Dyeing Cotton Towels

The pile of towels we bought new eight years ago was perfectly viable, except for the dingy mint color that evolved through hundreds of washings. In my frenzy for a peaceful domestic space, I longed to buy a new set but realized that there must be some way to freshen up what we have. I was missing a few hand towels, but found some in a similar faded green at a thrift store for less than a dollar. I figured that the dye might help the whole lot look like more of a set.

After spending eight bucks on Rit Dye and one hour hastily attempting to dye the towels in a front loading washing machine, I had achieved my goal.

How did I do it? The truth is that I am the opposite of Martha Stewart. There wasn’t a studious perusal of instructions or a table laid with carefully chosen towel dying tools. I just tossed the towels in the wash and mixed up the dye in an old waste basket full of hot water. When I dumped it (clumsily) into my front loading washer, there was some spillage, but I started the load on hot and hoped for the best.

I then did several hot loads without soap. When I first pulled the towels out, I was sure I had ruined them. They looked a bit streaky and sad. I then washed them for about five more loads on hot with soap. After a quick toss in the dryer, I have to say they are gorgeous. They’re a bright stem green looks fantastic against my purple bathroom walls. My husband, who often has to suffer through my strangely creative ideas, has mentioned how great they look at least five times already.

If you decide to take on this feat, you should know that a top loader would have been far easier for dyeing. Also, I didn’t use the dye fixative and have found that there has been some very slight leakage on one piece of laundry in the wash. (Luckily it was just a rag.) The RIT dye instructions also call for using two cups of salt with the dye, but I had just a half cup.

I suppose you could even cobble together a collection of white towels secondhand and then dye them any color you’d like if you were feeling adventurous. The nice thing about my case was that there was no failure. If I ruined the towels, it would have been time to spring for new ones. If I saved them, victory!

In short, if I can do this project, despite my very limited attention to detail and my total lack of preparation, anyone can!


  1. i love this and will be doing it soon

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