Action 122: Restore clothing using natural dyes

macrame cord dyed in natural colourDate: 02 May
Action: 122
Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL


From special guest author Aparajita Deshpande from Mumbai

Natural dye: macrame leaf

Natural dye: macrame leaf. Click for larger image

In an earlier article we wrote about how faded clothes could be restored and given a new lease of life by dying. In todays article we learn about how this can be taken an eco-step further, using totally natural coloured dyes. Our guest author from India, Aparajita Deshpande, tells us more about this …

Action 122: Restore clothing using natural dyes

Aparajita Deshpande

Colours brighten up our day and mood. We are surrounded by colours in everything we see – our furniture, cars, buildings, paintings, sculptures, and of course our clothes. Colour exists since ancient times – cavemen used the natural colours around them; artists have been innovating with different styles and art forms with a wide variety of colours.

Purple is an interesting example. Purple dye dates back to 1900 B.C, when it was first extracted from shellfish. Purple went on to become a symbol of Royalty as only a very small quantity could be extracted – enough to make only garments for an Emperor or the royals.

beetroot dye

beetroot dye, click for larger image

Today a wide variety of colours are easily available – synthetic, chemical based, and natural. The demand in fashion industry for colours is huge and changes from season to season and people love to see their closet full of wide variety of colours.

Natural dyes

Synthetic, chemical based dyes produce industrial waste which is polluting our water and air. We can reduce damage to our environment by switching to natural dyes. Dying at home is ideal for this.

Natural dyes are eco-friendly and skin-friendly.

orange peel dye

orange peel dye, click for larger image

Our ancestors used natural colours around them to dye, write and paint.

So where do we find the natural colours?  – everywhere, they are all around us. Natural dyes come from flowers, leaves, roots of plants, vegetables, fruits, insects, soils and clays.

Extracting colours does not have to be a tedious process, and it can be done by anyone at home.

(NB There is a nice article about how to do this at the BBC website … Ed)

Natural dyes can be used for clothes, home décor, food colours, painting. They do not harm our skin so are safe for children.

Tie ‘n’ dye and batik designs look beautiful if dyed in natural colours, or you can dye macramé cord and make beautiful head bands, earrings, home décor items and pretty items like dream catchers.

Plus of course the leftover water and dye can be used – to water plants, where it acts as natural pesticide too.

onion dye

Onion dye, click for larger image

How long does it last?

It is a myth to say that natural dyed clothes fade. Rather, clothes which we wear and wash more often tend to fade faster than clothes worn occasionally, and all colours fade irrespective of whether they are natural dyed or chemically dyed.


Too many people discard clothing just because they have faded, we can and should upcycle faded clothes and give them a new lease of life with natural dyes.

Take action

Think about dying clothes to restore them, or when you make clothes, and use natural colours.

This article was contributed by Aparajita Deshpande in Mumbai, India
Thank you Aparajita!

Twitter: @daparajita
Insta: @aparajitadeshpande