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Dye Queen

By Dianne Giancola

March 11, 2015

Project Description

Do you have a pair of old blue jeans that are worn or the color has faded? Just about everyone does! Here at Rit we receive many questions about how to overdye jeans and give them a new look! So I did some testing and was happy with the results. I experimented with 4 different blue dye recipes. While the results are subtle, we were pleased with the even coverage over the worn and faded areas. The colors shown (Left to Right): Denim, Navy & Demim, Navy and Navy & Black. Here's how to make your blue jeans look new again!


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Prep, dyeing & Rinse time: About 1 hour

Rit Products Used


You'll Also Need

  •   Faded Cotton Blue Jeans

  •    4-gallon plastic storage container for dyeing

  •    tongs

  •   dishwashing liquid

  •   fabric scrap

  •   liquid detergent

  •   measuring cup

  •   large metal spoon

  •   old towel

  •   paper towels

  •   plastic table cover

  •   rubber gloves

  •   salt

Step By Step

  1. These blue jeans were purchased at a UNIQLO store for the purpose of the test because they had white creases and worn areas. We wanted to see how well Rit would overdye all those areas. For best results, prewash jeans to remove any finishes that may interfere with dye absorption. Cover work surface with a plastic table cover.

  2. As you know, there are many different shades of blue. Rit has a Denim Blue and a Navy Blue. And, of course you can always mix them or add Black to the dye bath. So I decided to test 4 different recipes. I had two pairs of jeans so I cut them in half lengthwise so I could test all the recipes. These are the jeans after dyeing. Looking left to right, the first color is Denim, next is a Demim & Navy combination, then Navy, then a Navy & Black combination. The colors are subtle, but if you look closely, you can see different shades of blue. Best of all, Rit dye covered all the white creases and worn areas for an even color.

  3. Then my hubby offered his old worn out jeans for dyeing. So I cut each leg into 4 sections and tested each with the same recipes, using a little less dye. I was pleased to see how well the Rit dye covered the worn areas! Left to right: Denim, Navy & Denim, Navy & Black and Navy.

  4. I also found a white pair of jeans in my stash and decided to test them as well. I cut the legs into 4 sections and tested each with the same recipe. Here are the results. I was pleased how well Rit covered the white jeans, achieving very similar subtle blue shades. Left to right: Denim, Navy & Denim, Navy & Black and Navy.

  5. While jeans are still dry, weigh the jeans on a food scale, if possible. Otherwise estimate the weight. The weight helps to determine how much dye is needed. As a guideline, 1/2 cup dye will color up to 16 ounces of dry weight fabric. Men's jeans require more dye than ladies' jeans. For darker colors, we recommend doubling the amount of dye used.

  6. For all the dyeing, I used a modified Bucket method so I could check the color frequently. The Stove Top method could also be used. Begin by heating water in several cook pots on the stove until it begins to boil. Gather your supplies. Wet jeans in warm water before dyeing.

  7. When the water begins to boil, measure 1 cup of salt and dissolve that in 4 cups very hot water. Stir until salt is dissolved. The salt helps to intensify the color on cotton fabrics.

  8. Fill 4-gallon container with 3 gallons very hot (almost boiling) water. Add the dissolved salt to the water and stir. Then add a squirt of dish washing liquid. Stir again.

  9. Dye Preparation: Choose the color of blue you like. Shake all dye bottles before measuring. Follow one of the 4 recipes: For a Navy & Denim combination, use 1/2 cup Navy and 1/2 cup Denim. Add to dye bath; stir well. Test dye color to be sure you are satisfied. Note: If color is too light, add more dye. If color is too dark, add more water.

  10. For Denim, use 1 bottle of Denim dye. Shake bottle before measuring. Add to dye bath; stir well. Test dye color.

  11. For Navy, use 1/2 cup of Navy or one bottle, depending on the the weight of the jeans. Add to dye bath; stir well. Test dye color.

  12. For a Navy & Black combination, use 1/2 cup Navy and 1/4 cup Black. Shake dye bottles before measuring. Add to dye bath; stir well. Test dye color.

  13. Immerse wet jeans into dye bath. Wearing rubber gloves, lift and move jeans, stirring constantly for the first 10 minutes and then occasionally for up to 30 minutes until desired color is achieved. Tongs are also helpful for lifting and lowering jeans. The longer the jeans remain in the dye bath, the darker the color will be. (Color will appear lighter when dry.) Stirring helps to ensure an even color.

  14. To help reduce color bleeding and improve color retention, treat jeans with Rit Color Stay Dye Fixative immediately after dyeing and before rinsing. Remove jeans from dye bath and squeeze out excess dye. Fill container with 3 gallons hot water and add 4 Tablespoons dye fixative; stir well. Immerse jeans in fixative, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.

  15. Remove jeans and rinse in cold water until water begins to run clear. Then wash jeans separately with an old towel in the washing machine with warm water and a mild detergent. Rinse and dry.

  • Joy Shepherd

    I plan to re-dye 3 pair of my husband’s worn and faded jeans to restore their original dark denim color and plan to do this using a top load washing machine. How many bottles of dye should I use?

    • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

      Hello Joy,
      Thank you for reaching out. Every bottle of Rit Dye is good for 2 pounds of dry weight fabric. You can double the amount of dye used if you are wanting a darker hue. We suggest weighing you fabric to guarantee the correct amount of dye is used. Hope this helps.

  • Consuelo Garcia

    I plan to use liquor ritdye because I have tried to color an almost new pair of blue pants w/powder ritedye (twice) and it did not work. Some bleach had gotten on th pants.

    • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

      Hello Consuelo,
      Thank you for reaching out. We have sent a message to your personal e-mail so that we may better assist you. Please get back to us at your earliest convenience.

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Hi Kathy, It is possible to dye more than one item at a time. When dyeing multiple items, there needs to be enough water in the dyebath for the fabric to move freely. Any bunching would create a blotchy color result. If you dyed 6 pair of jeans using a method other than a washing machine, it may be difficult for the dyebath to be evenly distributed even if stirred constantly. Let us know if you have any other questions we can help you with.

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Thank you for reaching out. We do not recommend using Rit dyes to dye leather. Our dyes contain salt which may cause the leather to become dry or brittle. In some cases, Rit has been used successfully to stain leather rather than dye it. However, there is the possibility that the dye may rub off while wearing the item or if it gets wet. Please get back to us with additional questions.

  • Linda Gayle Jackson Holt

    I have a front-loading high-capacity washing machine. Can I use it to dye more than one pair of jeans at a time? If so, what modifications do I need to do for that to work?

    • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

      Hi Linda, We do not recommend using Rit DyeMore, our new synthetic dye, in a washing machine because it will dye plastic parts. What is the fabric content listed on the care tag of your jeans? We would like to check if Rit all-purpose dye could be used as this dye line can be used in a front load washing machine. Also, which color were you interested in dyeing the jeans? Once we have this additional information, we will be better able to assist you.

      • Linda Gayle Jackson Holt

        Thank you for your reply. The fabric content of all of the jeans is: 98% cotton and 2% spandex. I am using a combination of Navy Blue and Black as my colors, and have already purchased one 8-oz bottle of black, barcode #8596788150 and one 8-oz. bottle of Navy Blue, barcode #8596788300. These bottles could be returned and exchanged for the powder version of these colors, I suppose. (I really don’t know whether the dye I purchased is Rit Dye More or not–please advise.)

        • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

          Hi Linda, You purchased Rit all-purpose dye, which will successfully dye your jeans. Rit’s new synthetic dye, DyeMore, boldly displays DyeMore underneath Rit on the front of the bottle. We offer a color recipe for dark denim using all-purpose navy blue and black dyes: https://www.ritdye.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Rit_FavoriteColors_2000_FINAL.pdf The recipe calls for 1/2 bottle of each navy blue and black dye using the low setting on a washing machine. The recipe is water based. You will want to ensure the fabric has enough room to move freely while in the dyebath as any bunching can result in an uneven color. If you need to increase the size of the load, increase the dye amounts accordingly. You can test the color of a dyebath by dipping in a paper towel or clean piece of cloth. The color will dry lighter. Hope this helps!

          • Linda Gayle Jackson Holt

            Thank you, this does help. I had already read the recipe. My important question is: will this work in my front-loading large capacity washing machine which uses very little water for each load, considering that I want to dye all 6 pairs of jeans at the same time? Also, should I adapt the recipe in any way, besides allowing for the dry weight of the jeans?

          • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

            Hello Linda,
            Thank you for reaching out. Depending on how your machine works, you may want to try doing 1 or 2 pairs of jeans at a time. Generally, when using low water machines, they do not fill up enough to completely submerge that fabric in the hot dye solution. This can result in a splotchy color outcome. Some other low water machines continually rinse the fabric with clean water. This will remove the dye from the machine and the fabric before it can adhere to the material, thus we can not recommend this type of machine. Hope this helps.

          • Linda Gayle Jackson Holt

            Thank you for being so thorough! This clears up all of my questions.

  • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

    Hi Elijah, Thank you for reaching out. When dyeing fabric, the original color will mix with the dye to create a new color. Unfortunately, Rit color remover is resistant to the indigo dye in denim fabric. Since the jacket is available in forest green, Rit color remover should be able to remove enough dye to take the fabric back to an off-white or cream color https://www.ritdye.com/techniques/the-basics/rit-color-remover/ You would then be able to dye the jacket cherry red. Let us know if you have any other questions we can help you with.

  • Dave

    I have a pair of old, faded blue jeans that I want to dye brown. Can you give me advice how to do that the right way?

    • https://www.ritdye.com RitDye

      Hello Dave,
      Thank you for reaching out. Please get back to us with the fabric care tag instructions and the fabric content of the jeans. Once we have this information then we will be able to better assist you.

  • Michelle Goetz

    Hi. I’m looking to dye my kiddo’s school uniform. What recipe would you recommend? These are Dennis school uniforms pants and shorts.




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