when it’s dry and go, “OMIGOD!!!!” and shriek a little because it looks so cool.

From here on out, you’ll (annoyingly) need to hand-wash your dyed item, so it doesn’t bleed color on other clothes in the washing machine, but I mean, c’mon! Go from this great-yet-drab knitted cape:

to this!

Turn these plain white cotton gloves:

to these!

Take a pair of plain white tights from the dollar store,

wad them up in a ball, tie string tightly around the wad, and dunk them in a vat of dye,

AND GET THESE:

The possibilities are endless, you guys! Knowing how to dye clothes and accessories makes you look at stuff in a whole new way. The plainest things, like this scrap of white fake fur:

can become something magical!

Like a new spring coat for your baby pet rabbit, Timothy Maxwell Thumperton. Just, you know, for instance. ♦

70 Comments

  • argigle April 19th, 2012 3:04 PM

    THOSE TIGHTS. that is happening.

  • Sorcha April 19th, 2012 3:04 PM

    Them tights, gurl! I’m freaking out over here

  • Susann April 19th, 2012 3:06 PM

    That looks like fun! I love how the tights and the clutch turned out!

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • moonchild April 19th, 2012 3:08 PM

    OHHHH this is amazing!!! I dyed some of my mom’s old pants that were faded white and baggy/saggy… When I dyed them blue, I realized they had this awesome dragon pattern on the side that I didn’t see before because it was white on white! I made ‘em into balloon pants a la Aladdin! I love the things you made! I might just try the gloves… hmmmm…

    Love,
    Gwen
    http://under-a-bridge.blogspot.com/

  • mayaautumn April 19th, 2012 3:18 PM

    I KNOW THAT FEELING!..

    i love everything you created/transformed here- woah THE TIGHTS! though I thought those gloves were washing up gloves!hahaa:)

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.com

  • EmilyD April 19th, 2012 3:21 PM

    I’m always a little bit reluctant to dye things because I feel like the dye is probably REALLY TERRIBLE for the environment.

    • tellyawhat April 19th, 2012 8:27 PM

      Use NATURAL DYES! Its better for you and the environment, some dye baths require mordants (mostly heavy metals in small doses) to fix them, but there are lots that don’t need them. You can harvest tons of unwanted plants for dyeing like Oxalis AKA Sour Grass or Horsetails.

      I just read the book Harvesting Color and it is AMAZING. I plan on spending the spring hiking and wild harvesting plants to dye! Plus, natural dye colors are more dynamic and beautiful.

      Before synthetic dyes were introduced 100 years ago everything was dyed naturally and we were all much better off.

  • Fortune_Goddess April 19th, 2012 3:30 PM

    I AM DOING THIS!

  • Erica April 19th, 2012 3:30 PM

    omg!

  • Maddy April 19th, 2012 3:32 PM

    I love your bunny! (I had to check that it was fake fur though) This is an awesome DIY, great step-by-steps :)

  • Dayzee April 19th, 2012 3:32 PM

    I am defiantly doing this. Thank you for this DIY!

    btw Timothy Maxwell Thumperton is the best name ever for a Rabbit, and he looks totally fit in that coat.

    styledynamite.blogspot.com

  • Marguerite April 19th, 2012 3:38 PM

    TIGHTS!!!! but i don’t want to hand wash tights….

    • julalondon April 20th, 2012 5:27 AM

      Honestly? When ever i have something small to handwash (not a dress or something, but tights for example) i just take it in the shower with me… Put some shower gel on it (you have to use that anyway) and then rinse it properly. This doesn’t make an effort but your stuff gets clean again and you save loads of time.=)

  • Libby April 19th, 2012 3:41 PM

    Those tights? They will be my new school tights–to go with my manky uniform!

  • KinuKinu April 19th, 2012 3:46 PM

    SO AWESOME!! I need to go to the store pronto!!! Me and my sister did this face when we saw the tights O.O. WE ARE DOING THOSE TIGHTS!! Thanks,Krista :D

  • Abby April 19th, 2012 3:48 PM

    OHMIGODYOU’REAMAZINGAMAZINGAMAZING. I NEED to get me some of this stuff and dye pretty much everything I own. Also, THOSE TIGHTS….. I think I’m going to have a dye-gasm.

  • Marie April 19th, 2012 4:32 PM

    MOMMA LIKE

  • youngfridays April 19th, 2012 4:40 PM

    ashdaihusdashkjdashdj hsd doing this TO ALL MY CLOTHING

    faithmrljak.blogspot.com
    xoxox

  • lavendersparrow April 19th, 2012 4:51 PM

    I love the tights. I will definitely try that. I like the orange/coral color of the shoes too.

    http://lavendersparrow.wordpress.com/

  • Sputnick April 19th, 2012 5:16 PM

    SPAZZING OUT OVER THE TIGHTS HERE

  • Julianne April 19th, 2012 5:20 PM

    Timothy Maxwell Thumperton for President

  • Skatapus April 19th, 2012 5:25 PM

    With the tights, are all of the steps the same (the times and everything)? :)

  • fullmetalguitar April 19th, 2012 5:47 PM

    Wow this is actually shockingly simple. I’m probably gonna go buy a bunch a white stuff and dye them all blue and pink now XD

  • SweetThangVintage April 19th, 2012 6:00 PM

    Oh. My. Gosh. I want to make some tights like that!

  • Arabelle April 19th, 2012 6:10 PM

    I AM GOING TO DO THIS TO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE THAT I OWN
    NOTHING WILL BE SAFE

    YOU HAVE
    CREATED
    A
    MONSTER

  • mwong1025 April 19th, 2012 6:24 PM

    Your tights look so awesome I think I’m going to cry. Be right back spending my whole life savings on RIT dye so I can dye everything that can be dyed.

    http://www.style-abuse.blogspot.com

  • LizH April 19th, 2012 6:32 PM

    I’ve never dyed anything before but the thing I want to dye the most is my white area rug (my barefoot hippie friends walked all over it and it’s a mess; it would look so great as a deep maroon)! How can I do that without staining my parents tub?? They’d kill me. Would a giant plastic tub work?

  • XxEmoracerxX April 19th, 2012 6:44 PM

    Can you dye shoes like “chucks” or “vans” if they are white?

    • ellthemighty April 21st, 2012 3:04 AM

      Well, they’re made of canvas, so I don’t see why not? I think the only problem there would be if the canvas was treated with something. Shoelaces would definitely work though :)

  • Lululu April 19th, 2012 6:47 PM

    Dye is a very amazing practice. In school, I do it sometimes, or for me, and I really love it!

  • mariaantoniavs April 19th, 2012 7:16 PM

    OMIGOD!!! This is so great!!! I can’t wait to try it!

  • MissKnowItAll April 19th, 2012 7:56 PM

    And to think I had this stuff just lying around in my house…

  • maddzwx April 19th, 2012 8:49 PM

    Oh my god…this is amazing! Thanks so much, Krista! This is exactly what I needed for some inspiration!

  • Ben April 19th, 2012 9:07 PM

    I want to get a bunch of vintagy stuff and dye them all neon colors! like Orange, pink yello and green! It would be like highlighter! I want to look like a living highlighter! It would seriously be the best thing ever!

    http://bensstylecorner.blogspot.com/

  • Tiffany April 19th, 2012 9:35 PM

    OMG THE BUNNY I LOVE IT

  • spatergator April 19th, 2012 10:15 PM

    oh my god you made a furry purple ‘new spring coat’ for the bunny rabbit who the heck are you, BEATRIX POTTER oh my god are you trying to kill me

  • willow April 19th, 2012 10:40 PM

    welp looks like I have to go gather every light-colored piece of clothing in my wardrobe

  • Saraleebread April 19th, 2012 10:49 PM

    LOVE THIS

  • guiltfreedonut April 20th, 2012 1:06 AM

    THE BUNNY COAT. I can’t believe you found that purse for ONE DOLLAR! They don’t have garage sales like that (or any, that I can find) in New York!

    http://www.guiltfreedonut.com

  • SpencerBowie April 20th, 2012 2:07 AM

    I love Rit dye! I dyed a plain ol white surgeons gown for the military surplus store into a green precisely detailed Dr. Frank-N-Furter costume that I love!!!

    Easy peasy and fun to do!

  • whodatgal April 20th, 2012 3:21 AM

    THIS IS THE BOMB. Do you know if RIT is available in England?

    http://www.opheliahorton.wordpress.com

    • chancentrate April 20th, 2012 6:56 AM

      Our equivalent is DYLON and it’s just as awesome!

  • ivoire April 20th, 2012 6:31 AM

    Is it possible to do like a half half colour thing?! OR I COULD JUST MAKE IT RAINBOW!!

  • chancentrate April 20th, 2012 6:51 AM

    Is it possible to dip-dye? I feel like if I dipped, say, the bottom part only of a pair of jeans, the liquid would seep up all the way to the top. Is there any way to prevent this? Or is it a whole other method?

  • chancentrate April 20th, 2012 6:55 AM

    Also – for all the UK rookie’s, our equivalent of RIT is DYLON. They too have an incredible array of colours and it’s available at John Lewis, Hobby Craft, Wilkinsons etc.

    Dylon.co.uk – get involved!

  • maggamaria79 April 20th, 2012 8:56 AM

    Brilliant! Just what I was looking for :D

  • Nishat April 20th, 2012 9:50 AM

    I like your ironic and witty bunny’s name! My boyfriend’s late rabbit (lol do people say that? poor thing died, okay?) was named Charlie Hopkins. (GET IT?!) and he named his also late hamster Neil Patrick Hamster… if you don’t get that one you’re missing out.

  • Bianca April 20th, 2012 12:28 PM

    those tiiiiiights. i can’t wait to do this.

  • Nicki April 20th, 2012 2:42 PM

    Your are my Rit Dyeing Heroine! I love the yellow gloves – was just about to dye some beige cording to match some Yoga Mat Bags and you’ve given me the confidence to plunge ahead!

  • Laia April 20th, 2012 2:57 PM

    more bunny fashions plz!

  • Adrienne April 21st, 2012 2:39 AM

    I love this so much! Those tights, that crochet cape… and THAT BUNNY. <3 I had a pet bunny and they're definitely one of the most cutest pets! AND they conveniently poop in one certain corner.

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • ellthemighty April 21st, 2012 3:06 AM

    If anyone in Australia is looking for Rit or Dylon you can buy it at Spotlight stores for 7.95 and 12.95 respectively. Also probably Lincraft and Riot Arts and Crafts.

  • thunderbolts April 21st, 2012 3:07 AM

    the tights…. wow.

  • nutellacube April 21st, 2012 3:20 AM

    this looks great, especially that purple purse!…

  • VanyaTheDinosaur April 21st, 2012 5:36 PM

    I am dying every single white thing I own like those tights.

  • purplebabaushka April 21st, 2012 7:49 PM

    LOVE IT can’t wait to find something awsome to dye!

    http://purplebabaushka.wordpress.com/

  • Greer April 30th, 2012 4:08 AM

    This looks so fun! just a question, how does it go dying things that are already coloured? like, a green cardigan por ejemplo?

  • missi May 1st, 2012 10:26 PM

    the shoes….love!!! how did you keep the soles from turning orange???

  • Crisa May 17th, 2012 12:37 PM

    So cute!Please make more DIY <3 hugs from Europe

  • Brookems May 19th, 2012 1:13 PM

    so often i forget to be this creative. thank you for the amazing tips!

  • LittleLynnMarie May 28th, 2012 1:25 AM

    Do you know if I can bleach a shirt and then dye it? A favorite shirt was ruined with bleach spots so I was thinking I could bleach the whole thing and re-dye it. What do you think?

  • calico June 20th, 2012 1:25 PM

    Don’t be afraid! I’ve been using Rit dye and color remover for 40 years and it has never bothered me. Also it is fixable, as the color remover will remove it. Also the remover will often remove or change commercial colors in interesting ways.
    But what I am really writing about is that the BEST fun dyeing came after I got my first front loader with the super-hot SANITIZE cycle! It has a built-in heater for this. It really does a beautiful job and afterwards I just wash out the machine. I have had no harm at all done to other clothes.
    I am always changing up the color of my clothes. It means that I can buy anything on sale regardless of what hideous color it may be!

  • Yishra July 16th, 2012 2:46 PM

    Would this be okay for a pair of heels that I would love to dye? They have a wooden heel but the rest is white (and stained). Would the wood also be dyed or will it only dye the fabric?

  • DisneyDana July 18th, 2012 9:03 AM

    I loved your entire demonstration. It’s well written and the pictures are perfect. Well done.

  • nochance July 19th, 2012 1:35 AM

    Well, it appears I’ve been using RIT dye incorrectly for years. Thank you for straightening that out for me. I didn’t realize you could get such amazing colors. I guess I know what I’m doing with the rest of my summer. Dying EVERYTHING!!!

    Thanks again, great tutorial. (That purple purse is amazing.)

  • Think July 27th, 2012 10:29 AM

    Couldn’t you just die the rabbit??

  • Lynn40 May 21st, 2013 11:06 PM

    WOW I Love those shoes and those Gloves are FAB ! I had bought some RIT Dye some time ago buy been nervous to try it. Your tutorial is great and now I think I will give it a try ! Thanks for sharing !!

  • Satchel June 8th, 2013 10:07 AM

    I love your blog! I found it somehow in my travels through Pinterest! Keep it up!

  • Evelyn June 24th, 2013 7:48 AM

    I’d like to dye pants that got a few spots of bleach on them but I’m thinking that the spots where it was bleached will absorb the color differently. Any tips on how to do it so its all even?