A How-To Guide on How to Not Dye Curtains

Did you know I’m cheap? Like really, extremely cheap? It’s a long-term cheap, though: I’ll pay a ton of money for something up front and then use it until it dies.*So we had these curtains I bought when we first moved in, and…

curtainsb…well. Yes. Let me see if Overstock still has them. Hey, look at that! Taaaaauuuuuupe. And they are extra-special taupe in this photo. In real life, they were mostly…

curtains1…well. Taupe-y pink is a good color for…well. These curtains were in the bedroom, and they came close to matching the color of the walls. It was all very bland and beige.

Total cost with coupons? $15

People dye fabric all the time, right? Not me. The last time I had done anything like this was during summer camp and all of those t-shirts went “mysteriously” missing as soon as my mom saw them. So I watched the usual video tutorials, and read the usual crafters’ blogs, and then decided this was a truly stupid idea as the curtains were a mix of natural and manufactured fibers and thus some of the fabric would absorb some of the dye and some of the fabric might absorb another part of the dye and some might not absorb any dye whatsoever, so basically I was gambling on making a matched set of hanging clowncars. But I wasn’t going to do something ridiculous like buy a new set of curtains in the color I wanted. Sheesh. Them’s my eatin’ money!

curtains3I was also planning to use the washing machine method, which (as the crafters will tell you) is rather dumb. Dying fabric is most successful when the fabric is heated and the color becomes fully saturated into the fibers. The closer you can bring it to boiling, the better the color.

You can’t boil things in the washing machine, but you can:

  1. Load up the washing machine with the curtains in the hottest water setting.
  2. Get a huge pot of hot water boiling on the stove, with the dye already in it.
  6. Take the huge pot of boiling heavily-dyed water off of the stove–WAIT ARE YOU SURE THE DOGS ARE OUTSIDE? OKAY, PROCEED–take it down the Precarious Death Stairs to the basement, and dump it in the washer.
  7. Get a stick.
  8. Poke the fabric with a stick until there are no air bubbles left and everything is below the surface of the water. Or the water gets cold, or you get bored.
  9. Run the washer on an agitate-only mode. Stop the washer frequently and turn the fabric so there are no spots that are riding above the waterline.
  10. Drain the dyed water.
  11. Run a cold rinse to set the color (add a fancy “color stay” fixative to it if you want).
  12. Line or tumble dry, depending on the drying instructions on the fabric.

Before beginning this process, I was honestly convinced the laundry room would look like a grape had exploded. But either I was exceptionally careful or dying fabric isn’t as messy as I assumed. There was no mess to clean up. None! The washing machine cleaned itself, and the dye set before I put the curtains in the dryer. The result?


I’m very happy with the outcome. The dye seemed to avoid some of the fabric (natural? manufactured?) and set in the other type of fabric (natural? manufactured?). Would I recommend this method? Yeah, sure. It was a $15 gamble which paid off in the form of very nice new curtains which are definitely not taupe.

*Exhibit A: my beloved 2003 Honda Civic, which I drove off the lot brand-new and now has 200k miles on it. It’s reached the point where my mechanic keeps saying things like, “Well, it’s not quite vintage, but.” and I’m all like, “Fixing it is still cheaper than a car payment,” and he’s like, “Remember that time when you were driving down the highway and you suddenly didn’t have a clutch? Imagine that but with the whole car.”

3 thoughts on “A How-To Guide on How to Not Dye Curtains

  1. Oh, your car sounds like our 1998 Mazda 323! We got it at aged 16, with 60K kilometres (actual old-lady-weekend-shopping-only!), in the four yours we’ve had it, we easily doubled that.
    Our mechanic is always very happy when we bring it, because he doesn’t have to pull out a laptop to check the wiper fluid level. e.very.thing is still mechanical, and he loves it!

  2. I almost expected the dogs to come barging out of the washer after it was done with the curtains. 😀

  3. My mother’s first new car was a 1971 Toyota Corolla station wagen she got when she was 34 and drove for 13 years. Both my brothers learned to drive in that car, and not coincidentally it had been rear-ended at least twice and backed into a utility pole at least once, each time requireing the rear hatch door be replaced, leaving it in a condition where she wouldn’t drive it in the winter because she drove with the windows down because of exhaust leaking into the car.
    When it wouldn’t start come spring, she gave it to her mechanic.

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