Give Linens a New Lease On Life

by Kelly · 10 comments

in Living Frugally

My new-to-me Ikea couch was truly a bargain because the cover was a little worse for wear. So I bought a new cover that matched my chairs from the as-is department, only that cover was missing the covers for the seat cushions. A few weeks later I happened upon covers for the seat cushions, only they were white, not beige.

“Not a problem” I thought to myself, reluctant to pass by a bargain. “I’ll just dye them to match.”

So I did.

They don’t match, exactly, but they’re close enough. I kind of like the variations on a tone theme I’ve got going on, with many different shades of brown. This afternoon I decided to darken the color just a bit and so I dyed them again. Only this time, I forgot a washcloth in the washer from the previous load.

What was once a ratty, faded and stained washcloth now has a new lease on life. This has given me an idea: why not dye linens that are faded but still in basically good condition? It won’t make them as good as new, but it will spruce them up a bit. I did this once with an old rug. It’s now on it’s third color and still looks nice enough to grace the living room floor. What’s to lose? You weren’t using it anyway!

I think I’m going to do this to some bath towels I have. Fifteen years ago they were my nice towels, then they became my everyday towels. Now they’ve been downgraded to the towels we keep in the swim bag. They’re in pretty good shape as far as the quality of the fabric goes, it’s mostly the color that betrays their age. I think I might dye them a richer, deeper shade of their original aqua. They’ll still be towels for swimming, but they might have a chance of making it back into the house after autumn arrives!

Have you tried this? What have you dyed?


1 Pam Davis August 1, 2008

Erma Bombeck said she died all her linens black. They matched everywhere and never showed a stain 😉

2 JenniferM August 1, 2008

I read, though never dared, boiling dingy undergarments in tea could give a new look. The softest blue towel I’ve had since I was a child now has mold stains. Before I check Martha, do you have ideas or solutions?

3 Kelly August 1, 2008

@Jennifer, Just dye it! You can get the dye at any grocery store, or fabric shop. I'm not so sure that I would go as far as using tea though…

4 JenniferM August 1, 2008

Once dyed my daughter's ballet costume purple. Very messy in kitchen!! But now you got me started to perhaps try a tie-dye rainy day project-like today!

5 Kelly August 1, 2008


Two words: WASHING MACHINE! Although I'm sure that tie-die would be a fun project.

6 CG August 2, 2008

I've not space nor time these days, but one of my all time favorite college courses and crafts is natural dying using minerals (copper, aluminum, etc.) as mordants.

The other day I was transferring at Los Angeles's Union Station and I noticed quite a spray of buttercup yellow having fallen alongside the sidewalk from the landscape's trees and all I could imagine was stirring silk in a pot over my stove and waiting to see what color resulted once dried.;-)

7 Jenny August 3, 2008

Here is a tip: Keep a jar of black powdered dye mixed with vinegar in your laundry area (and be VERY CAREFUL with it). Use it every time you wash black jeans. It will extend your color very well.

8 karla (threadbndr) August 5, 2008

I dye stuff all the time. Rit works ok for cotton based fabrics like your towels and for jeans, but if you want to dye wools (yarn or fabric), you are better off using an acid dye (the kind that is fixed with vinegar). Knitpicks has inexpensive ones.

A fun thing for kids is to dye wool in the microwave using KoolAid or other food dyes.

9 CG August 6, 2008

RE: karla (threadbndr); That sounds like fun! do you have [kool aid + microwave] instructions? Thanks!

10 sara l August 7, 2008

I’ve dyed yarn with KoolAid and Easter Egg Dyes, but that’s as far as I’ve ventured so far. I’m currently eying what was once a beautiful yellow towel that time has not been kind to.

For those who want more info of KoolAid dying check out this link, it works on protein fibers (wool, silk, mohair, etc) :

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