Create a rainbow of colorful napkins with just water, dye, and a few kitchen tools.

October 13, 2017
dyed cloth napkins

Dress up your next dinner party with bold dyed napkins. Cotton or linen napkins work best -- artificial fibers (such as polyester) don't absorb dye as well. For bright colors, choose white napkins. For a muted look, start with beige. 

What You'll Need

dyed cloth
  • Cotton or linen napkins
  • Liquid Rit dye in Evening Blue, Black, Purple, Teal, and Dark Green
  • Salt (table, kosher, or sea salt all work)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Scale
  • Rubber gloves
  • 4-gallon pot (avoid porcelain, which may stain)
  • Metal tongs
  • Metal drying rack

Step 1: Prep Your Materials

Machine-wash napkins and air-dry or machine-dry. Weigh dry napkins so you know how much solution to prepare. Protect work surface with plastic wrap and wear rubber gloves. For each pound of fabric, mix half a bottle of liquid dye with 2 cups of very hot water in a large measuring cup or bowl.

Fill a large pot with 3 gallons of water for each pound of fabric and simmer. Add the dye solution. Bring water/dye mix to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup salt.

Step 2: Dye Napkins

Dip a scrap of fabric in dye mix to test dye color. Note: Color will lighten as napkins dry. If color seems too dark, add additional water. Bring dye bath back to a simmer. Wet napkins with warm water, squeeze out excess, and smooth wrinkles. Place in dye bath. Stir constantly for at least 30 minutes, or until desired color is achieved. Don't let napkins twist or tangle.

Step 3: Let Dry

Using metal tongs, remove napkins from dye bath. Rinse well in warm water. Slowly adjust water temperature to cold, and continue rinsing until water runoff is clear. Handwash napkins in warm water with a mild detergent. Rinse thoroughly in cool water.

Hang to dry on a metal rack that won't stain. Immediately clean pots and utensils with chlorine bleach.


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