Yep, You Can Dye Your Clothes Using Food Scraps—Here’s How

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"This is an easy low-waste way to give your tired clothes a colorful upgrade!"

Bored of your old white tank top? Before you throw it out and contribute to the 11 million tons of textile waste in the United States, consider giving it a new look—with food scraps. Yes, it’s true: You can make chips, grow a whole new plant, and now dye your clothes with bits of food you would normally just throw away.

Riley, the Instagram user behind the low-impact living page @sustainable.riley, shared the food scrap dye hack in a a video on Instagram. It’s simple, but also packs a one-two punch by giving food waste a second life and curbing your craving for new clothes. (Um, who needs fast fashion? Not us.)

Continue reading below to learn exactly how you can use a DIY fabric dye to pull off this transformation for yourself.

How to Make a DIY Fabric Dye with Food Scraps

Dye Your Clothes Using Food Scraps
Photos: Instagram/@sustainable.riley

1. Prep your clothes by soaking them in boiling water with three teaspoons of vinegar or salt. Doing this will help bind the fabric to the dye.

2. Boil a teaspoon of salt with few cups of water on the stove—enough to fully submerge whatever piece of clothing you’ll be dyeing.

3. Pick your color!

  • For a purple hue, grab a handful of mixed berries. A combination of raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries will work well. Using a blender, combine the berries with the boiling water, and then return to the pot.
  • For a golden tone, opt for yellow onion. Simply remove the skins and place in boiling water with a teaspoon of salt.
  • For a blue hue, use red cabbage. As it simmers, the water will slowly turn blue.

4. Whichever color you choose, let your mixture boil for a few minutes, then add your clothes and reduce the heat to low.

5. Let your item simmer in the water for 30 minutes. (And maybe let your family know you’re making clothes, not soup, so they don’t go in for a taste test!)

6. After simmering, you can carefully transfer your dye and clothing to another container to let it sit overnight.

7. Handwash with cold water the next day, then let it air dry before wearing.

Caring for Your Dyed Clothes

diy fabric dye

Once you’ve tested out this DIY fabric dye and have colorful new clothes, you’ll want keep them looking vibrant for as long as possible. You can do that by only washing them in cold water, as this will help prevent the dyes from fading.

Also, make sure you’re not washing your clothes too often, as this can lead to premature wear and tear (don’t worry, an expert tells us it’s not unhealthy to go a few wears between washing for most clothing items). If you do, however, find that your colors are looking faded after a few months, go ahead and repeat the dyeing process.

No need to feel guilty, after all. It’s a way to color clothes that Mother Earth doesn’t have to die for.


Hey there! Want to help us change the world every day through easy, achievable, eco-friendly tips and tricks? Sign up for the Brightly Spot and join our movement of over a million changemakers.

This is an easy low-waste way to give your tired clothes a colorful upgrade!

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