Uh, sorry. I can't go to that Cure concert because I'll be home redyeing my blacks.
June 22, 2009 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Can I dye normal clothing to super black status, thus fitting into my all-black work dress code?

My dress code for work is black polo and black pants. Thrilling, I know. Right now, I have one pair of black jeans (purchased as black) and two black polo shirts. I've had a bitch of a time trying to find black jeans that are cute and retain their dark shade. As such, my question is sneaky and two-fold.

1. What can I do to ensure my current work wardrobe retains its nice, healthy goth shade of black?

2. Can I dye regular blue-colored jeans to a nice black (you know, to match my black, abysmal soul)?
posted by santojulieta to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
1. dry clean, I know, it's crazy to dry clean polos and jeans. Polyblend pants will fade less, if at all. Other than those two things, there's no way to retain that black, black shade. That said, you can try woolite for darks. I don't know if it's actually effective or good marketing.

2. though my experience is with rit dye about 10 years ago, and they might have improved the product now, based on my experience, I'd have to say no. It won't come out even, and it will fade.
posted by necessitas at 8:46 PM on June 22, 2009

2nding necessitas - my sister dyed her white pants black and they turned out a really nice sort of purpley-grey. You definitely are not going to get to black-as-night using Rit dye. The dyeing I refer to was probably like a year ago, although how old the dye actually was is an open question.
posted by crinklebat at 8:51 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

1) Cold water wash, hang to dry.

2) I've dyed jeans, both blue and black, to deep black with standard RIT dye from the supermarket. The only catch is while jeans are mostly cotton and accept dye well the thread tends to be 100% man-made and remains the original colour. The colour tends to wash out or fade after a few dozen washings but the dye is pretty cheap; much cheaper than buying new jeans. Caveat: Mens jeans, they didn't have any spandex in them.
posted by Mitheral at 8:52 PM on June 22, 2009

I just googled this and this person seems to know what the heck is up. Maybe try some of these scary, complicated-sounding dyes?
posted by crinklebat at 8:53 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's what I do to keep black black, navy navy, red red:
- before you wash, soak overnight in a bucket/laundry tub/kitchen sink full of cold water and a cup of ordinary white vinegar. Any vinegar will do, but white is the cheapest and you can use it for all kinds of other household cleaning and it doesn't leave a lingering scent like cider or other vinegars.
- wash only in cold

Now, this only works if the black, etc. was a decent job in the first place and/or the fabric is happy being black. Some blends just don't take dye, any dye, all that well.

To overdye or redye, take a look at the Dharma Trading site, and take their advice about fiber content. Eg., I recently asked them, half joking, whether I needed to use both dye for cotton and dye for synthetic to redye some obnoxiously coloured yarn. The answer was 'yes'. They know their stuff and have everything you'll need. The Rit and Tintex and no-name dollar store dyes usually are made to dye everything, but none of it well, and the colours are not rich and don't last. The best news is all cotton jeans. Now, the thread is prob a cotton wrapped polyester which won't dye as black. Your shirts might be a blend, so check as some fibers cannot be dyed. And weigh your clothes dry, no cheating.

All black, eh? Sounds like back to the '30s when some department stores made their main floor staff wear nothing but black to keep the tone right.
posted by x46 at 8:57 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have gotten good results using RIT multiple times on the same piece of clothing. You could also try putting a little bit of dark blue dye in with the black. Also, you could wash your old black clothes with your dyed black clothes. The first many times you wash the dyed clothes they will leak a good deal of black dye.

Also some help here
posted by jefeweiss at 9:00 PM on June 22, 2009

My sewing teacher says Woolite is crap and if you have to wash delicates to use natural shampoo instead. How can you question a woman who says "cattywampus" un-ironically?
posted by ShadePlant at 9:04 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

also: don't wash your jeans often! only wash if food drops on them or when they're so dirty they can practically stand up on their own.
posted by lia at 9:45 PM on June 22, 2009

crinklebat's got it.

rit is a pretty shitty dye - super generic and meant to be used on any fiber but none well.

if you want black-as-satan's-soul, you've got to do a reactive dye that's specifically made for whatever fiber you've got. 100% anything is going to be your best bet, since different fibers take up the color differently.

procion (caveat: used to work for them, although not in a long time) is a fairly straight-forward dye for cellulose fibers.
cellulose = cotton, linen, ramie, rayon
protein fibers = wool, alpaca, cashmere, mohair, angora

silk is a weird fiber that can be used with both kinds of dye.

don't be scared off by the "auxiliaries" talk, it's just stuff you add to your dye bath to ensure good color take (getting the most dye possible into the fiber) and fastness (keeping it there). soda ash is key for cellulose. dyeing stuff is just like following a recipe; there are pretty detailed instructions here. you'll be looking at the immersion dyeing, according to fiber.

and, let's be honest, procion is "the undisputed king of tie dye", according to their website. so you know it's good.

to get a rich deep even color, you must

1. make sure your material is saturated through with water, like let those pants hang out in the tub overnight. this makes sure your dye is going to be taken up evenly by the fibers.

2. use enough dye - procion recommends four tablespoons for darkest shades - and the largest pot you have (not recommended to use it again for food cooking). more room for water to move around = better and more even dye absorption.

3. "exhaust" your dye bath - so, after you put your pants into your dye bath and let them all simmer together for a while, the liquid should appear to be clearer than when you started, ideally as close to transparent as possible.

you'll want to rinse out your clothes after the dyeing process because there will be excess dye that didn't take into the fibers. handwash for the first couple of times, just in case there's more excess dye lurking somewhere.

good luck! sorry if this is too basic, i never know how to gauge knowledge of fiber-related things!
posted by chickadee at 9:47 PM on June 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

re: keeping things black, oh my goodness, don't wash things until they noticeably smell or you think they may spontaneously gain life.

think of all the money you'll save on laundry bills! huzzah!
posted by chickadee at 9:49 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is also detergent (like this) specially made for dark clothing. I haven't tried it personally but the reviews suggest it really works. There are various brands that claim the same thing.
posted by barnone at 10:02 PM on June 22, 2009

Yeah, don't waste your time with RIT. Procion MX dyes are a hundred times better and not that much harder to use.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:17 PM on June 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't waste your time with RIT. Procion MX dyes are a hundred times better and not that much harder to use.

Absolutely! I love love love Dharma Trading. They rate the Procion blacks according to what you're going to use them for.

They may be too hippy-dippy for your black goth soul -- but click anyway.
posted by dogrose at 11:04 PM on June 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

it helps to wash only in cold water, and make sure the clothes are inside-out
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:43 PM on June 22, 2009

2nding Dharma Trading. I used their Jet Black on a cotton jacket and it came out almost alarmingly blank. The blackest thing I own. (Which is saying something.) Refuses to fade. Just follow their instructions to the letter.

Also 2nding washing inside out in cold and line drying, or only drying 1/2 way in the dryer and then line dry.

In my experience your'e better off with food coloring than RIT.
posted by Ookseer at 12:14 AM on June 23, 2009

Don't use Rit dye. It requires heat to apply, it fades quickly, and it ruins everything else in your load of laundry. Don't bother with vinegar, because it really doesn't do anything to set the dye in your cotton clothing. The only good way to stop dyes from fading in purchased clothing is with a commercial dye fixative.

Procion MX dyes are the best. They don't require heat, so you don't have to spoil one of your good cooking pots. (Don't reuse dyepots for food.) You can use a five-gallon plastic bucket, and stir for an hour to get a smooth solid color, but the best way to dye your cotton clothes black is in a top-loading washing machine using a large quantity of Procion MX dye; the normal quantity for dyeing an eight-pound full washing machine load of clothing is half a cup of dye, but for a really rich deep black you should double that. It will not damage the machine. In Europe or Australia, you can buy Dylon Machine Dye for use in a front-loading washing machine; it's a good fiber reactive dye, similar to Procion dye, but it's not available in North America.

Any clothing you have that is part polyester, or which has a stain-resistant, anti-pill, or permanent-press finish, will not dye a true black. Your cotton jeans should dye very well, but the polyester stitching that holds them together will remain the original color, so it's betetr to start with black jeans, even if they are badly faded. If you dye them with Procion MX dye, they will stay black far longer than the dyes that were originally used.
posted by Ery at 6:30 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing Dharma Trading. They have tons of helpful instructions for a newbie and will help you find a dye that will actually do what you want it to. Don't bother with RIT for this purpose, you'll just annoy yourself.
posted by oblique red at 8:22 AM on June 23, 2009

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