DIY: Stain Wood With Fabric Dye

Updated on May 14, 2019
Color dyed wood table
Color dyed wood table | Source

Color Dyeing Wood

The first time I used liquid color dye as a wood finish, it 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.

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 covers some of the ways to color dye wood.

Color Dye Wood
Color Dye Wood | Source

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 and can quickly transform unfinished furniture or bare wood.

The results are similar to wood stain minus the annoying smell. You'll also find color dye is easier to clean up. Another benefit is the affordability of color dye versus wood stain.

Dye Wood with Color Dye
Dye Wood with Color Dye | Source

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. Pour a small amount of the color dye chosen for the unfinished furniture piece into an empty margarine tub or tupperware container. Be careful not to fill the tub all the way—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 to remove any remaining standing liquid. Continue until entire piece is color dyed.

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.

6. Let the surface of the furniture piece dry well overnight.

7. Pour water-based polycrylic into empty margarine tub or tupperware. Then apply two to three coats of water-base polycrylic (either satin or semi-gloss) to protect the exterior.

Polycrylic - Finish Dyed Wood
Polycrylic - Finish Dyed Wood | Source

What to Use When Setting 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.

Color Dyed Wood Frame
Color Dyed Wood Frame | Source

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

Which method would you prefer to dye wood?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

What do you think about using color dyes on wood?

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    • jbosh1972 profile image


      11 months ago from Indianapolis, IN. USA

      This is fantastic! I read about this on the RIT website. When preparing the wood for staining, I sand the surface with 100 to 200 grit sandpaper. This opens the pores and removed some of the natural wood resins that may cause uneven blotchy stains. Also, use water to raise the grain prior to sanding when using water based dyes.

    • profile image

      Tim Wurst 

      22 months ago

      I saw an article in a wood working magazine using Rit Dyes on a turned bowl, using multiple colors, and it hilighted the grain and it was fabulous!

      Can’t find the book but anxious to experiment & try.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      6 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 

      6 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 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Never tried it but sounds like a great idea!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Genius idea! I would never have thought of this!

    • JanieceTobey profile image


      8 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


      8 years ago

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

    • profile image


      8 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 

      8 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


      8 years ago

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

    • SPhilbrick profile image


      8 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 

      8 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.


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