Can Fabric Dye Be Used On Wood? (Explained)

Fabric dye is a great way to help you get a custom look for your fabric.

However, fabric dye can have many other purposes!

Can fabric dye be used on wood?

Fabric dye can be used on more surfaces than just fabric. Other surfaces that you can use fabric dye on include wood and wicker. Using fabric dye on wood is a better option than painting the wood because it adds color to your wood without covering the wood grain as paint would.

Fabric dye on wood allows you to have more dimension in your project.

Check our article here on how fabric dye reacts to polyester.

How Do You Dye Wood with Fabric Dye?

When you are looking to dye your wood project with fabric dye, there are specific steps that you will want to follow to get the best results.

These steps include:

1. Prepare Wood:

It is preferred that when you are dyeing your wood furniture, your wood will be unfinished so that the dye will be able to stick to the wood better.

If your wood is not unfinished and is instead painted or varnished, you will want to prepare it so that it is easier to dye.

To do this, you will want to make sure that you scrape/sand off the paint and varnish.

2. Mix Dye:

You will want to mix your fabric dye before you use it. It is necessary to dilute the dye due to the high level of concentration.

Make sure that you are wearing gloves when you are working with the dye so that you do not risk dying your hands too. The standard ratio for diluting dye will depend on what dye you are using.

Normally you will want to start with 1/4 cup of dye to 1 cup of water.

This is not always the ratio you will want to use. It will depend on how you want the color to look. Try testing the color on your wood to see if you like it, and keep adding water until it is the color that you want.

It is possible to use the dye without diluting it, but it will just be a much darker color.

Keep in mind when picking your color that it will lighten a little when it drys.

3. Apply Dye:

When the dye is the color that you want for your project, then you can apply it.

The best way to apply the dye to your wood is not with a paintbrush but is instead with a foam brush or cloth. You can use a bristle brush, just be careful about streaks in the texture.

If you are working with a smaller object, you could just submerge the object in the dye instead.

Some dyes work best when it is hot, so you should microwave it occasionally if you need to.

4. Second Coat:

You can always add a second coat of dye when you are done, but you don’t have to.

It will just depend on if you think your project needs it.

If you are going to add a second coat, you will want to add the dye only after the first coat has dried completely.

5. Add a Finish:

Once you are satisfied with your project, you will want to add a finish, so your look is protected.

You can add a matte finish or a glossy finish, depending on what look you are going for.

There are many choices of wood finish, and whatever you pick should be perfectly fine for whatever project you are doing.

Can I Mix the Colors Before Using it on Wood?

It is perfectly okay to mix the colors of dye before you use it on wood or any other surface you intend to dye.

Mixing the colors will give you an endless possibility of color variations that is sure to fit whatever color needs that you have.

If you intend to mix colors, you should always start with the lighter color and add the darker color gradually. Testing your color along the way is a good way to tell if you are getting what you want.

Don’t forget that your dye will dry lighter than it looks.

If you have a specific color in mind, but you are not sure the best way to go about it, some dye companies even give you a guide of their color formulas that can help you get to the color you want without wasting a lot of dye doing it wrong.

Just make sure that you scale your color mix if you are working on a larger project.

Should Fabric Dye be Mixed with Water Before Applying it to Wood?

Depending on what color you are going for, you might want to mix your dye with water before you apply it.

You do not have to do this, though. Your project will be perfectly fine if you apply undiluted dye to your wood; it will just be a darker color.

When you dilute your dye, you will want to make sure you test your dye to make sure that you are getting the color that you want.

If it is too light, you will want to add more dye, and if your color looks too dark, make sure to add more water.

How Do You Prep Wood Before Dyeing It?

As previously mentioned, you will want to make sure you are dying wood that is unfinished so that it is more able to take in the dye.

To prep wood that is already finished, there are some steps that you will need to take.

These steps are:

  1. Remove any dust or dirt from the surface of your wood.
  2. Remove any paint or polish using a polish remover or a paint and varnish remover.
  3. Sand the surface to get a clean and textured surface that will take in the dye. The rougher the surface, the darker the color you will get for your project.
  4. Wipe down your sanded surface to get rid of all debris.

Properly preparing your wood will help your project better take in your dye and will create a better-looking project overall.

Should I Use Water or Alcohol-Based Dye on Wood?

Picking your dye can be very important to how it will turn out. One thing that you will have to decide between is water-based or alcohol-based dyes.

If you are applying color directly to your wood, you will want to use a water-based dye. Alcohol-based dyes are more likely to run and can be very difficult to apply directly to your project.

If you are spraying your wood with color, you can look for an alcohol-based dye.

Ultimately, both types of dye will work; it just comes down to personal preference, desired look, and the method that you would like to use to apply your dye.

How Do You Seal Paint on Wood?

To protect your paint or dye on your wood project, you will want to make sure you seal it properly.

When choosing a sealant for your wood, you will want to use a wax-based or poly-acrylic sealant. You also want to make sure your sealant is clear so that you can see the color of your paint or dye.

Before applying your seal, you will want to be sure your dye or paint is completely dry, and you have wiped up all dirt and dust.

Apply the sealant using a sponge, foam brush, cloth, or paintbrush. Cloths are better for more wax-based sealants, sponges are good for surfaces with grooves or curves, and paintbrushes work well on flat surfaces.

You will also want to add a second coat of sealant when the first coat is dry to the touch.

One important thing to note is that you should leave your sealant alone for 2-3 weeks. Even if your sealant is dry to touch, for 2-3 weeks, you will not want to put anything on the surface of your project because it can cause damage or imperfections.

Will Fabric Dye Used on Wood Withstand Sunlight?

Eventually, all paints, stains, or dyes will begin to fade in the sun. But just because the sun will eventually cause fading to your wood, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do.

If you know your project is going to be outside or sitting in the sun for long periods of time, you will just want to make sure that when you pick a finish for your project, you pick one that will help delay fading.

Picking the proper finish will help extend the life of your dye. If you notice too much fading, you can always redye your wood as needed.

What Other Materials can be Dyed with Fabric Dye?

Fabric dye, while made for fabric, can be used on multiple surfaces.

A list of materials that you can use fabric dye for include, but are not limited to:

  • Washable Fabric made of Natural Fibers
  • Washable Fabric made of Synthetic Fibers
  • Washable Fabric made of Cotton-Synthetics
  • Fabric Shoes
  • Other Fabric Items
  • Unfinished Wood
  • Unfinished Wicker
  • Natural Dried Plants
  • Paper
  • Unfinished Clay
  • Unfinished Cement
  • Cork
  • Feathers
  • Sand
  • Seashells
  • Food used in Crafts (Macaroni, Eggshells, Beans, etc.)
  • Nylon Based Plastic
  • Miscellaneous Plastic

The above list may not be true for all dye, and you might want to look into the dye you are buying before you purchase it.

Some things that you will not want to dye with fabric dye include fiberglass, spandex, metallic fibers, severely stained or bleached fabrics, fabrics that have a rubber backing, waterproof or stain-resistant fabric, fabrics that are washable only in cold water, or fabrics that need to be drycleaned.

If you look up your specific dye, you should be able to find a comprehensive list of what you can apply that dye to and what you cannot apply your dye to.