How to naturally dye fabric at home with onion skins?

As you know there are two types of onion; red and orange. Both have super-nice colors once you know how to do it.

Do you need a mordant to dye with onion skins?

Most natural dyes need a mordant to help them stay light/wash fast. Some are not very fast even with a mordant.

Although the colour will fade over time, dyeing with onion skin doesn’t need a mordant as the onion skin dye is absorbed well by the fibers.

The light and wash fastness of many natural dyes is improved with the use of a mordant. For example, to obtain strong red or pink colors with madder, you definitely need to mordant your fabric to help the dye stay on the fabric. Many dyers use oak gallnut tannin followed by an aluminium mordant before they start to dye. If you like to know how to mordant your fabric please read this article.

What Colour dye does onion skin make?

Onion skins can produce an orange or purple hue. Different coloured onion skins and different fabrics will result in different shades. That is the beauty of natural dyes. A dip in a weak solution of iron sulphate after dyeing with onion skin will give soft green colours.

What is Wash Fastness (colorfast) in Natural Dye?

Washfast is when you wash the fiber and the colour stays. Wash Fastness means dyes do not bleed or run from the fabric after it is dyed.

What is Light Fastness in Natural Dye?

Light fast is when you put the fiber in the sun and the colour stays.

How to dye with onion skins

Ensure your fiber/fabric has been properly scoured before use.

You can read our blog on scouring and mordanting.

Use two good handfuls of onion skins to make a dyebath. If you want to be scientific about it, approximately 30g of onion skins will give a strong colour on 100g of fiber. Place the skins into a pan and cover with water, enough to ensure your fabric/fiber can be moved around easily for even uptake of the dye. Bring the dyebath to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the skins if you wish. Add your wet/damp fibers and simmer the dyebath a further half hour. Allow the dyebath to cool for several hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.

A second and subsequent use of the dyebath can be made, which will result in paler shades than the first dyebath. Simply reheat the bath and add more fibers/fabrics.

For soft olive green colours, dyed fibers can be dipped briefly into an iron solution. Rinse fibers thoroughly after the iron dip. You can make the iron solution from iron sulphate or from rusty metal which you have soaked in 50:50 water for a week or so.



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