Can I use Rit dye, without rinsing, to color a huge amount of polyester/spandex fabric?

Name: Gina



Dye polyester and poly/cotton blends

Jacquard idye

Jacquard iDye
and iDye Poly

iDye Poly is disperse dye that can be used to immersion dye synthetic fibers including polyester, nylon, and acrylic. 


Fabric medium

Fabric Medium

This medium enhances the workability of Liquitex Acrylics on fabric, reducing the stiffness that results when using acrylic paint directly from the jar.



Jacquard dye-na-flow fabric colors

Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow Fabric Colors

Dye-Na-Flow is a free-flowing textile paint made to simulate dye. Great on any untreated natural or synthetic fiber.


Country or region: USA

Message: I have a lot of fabric to dye for my Halloween party this year to create a circus tent look (4.5' wide strips of red, blue and yellow). The fabric I have was given to me for free and is 95% polyester, 5% spandex. I used the scarlet Rit dye to test to see how it would react and it's just a pink color once I rinsed it. Since this is only going to be a one-time use for the fabric and I do not plan on washing it, I am questioning what would happen if I used the Rit dye but left it in the tubs for a day or more and just wring the fabric out, not rinse it and then air dry it. I am looking for the cheapest and easiest way to get some good color, but am not sure this will work. Can you offer up any info or ideas? (By the way, I have 1 roll of fabric that is 40"x100' and another roll that is 54"x100'... i have a ton and not a lot of cash to do this!)

Is there any chance you can get someone to give you some fabric made of cotton or rayon? It would be so much easier and cheaper to dye!

Polyester is a huge pain to dye. It really requires boiling-hot temperatures, which means you'd need a huge pot to boil it in, and special polyester dye. Temperatures that are hot enough to dye polyester will tend to destroy spandex, so your polyester/spandex blend is not really dyeable at all.

Dyeing polyester with Rit all-purpose dye will not work. If you avoid rinsing at all, in an attempt to maintain some color, then the unrinsed dry dye will rub off onto whatever touches it, ruining clothing or furniture and exposing everyone to breathing potentially allergenic or slightly toxic dye powder. This would be not only a horrible mess, but a health hazard, as well. It's extremely important always to rinse out excess unattached dye, no matter what kind of dye you are using.

Instead of dyeing your polyester, it would be better if you were to paint it. The best paint for fabric is fabric paint, of course. Although fabric paint would be a much better idea than using Rit dye on polyester, it can be quite expensive, especially for a project as huge as yours. Buying in bulk helps cut costs considerably, but even so a gallon of Dye-Na-Flo costs over $60.

The cheapest paint would be artists' acrylic paint or even house paint; paints other than fabric paint will be stiff, hard, and scratchy after they dry, but that might not matter too much for this particular project. Don't use poster paint, since it will dissolve and smear if any moisture gets onto it.

Dilute acrylic paint with water, and, if you can afford it, some fabric medium. Fabric medium is hard to find except online, sold among other mediums in art supply stores for acrylic painters, but it can be used to turn artists' acrylic paints into a good home-made fabric paint, making it softer and nicer, and also making it cling much better to the fabric.

I think you'd be better off trying to find some cheap fabric that is already the colors you want, or perhaps some cheap 100% cotton fabric to dye.

If you get some cheap cotton fabric, which is easy to dye, you will save a lot of money by avoiding the expensive little boxes of Rit dye that only dye a couple of yards of fabric each, instead ordering an inexpensive direct dye, such as Dharma Industrial Dyes from Dharma Trading Company. One $7 package of Dharma Industrial Dye will color as much fabric as one to two hundred $3 boxes of Rit dye can! Of course, like Rit dye, this dye will work only on natural fibers, not on the polyester you have.

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Posted: Friday - September 14, 2012 at 09:47 AM          

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