You can dye cotton-polyester fabric as long as the blend contains 50 to 60 percent cotton, but you be prepared for lighter shades of the color shown on the dye package label. With most dyes available for home use, only the cotton fibers of the fabric picks up the color. Use this knowledge to create decor accents that match your home's color scheme.
For example, you can make a relaxing bedroom ensemble by dyeing white bed sheets, pillowcases and a bedspread or duvet cover in soothing pastel tones. Dyes in deeper shades of purple, orange or turquoise on cotton-poly fabric blends result in soft shades of lavender, peach and aqua. Or, you can create a vintage look by dyeing curtains with a light floral print on a white background in a taupe or light-brown dye bath.
Test Before Beginning
To get an idea of how the dye color will appear on the fabric you are using, dye a small sample of the fabric in a test solution. Cut a 1-inch square scrap of the fabric from a hem or seam allowance, or dip just a corner of the fabric piece into the solution.
Make the test solution by mixing 2 tablespoons of liquid dye or 1 teaspoon of powdered dye in 1/2 cup of the hottest tap water. Immerse the fabric sample in the solution for 10 to 30 minutes. After dying, remove it and rinse in cold water, and let it dry. The color's intensity lightens when the fabric dries.
Dyeing Cotton-Polyester Fabric
Read the product instructions for the specific dye you plan to use carefully, as some products may call for a different procedure.
Wash the fabric with mild detergent to remove dirt and any surface finishes. Do not use fabric softener as this adds a coating that makes it hard for the dye to penetrate. If the fabric is stained or lightly colored, you can use a commercial color remover to lighten and even its color.
Verify you have enough dye on hand for the size and weight of the fabric. The basic rule of thumb for dyeing fabrics is that 1 pound of fabric -- or three yards -- requires at least one box of powdered dye or 1/2 bottle of liquid dye mixed in a total of 3 gallons of hot water. For darker colors, you can add more dye; for lighter tints, use more water. Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands from dye stains before continuing.
Add powdered and liquid dye to two cups of boiling hot water in a mixing bowl. Thoroughly stir to dissolve and disperse the dye throughout the liquid.
Fill a large container, or the washing machine, with at least 3 gallons of hot water. The container should be large enough so that you can completely submerge the fabric, while allowing it to be stirred during the dye process. Pour the two cups of the dye solution into the larger container that holds the hot water.
If it is compatible with your dye product's instructions, add 1 cup of salt to make the color more intense per each pound of fabric. Salt is used as a fixative to set dyes on cotton and other plant-based fibers, and it helps produce an even color tone. Stir well to dissolve the salt into the mixture.
Wet the fabric thoroughly in hot water. Unfold it so that it is as flat as possible and put it in the dye bath. Push the fabric down with a stirring stick or mixing spoon so it is completely submerged. Begin timing the dye bath. Periodically stir the fabric to keep it in motion, so that all parts of it are equally exposed to the dye.
Remove the fabric from the dye bath and rinse it under running water, starting with warm water and gradually changing to cool water. Rinse until the water runs clear.
Wash the fabric immediately after dyeing in warm water with a gentle laundry detergent, rinsing thoroughly in cool water. You can hang the fabric on the clothesline to dry or machine dry, as desired. Clean up the containers using powdered cleansers or household bleach to prevent staining.