DIY: Stain Wood With Fabric Dye

Updated on January 24, 2017
Color dyed wood table
Color dyed wood table | Source

Color Dyeing Wood

The first time I used liquid color dye as a wood finish was a spur of the moment decision. I had a piece of unfinished furniture and no extra cash to purchase any wood stain. As it happened using the color dye to dye wood turned out to be a great choice. I was looking for a more natural way to finish wood and this method of dying wood was definitely more natural.

So the second time I wanted to dye wood I didn't even have to think about it. I chose to color dye. Since then I've discovered several other methods to stain wood with dyes. This page talks about some of the ways to color dye wood.

(Photo credit Pam Irie)

Color Dye Wood
Color Dye Wood

Dye Wood with Color Dyes

The color dye I use to dye wood is most commonly used to dye fabric. It comes in a variety of shades to quickly transform unfinished furniture and any bare wood.

The results are similar to wood stain minus the annoying smell and you'll find color dye for wood is easy to clean up. Another benefit is the affordability of color dye versus wood stain.

(Photo credit Pam Irie)

Dye Wood with Color Dye
Dye Wood with Color Dye

Finishing Wood with Color Dye

The Method is Easy

1. Prepare bare wood to accept color dye by wiping any loose dust or dirt from the wood surface. Use painters cloth or a drop cloth to protect the work area from any spillage.

2. Put on rubber gloves . Using the color dye chosen for the unfinished furniture piece, pour a small amount into the empty margarine tub. Be careful not to fill the tub too full; it's easier to manage when there is only a small amount of liquid.

3. Dip the paint brush into the liquid color dye. Gently squeeze out excess dye by pressing the top of the foam brush against the inside of the margarine tub.

4. Paint bare wood furniture by applying the dye with a foam paint brush. Follow the woodgrain during this process. Divide the furniture piece into sections (top, legs, shelves, etc.) and color dye one section at a time.

5. When each section is complete, wipe gently with a clean soft rag any remaining standing liquid. Continue until entire piece is color dyed.

(Photo credit Pam Irie)

Polycrylic - Finish Dyed Wood
Polycrylic - Finish Dyed Wood

Dye Wood - the Final Step

Pour water-base polycrylic into empty margarine tub before applying to any cheap unfinished furniture piece as it sometimes transfers a bit of dye into the original container causing it to become tinted.

Let the surface on the cheap unfinished furniture piece dry well overnight. Apply two to three coats of water-base polycrylic (either satin or semi-gloss) to protect exterior.

(Photo credit Pam Irie)

Set the Wood Dye

As shown in the picture above, this is the product I always use to finish and protect my wood dyed projects. I highly recommend the semi gloss or satin finish in this water based product.

Minwax 233334444 Minwaxc Polycrylic Water Based Protective Finishes, 1/2 Pint, Satin
Minwax 233334444 Minwaxc Polycrylic Water Based Protective Finishes, 1/2 Pint, Satin

This is THE BEST stuff in my DIY book and something I never want to be without. I always use water base and usually prefer the satin finish. Note this product is also available in a gloss and semi-gloss finish.


Other Methods to Dye Wood

Regular food dyes, unsweetened Kool-Aid and jello can be used to dye wood.

Note: The Rit website has helpful tips on how to dye wood and wicker. I use similar methods but they do suggest heating the dye first, though I've not found this necessary when I dye wood.

Ways to Dye Wood

Color Dyed Wood Frame
Color Dyed Wood Frame

I used navy blue fabric color dye to tint the handmade wood frame shown.

(Photo credit Pam Irie)

Which method would you prefer to dye wood?

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What do you think about using color dyes on wood?

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    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I've painted wood, but haven't tried this - very interesting and lovely method for sure :)

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I have never used a dye on wood. Usually I go with the natural wood color and just shellac.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Never tried it but sounds like a great idea!

    • profile image

      bossypants 5 years ago

      Genius idea! I would never have thought of this!

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 5 years ago

      High Five! Thanks for sharing your tips with us about alternative ways to dye wood! I loved your photos showing projects you've done!

    • profile image

      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      Great Idea!! Looks like a fun way to get the job done

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What a great idea! My husband was talking about this last night. He's a beginning woodworker. I'll have to tell him about it!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I'd never heard of this but it makes sense that it color dye for fabric would also work on wood. You're so smart, Pam!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 6 years ago

      I never would have thought of dye, but it looks great!

    • SPhilbrick profile image

      SPhilbrick 6 years ago

      I love the look of dyed wood with the grain coming through. Good ideas to dye it right!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm all for finding new, less expensive or less messy methods. You're a brave person.

      I got paint for my guest bath and am afraid to put it on.