Can I dye a blue dress (cotton, nylon blend with cotton lining) green?

Name: Julia


Procion mx fiber reactive cold water dye

Procion MX Dye

ideal for cotton or rayon

When mixed with soda ash, Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues.


Jacquard tie dye kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Dye up to 15 adult-size T-shirts, with vivid, electric colors that are so colorfast they can be washed with the daily laundry.



Linda Knutson's book
Synthetic Dyes
for Natural Fibers

provides a thorough introduction to hand-dyeing

buyfromamazon_white.jpgir?t=dyeblog-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0934026238 or region: Illinois, USA

Message: Hello, thanks for all the wonderful information! My question is: Can I dye a blue dress (cotton, nylon blend with cotton lining) green? The dress is hand-wash in cold. Should I use a yellow all-purpose dye, or should I somehow remove the color from the dress first? I would like to achieve a nice semi-dark green (something that looks natural and great with greenery. Thank you so much for considering my question!

That's a very pretty dress. The instructions say to hand-wash in cold water only, so I suspect that dyeing in hot water could be a terrible mistake, as it's likely that the cotton would shrink in hot water; since the nylon is likely to not shrink, you might find that the 100% cotton lining shrinks a lot more than the 62% cotton/38% nylon shell, which would ruin the shape of the dress. This means that I advise you strongly to avoid hot water; you will have to avoid all-purpose dye, such as Rit dye, as well, since it requires hot water in order to work. If you were allowed to use hot water on this dress, I think this would be an ideal use for all-purpose dye, since it can color both cotton and nylon to similar colors at the same time, but all-purpose dye is simply not going to work without hot water.

A cold water fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye, is a much safer choice. Procion MX dyes work very well at room temperature (as long as the room is not too cold, no lower than 70°F), when used with soda ash or washing soda to set the dye. While the normal process is to use very hot water both for pre-washing and for washing out the excess dye after dyeing, you can hope that the dress will do okay without hot-water prewashing, and you can get by with cold water for the after-dyeing washout if you repeat the washing many times, and take care to wash the dress separately from other garments. (When you use very hot water for washing out excess Procion MX dye, then you can mix colors in the laundry with abandon, because properly washed-out Procion MX dye is extraordinarily washfast.)

There is a risk with using only cold water for pre-washing: you never know when a commercially-available dress will turn out to have invisible stains on it that remain from manufacture. If there is, say, a big blotch of some invisible finishing chemical on one part of the dress, then, after dyeing, that spot will remain mostly undyed. There is nothing you can do about this but hope, however. Keep this in mind as one of the risks when you decide whether or not to dye the dress. I think chances are better than even that your dyeing will be successful, but you must never dye anything whose loss you cannot afford. This dress is not being sold specifically for dyeing; those garments that are sold for this purpose are labeled "PFD" (for "Prepared For Dyeing") or "RTD" (for "Ready To Dye"). When you buy a dress that is labeled PFD or RTD, you know that you have a much higher chance of success in dyeing it. Dyeing clothing without the PFD label is always chancy.

Now, changing that color to green will be very easy. If you use a pure lemon yellow, you will get a bright clear dark green. If you use a more golden-toned shade of yellow, you will get a more olive-y sort of green, which I think is what you are looking for. I recommend you order some Procion type yellow MX-GR dye, which is called Procion #3 golden yellow by Dharma Trading Company, or PRO MX #112 tangerine yellow by PRO Chemical & Dye. If you are buying Jacquard Products Procion MX dye, which is available in some superior art or craft supply stores, you might try a combination of their 004 lemon yellow with their 010 bright golden yellow.

The two layers of the dress will come out different shades of green when dyed with a yellow Procion MX dye. Only the cotton fiber in the shell will take the dye; the nylon will not take any Procion dye when used with soda ash. (To dye nylon with Procion MX dye, you have to use vinegar or citric acid instead of soda ash, but this works only in hot water; you will need to avoid this due to the great likelihood of uneven shrinkage.) When dyed with the same yellow dye, the shell will end up more bluish and less greenish, while the lining, which is 100% cotton, will end up more greenish, less bluish. Given the construction of the dress, I think that the resulting effect would be lovely, all the same. However, any stitching, such as at the seams, is undoubtedly made of polyester thread, which will remain the original blue, since polyester cannot be dyed with cotton dyes. (Polyester dyes require extremely high heat, and so are completely out of the question here.)

Don't try to remove the original color of the dress. For one thing, the original blue of that dress is a perfect color to use to make green, just by adding yellow. Worse, color removing chemicals, such as Rit Color Remover, all require very hot water; the only exception is chlorine bleach, which can be used at room temperature, but, horribly, will destroy nylon. A third issue is that color remover often changes the color to something unexpected, such as a brownish orange, which would not be a good base for the color you want to produce.

I am not at all sure that you should dye this dress. If it's a new dress, one you've never worn, then you will be out $100 if the dyeing does not go well, due to imperfections in the fabric. It is much better to dye only garments that you don't mind too much if you ruin them. The best choices are a thrift shop find for $5, or an old dress that you will never wear again unless you can change the color, or a new ready-to-dye dress purchased from Dharma Trading Company, or fabric yardage that you dye and then have a seamstress use to sew a new dress for you. However, if you are willing to take the risk, then Procion MX dye is the best dye to use for this dress. You might succeed and end up with the perfect dress in the perfect color.

(Please help support this web site. Thank you.)

Posted: Friday - February 01, 2013 at 08:15 AM          

Follow this blog on twitter here.

Home Page ]   [ Hand Dyeing Top ]   [ Gallery Top ]   [ How to Dye ]   [ How to Tie Dye ]   [ How to Batik ]   [ Low Water Immersion Dyeing ]   [ Dip Dyeing ]   [ More Ideas ]   [ About Dyes ]   [ Sources for Supplies ]   [ Dyeing and  Fabric Painting Books ]   [ Links to other Galleries ]   [ Links to other informative sites ] [ Groups ] [ FAQs ]   [ Find a custom dyer ]   [ search ]   [ contact me ]  

© 1999-2011 Paula E. Burch, Ph.D. all rights reserved