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How to Dye Silk? Unlock Basics of Dyeing of Silk

Silk is revered for its delicate sheen and natural sheen, as one luxury fabric. However, its luxury can only be seen with its dyeing hue for its original color is usually ivory yellow, brownish grey or other somber ones.

Nowadays, the public is no stranger to the DIT of silk fibers. To make a satisfying work, the skill of dyeing silk should be at your command. Moreover, silk practitioners may also be unfamiliar with this important link of silk manufacture. This post is born from these reasons. No matter whether you need some know-how for dyeing silk at home or at factories, you can get inspired by the following text.

Can You Dye Silk?

Of course, you can!  Actually, silk is one of the most excellent materials for dyeing. It has a relatively simple and orderly structure internally. Thus silk shows many possibilities in dyeing. It can accept various types of dyestuff, including acid, neutral, reactive, cationic, reductive dyes, etc. Silk is also capable of assuming dark colors. That being so, if you are a DIY mania, do not waste your old and shabby silk.

Dyeing of silk

Immersion Dyeing

You may know the other name of this method, hot dyeing. Immersion Dyeing is an easy way to dye silk by immersing it in a hot dye solution of one color. And its finished product is covered with a well-distributed and uniform hue. This dyeing method has little difficulty in operation and can turn out a consistent effect as long as you use the same dye formula. Remember to do the soaking in a large container, or your silk may be dyed with some folding marks.

Tie Dyeing

Tie dyeing is a traditional type of resist dyeing. In this craft, you can employ yarns, threads and ropes to tie, sew and clip silk. Then dyes can not touch silk directly in those knots, pleats, etc. Consequently, different types of resistance collaborate with varying colors to create unique patterns and abundant effects. Tie dyeing is more complicated than immersion dyeing, but its finished products are more diverse and copious. Besides, it is user-friendly after getting some easy techniques and also kid-friendly as a parents-child campaign.

Ice Dyeing

Ice dyeing, as its name says, dyes fabrics with ice tubes. In ice dyeing, you should crumple up silk into a cluster and place it upon a steel net frame. Set a deep contain beneath for the thawing water. Then carpet the silk cluster with a layer of ice tubes and dust different colors of dye powders upon the layer. You can get a dyeing pattern similar to watercolor painting.

Eco Printing

Unlike the 3 methods above, eco printing creates hues and patterns existing in nature with natural dyes. Thus it is completely eco-friendly and sustainable. Moreover, its finished products can be versatile for the plethora of natural dyes, different shapes of natural dyes and seasonal changes. As you can imagine, silk fabrics infuse patterns of eco printing with an unparalleled appeal through their natural sheen.

Bundle Dyeing

Bundle dyeing is similar to eco printing by principle. The difference lies in that this method places emphasis on the combination and balance of various natural elements. That is, you pile and crowd flowers and leaves (your natural dyes) together while dyeing. Eco printing, not quite the same, demonstrates the thorough texture of one pattern.

Solar Dyeing

Solar dyeing is the most convenient and long-lasting way to dye silk. It dyes silk soaking in a jar of dye solutions with the heat of sun. Do not doubt your eyes. It is really of solar power only. You can apply this method to silk yarns or filaments, even silk scrapes. Much to a newer’s surprise, solar dyeing gains a fine effect after months. Also, watching the gradual transformation is full of fun. You can use both natural and synthetic dyes. However, you had better try it in summer to get the strongest heat and wait the shortest time.

Silk Fabrics for Dyeing

As you may know, silk fabrics vary from type to type in thickness, texture, etc. As for silk dyeing, you should select the right fabric carefully. For example, silk habotai is a relatively stout fabric and thus hard to dye into a bright effect. Silk pongee and silk chiffon, on the other hand, are thin and translucent. They can not take up dark dyes as a consequence.

For the DIY of silk fabrics, you may need some advice on silk products for redyeing. Silk scarves in light hues are popular and suitable for both novices and veterans. For another, if you plan to dye any silk garment in heavy hues, bleach their original color or mordant them first. Or they may not be able to absorb the new dyes well and assume an unsatisfied outcome.

How to Dye Silk with Acid Dyes?

The acid dye is the most widely used type for home and factory dyeing. However, before dyeing, you should check something and make some preparations. 

Things to know before

You should first ask yourself 2 questions about your silk to dye.

  • Q1: Is your silk washable?
  • Q2: What is the composition of your silk fabric?

Above all, you should ensure your raw materials for dyeing can touch water.  You must check the care label when you are not sure. Normally, silk labeled “dry clean only” is not advisable to get wet. Besides, the silk of exquisite ornaments or embroideries can not avoid damage during washing in water. Second, is your silk of 100% pure silk? Is it a blended one? Each type of fabric responds to the same dye and dyeing method differently. Therefore, pure silk is more controllable, especially for beginners.

Meanwhile, you are supposed to prepare the needed materials. Here is a brief list of raw materials.

  • Silk fabrics
  • Acid dyes 
  • Silk detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • A large bucket and a supporting heating set
  • Measuring instruments
  • A long stick(for stirring)

Pay attention, your bucket or other containers should allow the silk to move freely if you want an evenly distributed color.

A Step-by-step Instruction on Immersion Dyeing

  • Step 1: Prep your silk fabric.  

To make your silk enough clean and prepared for dyeing, submerge it in detergent or a professional soaking solution for more than 12 hours. Remember, silk only absorbs dyes well when its fibers open up. So give it a long-time soak. The longer, the better, as a longer soak does not cause any bad.

  • Step 2: Make the dye solution.

Prepare enough boiled water. Pour the proper amount of water into the large bucket and let it cool down to about 185 °F.  While waiting, check the instructions for the acid dye and calculate the proper dosage. Mix the recommended amount of acid dyes with water evenly. 

  • Step 3: Add some distilled white vinegar.

Find how much vinegar is proper for your dyeing on the label. Add a proper amount to the dyeing solution. It helps to fix the color into the silk fabric.

  • Step 4: Submerge the silk in the dyeing solution and heat when needed.

Submerge the silk into the dyeing solution. Move the silk to ensure a full soak while heating it under the boiling temperature. It is important to keep the dyeing solution not too hot or cool. You had better prepare a thermometer here. If not, turn down your heater every time the dyeing solution seems to form small bubbles. Usually, this step lasts for 15 to 20 minutes when dyeing for a light color. For another, you may spend an hour or more for a vibrant or dark color.

  • Step 5: Rinse the fabric.

After getting the desirable dyeing condition you want, remove the excess dyes by hand washing. Rinse the fabric in cold water and repeat it several times. You can also rinse your silk with a washer if it is machine washable. And remember to run your washer under a slik cycle or delicate cycle.

  • Step 6: Line dry the silk and iron it.

Hang dry the silk in a shady and airy place, just to do what you should do after cleaning it. Furthermore, steam the silk or iron it when it is damp to improve the fastness of the color. The temperature should be set to the lowest setting.

How to Dye Silk with Natural Dyes?

Some DIY manias may persist in using natural products in their projects. Here lists the special points of dyeing silk with natural dyes.

  • Step 1: Extract the natural dyes. 

To gain a good dyeing effect, you can extract and concentrate the natural dyes first. Gather raw materials enough to make natural dyes, and then heat them under 190 °F for over an hour. 

  • Step 2: Give the silk a mordant process.

Mordants are applied to open up silk fibers and promote dyeing effects. You had better buy a recipe for silk in the grocery store. For high-levelers, you can also mix alum and tartar according to your experience. Then dissolve the recipe in lukewarm water and stir the solution. After a full dissolution, submerge the silk and heat the solution to be under 190 °F for about 45 minutes.

  • Step 3: make a spot test for the dye concentration.

Before the formal dyeing, spot-test your dye concentration at an unnoticeable corner of your silk. If not appropriate, make an adjustment.

Next, do the Step 3 to 6 in the previous section. However, you may need to repeat the whole process several times for the instability of natural dyes. So take out all your patience for it.

How to Dye Silk in A Factory?

If you are a supplier or clothing manufacturer, dyeing silk in a factory may be your focus. In the wake of degumming, bleaching and drying, silk threads come into the procedure of dyeing.

In ancient, people immersed silk bundles into natural dye solutions garnered from the roots, leaves and barks of plants or minerals. They repeated this process several times to get the expected color and then dried these silk bundles.

In the modern factory, dyes and dyeing methods develop and innovate substantially.  Industrial dyeing always utilizes acid dyes, reactive dyes, metal-complex dyes, etc. The acid dye is the most widely used type at present. For another, reactive dyes assume superior eco-friendliness and sustainability. Besides, metal-complex dyes remain stable under the radiation of intense light and high heat.

Apart from types of dyes, dyeing machines in modern factories are also evolving. However, the principles behind machines have hardly changed-Silk still absorbs dyes when immersed in dye solutions. But the color‘s range and fixation, and efficiency of dyeing promote a lot.


How to Dye Silk Flowers?

If you want silk flowers of one well-distributed hue, you can use the immersion dyeing mentioned above. For another, you may hope that the flower petals assume a natural effect of color gradient. Then you can try to dip dye silk flowers. Prepare the dyeing solution in a shallow container, and then dip a part of each petal into the solution. Try to watch it while dyeing and take it out after getting your expectations. The trick is to dye each petal within the almost same time and then you can achieve an overall effect in harmony.

How to Dye Silk Clothing?

First, you should check if your silk clothing is suitable for dyeing. Check its care label and design patterns as mentioned above. Then you should give it a mordant process to process to prep its inner fibers. As you may know, clothing manufacturers pretreat silk fabrics before dyeing, printing and shaping them, so you should attach much importance to the mordanting process. Having finished that, follow the steps above and dye the silk clothing into a new color.

Can You Tie Dye Silk?

Yes, you can. Tie dyeing is a process of endless fun. You can try to explore the patterns of certain resisting ways by yourselves or refer to the patterns developed by pioneers. Moreover, there are various methods of tie dyeing. For example, You can use the Shibori method. It is friendly for a novice and has the potential to dye numerous patterns.

How to Dye Silk Scarves?

To dye a silk scarf, you can get inspired from the above text. First, bleach or mordant the silk scarf. It would be better if you get it into a light and even white color. Then prepare the dye solution and add some acid to help the dyeing. Third, submerge the silk scarf into the dyes until it reaches the hue you want. Simmer it while submerging to speed up the process. If you want an evenly distributed color, stir it repeatedly. On the other hand, if you want several colors at once, dip dyeing a part of the silk scarf and repeat the process with a changed color next. After getting the pattern you want, remove the excess dyes and dry the silk scarf. You can steam or iron it to make the colors more fixed.


Dyeing silk is of paramount importance in the manufacture and remanufacture of silk. For DIYers, it requires some techniques, but not impossible. Sinosilk has been dedicated to silk fabrics and silk products for about 10 years. We can provide custom silk and silk products both with acid dyes and reactive dyes. Please contact us to get silk of high quality and services of professional custom.

More Resources

Best fabric for tie-dyeing Source: Sinosilk

Can you bleach silk Source: Sinosilk

How to wash silk pillowcases Source: Sinosilk

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