Natural dyes rely on plant-based and naturally occurring materials for their color, rather than chemicals. While synthetic dyes are cheaper and easier for coloring clothing, the potential risks often outweigh the advantages. Downstream effects of synthetic dyes include negatively impacting the health of the workers used in clothing production, water supply pollution, and potentially toxic and harmful chemicals making their way into items we wear closest to our bodies.
Traditional tie-dye methods are no exception, even if you’re DIY-ing at home. Home tie-dye kits often contain synthetic dyes, soda ash, and urea, which can end up in our waterways. And bleach-dyeing comes with its own hazards, especially if using chlorine-based bleach — from inhaling potentially harmful chemicals to negatively impacting aquatic life.
Most plant-based dyes require that you place roughly chopped fresh, ripe vegetables or fruits in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for several hours until the water reaches your desired hue. Let the mix cool (or leave overnight, if you can swing it), then strain out the plant matter and you’re good to go.
If you’re using peelings and produce bits, know that the weight of the scraps should be equal to the weight of the entire object you’re dyeing. We weren’t armed with a kitchen scale, so we did our best to eyeball. For example, since onion skins are incredibly light, you’ll need a ton of them to produce a shirt weight’s amount of lasting dye, while beet scraps typically offer more bang for your tie-dyeing buck. Organic produce is best, as chemicals can interfere with the dyeing process. Continue reading from The Grove Collaborative