How to Dye Synthetic Fibers?

Aubusson tapestries; dying wool by hand
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"My wife threatened to dye my bike shorts pink if I didn't take out the trash. I told her that they were spandex, so she couldn't dye them if she tried. Can you settle this one?"

Synthetic fibers can be difficult to dye, because they are substances that have been man-mad in a laboratory, then mass produced in factories. These materials vary greatly in their chemical makeup, so a specific dye may be required for each type of material.

Nylon can by dyed with an acid dye, just like protein fibers (such as wool and cashmere). [How to Dye Nylon]

Polyester can be dyed using a lot of heat. Crayola fabric markers (find them online) can be rubbed onto paper, then ironed onto polyester. Dip-dying polyester, on the other hand, should only be attempted by professionals or hobbyists that have a lot of experience with dying fabric.

Acrylic is difficult to dye and should only by dyed by professionals.

Rayon (viscose) is a processed cellulose fiber, and can be dyed with fiber reactive dyes, just like natural cellulose fibers. [How to Dye Rayon]

Spandex can not be dyed at home.

Combined fabrics can make dying more complicated. Nylon/Cotton blends, for example, can be dyed using an all-purpose dye, because these dyes contain both acid dyes (for the nylon) and fiber reactive dyes (for the cotton).

More Questions About Dyeing Clothing

  • Protein (Wool, Cashmere, Silk)
  • What are Protein Fibers?
  • How to Dye Protein Fibers
  • Learn about Acid Dyes
  • Cellulose (Cotton, Linen, Hemp)
  • What are Cellulose Fibers?
  • How to Dye Cellulose Fibers
  • Learn about Fiber Reactive Dye
  • Synthetics (Spandex, Nylon, Polyester)
  • List of Synthetic Fibers
  • How to Dye Synthetic Fibers