Techniques . Washing Machine: Top Loader
How to Dye Using a Top Loading Washing Machine
Dyeing in a washing machine is the most convenient method for dyeing large items and it will not damage or stain the machine if done correctly. We cannot say the same for every type of fabric, though. Items need to be dyed on the hottest cycle so we do not recommend using this method for things that are washable in cold water or are dry-clean only as they’ll probably shrink. We also do not suggest that you dye wool in the washing machine because felting may occur; unless, of course, that’s the look you’re going for, then dye away.
To dye items to a lighter or different color, first use Rit Color Remover to turn it white; this will help ensure you obtain the color you desire. Or try your hand at overdyeing. It’s best not to exceed 8 packages of powder or 4 bottles of liquid dye per load as anything over that will most likely go to waste in the machine’s wash cycle.
Dyeing methods differ for top and front-loading machines. Learn how to dye using a front loader.
- Item(s) to dye
- Rit Dye, liquid or powder
- 1 cup salt or white vinegar, depending on item
- Measuring cup
- Rubber gloves
- Liquid detergent
- 1-2 cups chlorine bleach
- 3-4 old towels
- Optional: Rit Dye Fixative
Step by Step
Prewash items to remove any finishes that may interfere with its ability to absorb the dye.
To determine the amount of dye needed, weigh the items to be dyed together. The items should be dry when weighed. If a scale is not available, refer to the chart to estimate the amount of dye needed per load.
Use the hottest setting and fill the machine with enough hot water for the fabric to move freely.
Shake liquid dye bottles before pouring. Powder dye should be pre-dissolved in two cups of hot water before being added and stirred well.
Wearing rubber gloves, add the dissolved powder or liquid dye to the water in the machine. Mix well to evenly distribute the dye.
Wet item in hot water, smooth out any wrinkles and add it to the dye in the washing machine.
If dyeing natural fibers like cotton or linen dissolve one cup of salt in four cups of very hot tap water and add it to the dye bath in the washing machine. If dyeing silk or nylon add one cup of white vinegar to the dye bath.
Items should be in the dye bath for a minimum of thirty minutes to a maximum of one hour before the rinse cycle begins. Use an extended setting, or reset the setting before the rinse cycle starts to extend the wash time. Note that the longer the item is in the dye bath, the darker the color will be. For bulky items, such as draperies or large slipcovers, we recommend stopping the wash load periodically to detangle and unwind the item. This will help prevent uneven dyeing and lighter areas from forming. Remember to wear rubber gloves when handling the item mid-cycle.
Optional: To reduce color bleeding, use Rit Dye Fixative on cotton fibers immediately after dyeing, following instructions on bottle.
Rinse items through the washing machine in cold water to remove excess dye.
Wash items in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly with cold water once again in the machine.
Hang item to dry or machine dry.
To clean the washing machine: Using hot water and the “high” level setting, clean the washer with 1-2 cups of liquid bleach. Make sure to wipe around the inside of the lid and pour a little bleach through the internal dispenser as dyes can get into these areas. Fill washer to highest water level with the hottest water temperature setting. Add detergent and 2 cups chlorine bleach and run a full wash cycle with 3 to 4 old towels.
Choose the Right Amount of Rit Dye:
Size of Machine Load (Water Level)
Gloves, lingerie, tights, socks, scarves, t-shirt, blouse, shirt, vest, pillow cover, placemats, doilies, sheer curtains.
Approx. Dry Weight of Fabric 1/4 to 1 lb.
Rit Powder Packages 1/2 to 1
Rit Liquid Bottles 1/4 to 1/2
MEDIUM 1 (Medium)
Jeans, pants, dress, skirt, uniform, sweatshirt, tablecloth, dust ruffle, canvas tote bag.
Approx. Dry Weight of Fabric 1 to 1 1/2 lbs.
Rit Powder Packages 1 to 2
Rit Liquid Bottles 1/2 to 1
MEDIUM 2 (Medium)
Jogging suit, sweater, robe, denim jacket, bath mat (not rubber-backed).
Approx. Dry Weight of Fabric 1 1/2 to 3 lbs.
Rit Powder Packages 2 to 3
Rit Liquid Bottles 1 to 2
Curtains/draperies, 4 hand towels plus washcloths, sheet plus 2 pillowcases.
Approx. Dry Weight of Fabric 4 to 6 lbs.
Rit Powder Packages 4 to 6
Rit Liquid Bottles 2 to 3
EXTRA LARGE (Extra Large or Super)
Bedspread, chair slipcover, 2 double sheets plus 4 pillowcases, throw rug (not rubber-backed), blanket.
Approx. Dry Weight of Fabric 6 to 8 lbs.
Rit Powder Packages 6 to 8
Rit Liquid Bottles 3 to 4