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occ's avatar

Can I dye cotton curtains in my washing machine?

Asked by occ (4176points) August 8th, 2007

I bought these lightweight red cotton curtains 4 years ago. They have faded dramatically in the sun, and are now a strange orange-yellow color. I bought some red RIT dye, and am wondering if I can just throw it all in the washing machine. If so, what about my next load of laundry--is there any chance it will end up pink?? Just want to make sure I'm not going to mess up the washer, and/or accidentally stain the next load of laundry.

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9 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

I wouldn't risk it. In order for Rit to "take," it should be dissolved in boiling water (that means a large pot on stove - and pot will probably be ruined) and then curtains dunked.. Cheaper and easier to buy new curtains at Walmart, Target, etc.

Everyone at some time has thrown a red garment into washer and then worn pink underwear for months. And if curtains get bright sunlight, all colors will fade. Get white or

zina's avatar

i've RIT-dyed a bunch of things on the stove (i don't have a washer) and even though i follow the directions exactly they always run afterward. of course, if you don't wash your curtains often i guess that wouldn't matter. the pot isn't ruined, but a wooden spoon to stir (you need something to stir - metal would be better) or your hands can end up stained. i would recommend doing it naked, except maybe gloves, as it's a messy job and the less that can get stained the better.

there's instructions right on the packet how to do it in the machine, so it must be ok. if you're worried about the next load, maybe run it once after with nothing in it. a little wasteful but maybe worth it if you love the curtains and want them red.

mistermister's avatar

This is some advice from a website called, where lots and lots of people had written in their thoughts on this very subject:

I have used Rit dye in machines since the 70's
( i was very YOUNG then) but it has always worked
follow the directions make sure your clothes are
WET when you put them in to dye and yes use
2 packs for lots of clothes and add the salt
it recommends for the color to stay longer.
Machines clean up fine with bleach water mix.

Hope that helps!

jenclark's avatar

I wouldn't recommend just tossing the dye in and doing a normal wash cycle, but the box of dye should have instructions for dying in a washing machine. If I remember correctly, you use the hottest water setting safe for the fabric, make sure the fabric's wet, add salt as recommended, and rinse the washer out with a weak bleach solution before using it again.
Check Rit's website ( for more detailed instructions, but I've never had a problem as long as the washer was bleached out afterward, and I've dyed stuff black in there before.

peggylou's avatar

As a former costumer, I have dyed many, many fabrics and costumes. I have ALWAYS used my washing machine. Red is a color that will need extra dye in order to achieve the deep color. I would use 2 bottles or 3-4 boxes of red dye because a load of water in the washing machine will dilute the dye MUCH more than a pot on the stove top. Use your machine's hottest water setting; add the dye to the hot water (don't let the dye water splash back at you!) and let the machine agitate to mix in the dye. (Keep the top down so the dye water does not splash up and out of the machine.). Then add the wet fabric and let the machine agitate; BUT before the washer cycle starts to spin and drain, turn the machine off, close the top, and let the fabric sit in the dye water. I will usually let it sit for 4 hours or overnight. Then rinse in cold water. The salt treatment recommended on the dye package will help the dye set better. But if you use the salt or not, the dye will ALWAYS run when you wash them again--even in cold water. So, they must be washed ALONE! Yes, make sure your curtains are wet before you add them to the dye water in the machine. After rinsing in cold water and spinning in the machine, I usually dry the fabric in the dryer. I've never had any trouble with dye in the dryer, but if you can air dry, that probably would be better! Always run a second empty load of bleach water through the machine as soon as you're done dyeing. Pay close attention to where the dye water splashes, and wipe it up immediately. There is usually no problem getting dye splashes off of the outside of the machine, but I had to wipe it up quickly if it landed on my counter. The inside of your machine may be light red for a while, but as long as you run the bleach water load, it won't bother future loads, and the dye will eventually wear off the inside of the machine. I'm known as the Dye Queen of Woodstock because I so enjoy the results of dyeing! Good Luck!

peggylou's avatar

By the way, the fabric will always dry lighter than when its wet.

wwalz's avatar

Even better than a RIT dye is a CUSHING dye. You can view the color palette here: and they even have instructions on how to dye fabrics in the washing machine as well as on your stove top. For the washing machine meek, I suggest getting a 50 gallon plastic container and filling halfway with the hottest tap water and several packages of either RIT or Cushing dye (many “reds” to choose from) and stir by hand for twenty minutes. I recently even dyed white cotton curtains by filling with one gallon hot water and one large pot of coffee—they came out a beautiful light brown/taupe!

gailcalled's avatar

@ww:: so that’s why I can never get the inevitable stains out of my white T-shirts!

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