How To Dye Your Garments Sustainably At Home Using Waste

Did you know that one plain cotton t-shirt requires 2700 litres of water and a third of a pound of chemicals to produce? If you want to dye your own t-shirt, then we recommend you take note of Nikolett Madai's very easy approach.

It is no secret that the textile industry is the world’s second-largest polluter of water. Today’s textile mills are responsible for dumping chemical-laden, used dye water into oceans and streams leading to unnecessary Eco destruction. It is a fact that everyone’s favourite classic tee is created using chemicals that end up contaminating our water supply certainly.

Image credit: Nikolett Madai

There are two types of dye, natural and synthetic. Natural dyes are derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources—roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood—and other organic sources such as fungi and lichens. Synthetic dyes are man-made. These dyes are made from synthetic resources such as petroleum by-products and earth minerals. The use of natural dyes over synthetic dyes is encouraged, but the hard truth is that the fashion industry still uses a lot of synthetic dyes. One of the main reasons being that the natural dyes seem to lack the vibrancy of synthetic dyes.

Cotton is the easiest fabric for natural dyes to adhere to, but not all of our clothes are made of cotton, the majority of garments are made from polyester which is made from petroleum. The manufacturing of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil. It is this process that releases emissions, including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease.

Dye Your Tee Sustainably

While interviewing innovators at Munich Fabric Start, we got to know Nikolett Madai. She is a Dyer and practical researcher. Her focus is on research into measurements and properties and how to create her own principle for dyeing textiles.  She took a moment to share with us just how easy it is to create vibrant yellow hues and shades from turmeric peels sourced locally from juice processing waste. On her collection, which is entirely sustainably dyed and completely recyclable, Nikolett said: “There are so many possibilities for collaboration with food By-product dyes, like paper or wood. For example, I am collaborating with another student who is creating bioplastics with algae.”

Nikolett Madai presented her innovation at Munich Fabric Start’s KEYHOUSE


Ingredient list:

  • 4 avocado pits and its 8 peels
  • 1 preferably 8l stainless steel pot/alum pot (minimum 5l pot necessary)
  • 1 stainless steel/wooden spoon
  • 1 stainless steel colander/ cloth for draining
  • white/ unbleached/ light coloured natural fabric or clothes (e.g. cotton, silk, wool, linen or hemp)

Preparation of fabric:

Before dyeing with avocado first start with washing your fabric or clothing piece to clean the textiles. Some textiles and clothes contain stiffeners when bought newly also, so you should always begin with washing. You do not need to dry it, as your item needs to be wet before it goes into the dye bath, so the fabric could be coated evenly with the dye without leaving any stains. When you select your item, it should be weighing around 100grams to achieve the best colouring results.

Preparation of dye bath:

To create an avocado dye bath you need to get a hold of a large stainless steel pot (not one you cook in). There are plenty of secondhand market places to find a large pot. It is best if you use a stainless steel pot because then the dye will not stain the pot. If you use an alum pot, the alum from the pot transfers into the dye bath and it also makes cleaning afterwards challenging, but it is also a viable option as it acts as the pot acts as a colour fixative. The larger the pot, the better the result, as the clothing piece can move around comfortably, which is why the minimum size should be 5l, the ideal is an 8l pot. 

You will need 4 avocado pits and its 8 peels. You have to scrub clean the peels and pits of remaining avocado bits. Once cleaned it is ready to enter the pot. Fill your pot with 1,5l of water and place your avocado pits and peels inside. Start heating, but do not let it reach the boiling point, it should only reach a shimmering state, though if it goes over, then start reducing your heat. Let it shimmer for an hour-long, then leave it to cool down a bit so you can take out and remove the residues of avocado with the help of a colander or pouring it through a cloth into another pot. Rinse your dye pot and then pour your avocado dye back in and add enough water to be able to cover your item. Now you are ready to start dyeing. Start heating your dye bath and place your item in, let it shimmer for an hour before you turn the heat off. It is recommended that you stir your item once in a while like every 10 minutes to shuffle the item inside the water to shift position to ensure the dye bath will coat evenly, otherwise it can have a moulted effect. Now all that is left for you to do is to remove the fabric and rinse it. If you wash it with a pH neutral soap the colour will stay longer than with regular washing powder.

Talking to Kelly, one of our writers, Nikolett said: “We currently exist in only a 9.1% circular industry – there’s a lot of work to be done”. Believing that “everything that helps to close the gap between food and fashion is a worthy collaboration,” Nikolett also shared her end goal, which is to become a by-products supplier because there are so many fields to cover and she doesn’t want to implement a limit to textiles.

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