How to dye fabric gray

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dye fabric gray

I recently began a huge DIY project for which I needed a large amount of gray fabric.  (Oooh, the suspense!)  I could have gone out and bought many yards of gray fabric but I knew there had to be a cheaper way.  So I pulled out four white curtain panels that I bought on clearance at Target several years ago.  At the time, I wasn’t certain what I would use them for but they were a great deal ($8.48 for two panels) and I figured everyone can use white fabric at some point. (For other great ideas for scoring fabric cheap, check out this post.)

clearance curtain collage

Well, that time had come.  Except I didn’t need nice white sailcloth – I needed a nice gray sailcloth.  So it was time to attempt fabric dyeing.  Since this was my first time, I did a bit of online research first to determine which dye would give me the desired color.  (By the way, blogs are my favs for such research because you typically get the real story rather than the sales pitch).

I originally assumed that I would just use black dye in a smaller amount than normal to make gray.  But in my research I found that others said using black dye just turned their items purple or black – not a beautiful gray.  So black dye was out – I needed a gray dye.  I saw several sites that recommended using iDye in Silver Grey.  Unfortunately, that was not available at any of my local stores and I was impatient, so I ended up with Rit dye in pearl gray.  pearl-grey_2

I carefully followed the directions on the package for dyeing using a top-loading washer.  It wasn’t too difficult – you have to mix the dye with hot water in a bucket and then add it to the washer.  Then I very anxiously waited for the washer to do its thing so I could see the results.  Finally, I opened the washer to see my curtains all very evenly dyed – a light grayish-blue.  A lovely color but not so much what I was going for.  And certainly not the color on the box.  Massive fail.

rit pearl gray

So I decided to give it one more try using the recommended dye – iDye in Silver Grey.  I had to order it online and I ended up getting the best price on ebay.  Which meant I had to wait several days before dyeing attempt numero dos.

silver gray

Again, I carefully followed the directions for dyeing in my top-loading washer which incidentally were much simpler than the RIT dye.  You just throw the little dye pack straight into the washer.  No messy pre-mixing.

And after much waiting, I opened the washer to reveal a mound of beautiful deep gray fabric.  Success!

idye silver gray

gray dyes

I was so happy with the results that I used my one remaining packet of iDye to dye a duvet cover and some pillow shams that had been languishing in my basement laundry area.  They started out a crisp white but sadly had become yellowed.  So I took them downstairs to the laundry room and there they sat for weeks – and then months – while I ignored them as I went about my regular laundry.  (Please don’t judge me!)  Unfortunately they were sitting below a copper pipe that decided to oxidize and drip greenish oxidization onto them.  So that when I did finally get around to washing them, they were hopelessly stained.  (A beautiful green stain – but still).


After dyeing my curtains, I saw them (still) sitting there next to the washer and thought, hey it’s worth a try.  And it worked like a charm! They came out beautifully.  They honestly look much prettier than before when they were all white.

gray duvet cover

The striped detail is sewn with a synthetic thread so it did not hold the dye but remained white, making the whole thing look crisp and gorgeous.

gray dyed duvet

And for anyone interested, you can check out my upholstered headboard here and my twin nightstands made from an old vanity here.

So there you have it.  Dyeing success!  This opens a whole new world of possibilities and I will definitely be dyeing more fabric in the future.

What about you?  Have your tried dyeing fabric before?  How did it work out for you?

This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase using these links.

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  1. says

    I really like that shade of grade – it’s beautiful on the bedspreads. I’ve dyed yarn and wool for spinning before and always made a mess (stained my moms granite counter top pink!!)

  2. says

    On your recommendation, I’ve just now purchased through a packet of iDye Silver Gray to color a couple of old dresses for the Gray Lady (from Harry Potter) costume and my costume for a production of Ragtime this November in Flushing, NY. I hope that the dresses turn out well! (I’ll dye the theatrical costume first, since that one’s appearance is more important.) Thanks for the tip!

  3. says

    This is such a helpful post! I recently bought some gray fabric online to make an upholstered headboard, but I don’t like the hue of the gray (kinda like your first take) — it’s a bit too blue for me. I think I might try using the silver gray on it. Hopefully that will darken it up a bit.

  4. Kylie says

    I’m looking to dye my old curtains gray but they aren’t white. They are almost a burgandy red. Will they still turn out gray like yours or will I have to use a different approach?

    • tl says

      I doubt they will turn out the same gray if they are red to begin with. It will darken them but the red will most likely come through.

  5. says

    Thank you so much!!! I had no idea where to start. After reading about what you did I was totally sold on the silver gray. I just painted my room a light yellow and it looks amazing with the old curtain dyed gray! It was so much cheaper then buying a new curtain I even dyed some sheets gray to match:)Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

  6. Anonymous says

    I had a similar problem with the Rit pearl grey not being true to color, and I think I figured out why. I googled the problem and this post was one of the first results, so I just wanted to post here in case anyone else comes across this the same way.

    I dyed 4 cotton onesies using the bucket method and our hottest tap water (probably 140 degrees or so). I had used half the packet of powder dye and 1.5 gallons of water. I got an uninspiring lavender color and was really disappointed. After reading your post I was all ready to order the iDye, because you got exactly the color I wanted. But a little more googling, and I learned that when all-purpose grey or black dyes come out purplish, it may be because the water was not hot enough. Since I had half a packet of dye remaining and nothing really to lose, I figured why not try it again using the stovetop method? I brought 1.5 gallons of water, the half pack of dye, and 1T salt to nearly a boil, and redyed the onesies, stirring constantly for 30-35 minutes. The result was awesome. No longer purple-y, and very close to the color shown on the dye packaging (just a touch lighter, which probably could have been overcome with a longer dye time). Looks a lot like your results!

    All of this to say, if anyone is looking for a solution to dissatisfying purplish results with the Rit pearl grey, I think the secret is just in the temperature of the water. Obviously the stovetop method isn’t a great option for those trying to dye sheets, but for smaller projects, I think the Rit can produce a nice finished product this way!

  7. says

    Guess what color I need? That pearl gray from RIT – I’m so glad I found your blog as I was afraid it’d be the darker gray ( I prefer the darker but my scrubs have to be the lighter shade for my work place. )
    carley recently posted…Don’t forgetMy Profile

  8. Jean says

    I’m also hoping to get the bluish-grey that you got from the RIT. I was afraid it would be warm with warm tones from the packaging. Thanks for posting!

  9. says

    I almost bought the RIT pearl grey myself so I’m glad I did some research first!!! Definitely going with iDye for a dark grey. Thanks for he help and what a fun finished project you have!

  10. Nikki says

    I’m curious how your gray is holding up after washing? Have you had any trouble with fading? I found your post after googling “permanent gray dyes”. I want to dye a slip cover gray, but it will be washed here and there (I have three kids) :)

    • Carrie says

      It has held up well. The duvet hasn’t faded at all from washing – unfortunately, it also hasn’t survived. I dyed it to begin with because it had some stains from a leaky pipe and unfortunately, the stains eventually worked up through the dye as well. The actual dyed color help up great though.

  11. alicia says

    I love the color, but I have a question: what about the seams? Did the thread got the same color, too? I want do dye a pair of white jeans but I am not sure about that..please let me know, thank you.

    • Carrie says

      The thread in the seams did stay white. It is not noticeable on the things I dyed, but it may be more noticeable on a pair of jeans. Most things are sewn with polyester thread which will not change with regular fabric dye but if they are made with a natural fiber thread, the thread will be dyed as well.

  12. says

    You did a beautiful job…. congrats on your persistence.
    I’m also hoping you can help me – if you know – how to “dye” or “bleach” black into a gray color. I have a cotton (like t-shirt fabric) sweater I absolutely love, but I’m no longer wearing black and need it to be gray. Any hope?

    • Carrie says

      Thanks Jocelyne. I don’t really have any advice on getting black to gray because I don’t have any experience with it myself. Sorry!

  13. Ginger says

    I just bought 4 boxes of Pearl Grey Rit dye yesterday to dye a sofa slipcover. I did a test washcloth using the stove top method and it came out like your dark sliver gray. I’d like it to turn out more like the first dye job you did. I guess maybe it does depend on the temperature of the water and also how much dye one uses. Luckily, things can usually be re-dyed.

    Thanks for posting. I love finding out what other people are doing to get ideas and to get the courage to try new things. :)

    • Carrie says

      Thanks Ginger – how funny that you wanted the lighter color and got the darker gray! I hope you were able to get the color you were going for in the end!

  14. Ginger Fowler says

    I dye my jeans all the time because I don’t like the washed out look. I use the dry Denim dye & hot water in my washing machine & every time they come out looking new. The gold thread in my jeans does not absorb the dye & looks like they just came from the store.

    Ginger in San Angelo

    • Carrie says

      Ginger, this is such a fabulous idea. I don’t like the washed out look either – I may have to try this next time my jeans are getting worn looking!

  15. Peggy St. Clair says

    I am so glad I just goggled this- I was all set to dye a duvet cover in Pearl gray ( I bought the liquid bottles) TODAY- but did want a darker color- just like yours so ordering and waiting- thanks for the tips- I was going to use double the dye (king size) do you think that is necessary?

    • Carrie says

      Peggy, I am glad you waited and I hope the idye works for the color you want. It worked great for me. I am not sure about doubling the dye – I would go with what the package directions say. It has been awhile since I dyed my own duvet cover so I can’t remember for sure how many packets I used but I am thinking I just used one for a double/queen duvet.

  16. Mary Brooks says

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I’m decorating my husband’s office and trying keep the budget in check. I have three pairs of linen drapes from Restoration Hardware that I’m no longer using and they cost too much to sit idle in the closet. I plan on buying the iDye and I’m hopeful that I’ll get similar results.

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