I have a set of sheets that I love. They are 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton. We got them on sale at Sam’s Club for less than $35 for the queen set. They are the softest fabric I have ever put my head on. But we took the fitted sheet and pillow cases with us to Taiwan. (Somehow the flat sheet was packed in a storage bin instead of a suitcase!) And now they have what we affectionately call “Taiwan stains”. They are discolored and no matter what we do, they will not get white. So, instead of just getting rid of the sheets, I am going to dye them. And, in the interest of re-using and keeping harsh chemicals out of the house I am going to use left-over coffee.
The process here is pretty simple.
- Brew a pot of coffee or tea. If the item is small, use less. For my sheet set I am using one full pot plus ice cubes of coffee that we have saved from the remnants of pots of coffee over the last 6 months.
- Select a container that will allow you to completely submerge your item and that you won’t hate it if it gets stained. Something with a lighter color will give you a better perspective on the color your fabric is becoming. I have used storage bins, pitchers, and even the washing machine for dyeing projects. This time I am using our large cooler. Make sure that your fabric can be easily submerged into the container. You don’t want to have to force the item in because that will result in uneven dyeing.
- Fill the container 2/3 full with water.
- Mix the coffee or tea into the water.
- At this point most people will tell you to do a test on an easily hidden area of the fabric to determine how long to expose the material to the dye. I didn’t do this and just went all in.
- Wash your fabric but do not dry it.
- Open item so there are no folds or creases in the fabric.
- Submerge fabric into the coffee or tea dye.
- Check regularly, especially if you didn’t do a test on the fabric. Stir regularly to ensure even dyeing. Remember that the item will dry lighter and color may fade over time. It only takes a few minutes for most fabrics to start taking on color.
- When you reach the shade you like, rinse the item until the water runs clear (this is why you probably want it to be darker than your final desired shade).
- Ring out excess water.
- To set they dye, dry the fabric on the highest heat that won’t damage it.
TIP: Remember that commercial detergents are designed to remove stains like coffee or tea. Try making your own laundry soap to extend the life of the dye. If you want the item to stay a darker color, plan on having to redye fabric every 1-2 years.
A great thing about this project is that you can get the kids involved. The kids dyed handtowels for their bathroom because we only had white (which are usually cheaper) and they wanted sand colored to match their beach themed bathroom. It was a science and home ec lesson all in one!
The change is subtle for my fabric but you can see that the original is bright white and the dyed one is a nice ecru color.