Vat Dyeing in a Bucket

For a video example of how to vat dye in a bucket, (in this case dyeing a pair of blue jeans black) click here.

Vat Dyeing Instructions For Grateful Dyes, Inc. Reactive Type Dye

Vat dyeing is solid color or tie dye in a bucket.

Use these instructions for solid color dying in a bucket or for traditional "old time" tie dye in a bucket. Please read the instructions written for dyeing in a washing machine for hints and insights into why these steps are followed. Wear gloves and protective gear as necessary. Dye stains skin! See our health and safety information.

Step 1. Decide how much dye you should use. In dyeing with reactive dyes, the depth of shade achieved is most dependent upon how much dye you use. The more dye used, the deeper the shade. Deep shades of dyeing require large amounts of dye. If it is very important for you to achieve deep shades, then it is important for you to use larger amounts of dye than you might think necessary, or than what "traditional" dye rules of thumb call for. Light shades do not require much dye at all. So when light or pastel shades are desired, smaller amounts of dye will be called for. Traditional rules of thumb for these reactive type dyes are that one ounce of dye will color 2 pounds of dry fabric to a medium shade. One ounce of dye will color 1/2 to 1 pound of dry fabric to a deep shade. One ounce of dye will do 4 to ? Pounds of fabric to a light shade.

Step 2. Wash fabrics to be dyed to remove any dirt, oils, or sizing that may interfere with the dye.

Step 3. Fill plastic bucket with enough warm water to cover the fabric so the fabric flows freely through the water. The more water you add, the more diluted the dye will be and the lighter the shade. But if you add too little water, the color will not come out even. 105 degrees F is the best water temperature.

Step 4. Add dye powder to the water. Stir to dissolve all dye powder.

Step 5. Add fabric to dye bath. Stir. The more you stir the fabric, the more even the color will be. Stir fabric for 10 minutes.

Step 6. Add Salt to dye bath. For deep shades add up to 100% of the fabric weight in salt. For medium shades, up to 50% of the fabric weight in salt. For light shades, no salt or a small amount of salt. Salt drives the dye out of the water and into the fabric. The more salt you add, the deeper the shade. Use common table salt, it does not matter if it has iodine or not. Add the salt slowly in 4 equal steps. Add the first quarter amount of salt you will add and stir thoroughly. Add the rest of the salt in steps about 3 to 5 minutes apart. Stir thoroughly so fabric dyes evenly.

Step 7. Add dye fixer to dye bath. Add 1/2 cup fixer for each pound of dry fabric you are dying. This amount will be the same if you are dyeing light or dark shades. Add fixer slowly, in steps, adding the first 1/3 total amount. Stir thoroughly. After 5 minutes or so, Add the next 1/3 fixer amount. Stir thoroughly. After another 5 minutes, add the final 1/3 amount of fixer. Stir thoroughly.

Step 8. Continue to stir for 10 to 15 more minutes. If you let the fabric sit for a long period of time without stirring, the color will not come out even.

Step 9. Drain dye. Rinse fabric thoroughly under cold running water. Increase water temperature to warm and rinse thoroughly. Wash fabric in washing machine with synthrapol detergent to remove loose dye. Wash as many times as you need to until rinse water is clear. Dry.