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Dying my worn faded bath towels - successfully!

I had a clean out of my linen cupboard recently and had 6 towels that were not holey or stained (much!) that were too good to give to the dog and not good enough to donate to charity. I wondered if I could dye them either back to their original-ish colour or maybe to brown - which will be the sort of colours that I hope to use when we renovate the bathroom... sometime this century!! I did a couple of Google searches looking at dyes and decided that if I could do it for about $20, I'd give it a go. These paticular towels were Crazy Clarke's ones and would only be $5 each to replace - so I was looking for a balance between cost and eco friendlyness.... and having fun!

Here's what I did!

I ended up buying my dye online through a company called Tintex. I paid $17.50 for 100gms of Dark Brown dye + $6 postage. (So yes I did pay a bit more than my $20) If I had bought 3 or 4 dyes I would have paid the same postage. This is enough dye to do 10 small bath towels - so I have some leftover.

Once they arrived, (3 days!) I actually followed the instructions - and it all worked out just great.

Note the colour of the towels I want to dye - 4 pink, 1 yellow and 1 blue - in the background.

First soak your first towel so that the dye spreads though evenly when it goes into the dye bath
Weigh your dye - you need 10gm for every 500gm of dry fabric. To weigh the towel, I rolled it into as small as ball as I could and balanced it on these scales - It was just shy of 500gms. Of course, as I wanted to photograph this experiment I went 1 gm over the 10gms I was aiming for! 

Add 250mls of boiling water to the dye (dont splash ANYTHING- it will stain) and mix till all the dye granuals are disloved. Its the same principle as making Jelly. It takes longer than making a cup of tea though to disolve! Then add this dye concentrate carefully to your pot of boiling water.
Squeeze as much water from the towel as you can by hand. Carefully and slowly add the damp towel to the dye bath... 

Ensure the whole towel goes under - also make sure you agitate, very gently, the towel from time to time to ensure that the towel dyes evenly.

Bring the pot and its contents back to the boil. Set your timer for 30 mins and get the next batch ready.

Watch that you pot doesnt boil over - these stains are VERY hard to get out of laminate. Glass and metal don't seem to be affected.
Once your 30 mins is up (40 mins if you are doing black or want a darker shade) we need to get the towel out of the dye bath. This bit is messy - Bring the pot to the tub or sink - and please, be careful, thats 20 litres of boiling water that you are moving around. What we need to do next is get the towel out of the dye and leave it to sit for 5 mins to get the dye to set. I used my wooden kitchen spoon but it broke on the last towel. These are very heavy and really really hot - you wont be using your fingers trust me!!! I ended up using two pairs of tongs on the last towel - and it worked much better. Easier on the arms, and didnt break or stain the metal tongs.
Drain as much dye as you have strength to hold a million kilos of boiling dripping towel above the pot for!!! 


If you are doing a second item - Top up the pot with about a litre of water. Dont fill it too far - the towel will take up some room and you still have to add more dye.

Rinse and squeeze as much dye as you can out of the towel.
I didn't use gloves and after 6 towels - this is as much stain as I had on my hands. It came off easily in a day.
And here is the finished product!!!!
From left to right the original colours were: 3x Pink, Blue, Yellow, Pink.
They have dried lighter - they went up on the line from right to left. There is a slight colour differance between them. Its certainly not a perfect match - but for a few bucks it works for me!

As you can see - the blue "cotton" was obviously not cotton!
It's hard to see ( I used the macro lens to photograph this!) and even harder to see if you are not fussy!
Score card:
Green-ness: 3/5 Im a bit worried about the friendliness of the dye and amount of water I used.
Frugal-ness: 4/5 Prolonged the life of something useful for less than the replacement cost.
Time cost: About 45 mins per towel but with the option to clean out the kitchen while you watch the pot boil!!
Skill level: Pretty easy if you follow the instructions!
Fun -ness: LOTS!!! Love watching a new colour develop - feels like a new thing!


plumbing said…
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Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
its great idea which you share here to wash the towels. its new for me. So, i want to say that Thanks for sharing such a good idea here. keep it up......
Kerry Hunt said…
What a great idea to make your old towels new again! I'm considering the same idea, though I was hoping to do it in the washing machine.

I loved how you rated the activity for greenness, frugalness, etc.Thanks!
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