re-dyeing jeans to make them dark again

**10/12/12 NOTE – This post is a couple years old, but thanks to pinterest it brings in a lot of visitors. I’ve received comments and emails from others who are trying to redye faded jeans. Many folks have had trouble with pants that turn out purplish…some have had better luck with using ALL black dye (no indigo or navy). I haven’t tried all black yet. My recommendation is to buy a pair of jeans from the thrift store that are a similar shade to what you’re wanting to dye, cut them into swatches, and test out different “recipes” before you dunk your favorites*******

Last week I was whining to my friend about my jeans. The cut is great, they fit just right, but they’re alllll faded.  My office is pretty casual, but even so I refuse to wear faded jeans in a professional setting. And faded jeans don’t look right for dressing up, no matter the cut. It felt wasteful to have a drawer full of totally wearable but not-dark-enough jeans. In the future, I can use preventative measures like washing them inside-out on cold, but how to return the already-faded to their former glory???

I found several tutorials online about DIY jean-dyeing. This one (including comments) was probably the best. But nobody had before and after photos. And that’s what I was REALLY after. So I decided to give it a try, and I did my best to photograph everything.

Synopsis – Re-dyeing jeans to make them dark again WORKS, but is only worth the trouble if your jeans have some stretch in them (i.e. not 100% cotton)

BEFORE, 100% cotton jeans

BEFORE, jeans with a little stretch (synthetic) in them

Mix 1 packet navy blue RIT dye, 1/2 packet black RIT dye, and hot water in a 5-gallon bucket. Get your jeans wet, wring them out, and dunk them in the bucket. Keep them in the dyebath for 30-45 minutes.

Rinse the jeans until the water runs clear (at least 5-10 min). Wash them by themselves, on cold, inside out, in the washing machine. Dry (keeping inside out) in the dryer.

AFTER – the 100% cotton jeans. Nice and dark, but the color is almost too saturated. Like trendy jeans worn by people younger than me.

AFTER – the 100% cotton jeans. I still wear them in casual settings, even though the color is kinda weird.

AFTER – the stretch jeans. The stretch fabric contains synthetic white cross-threads, which don’t accept dye…so the final color is very “realistic”. I have started wearing these to work again.

50% success rate isn’t too bad

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86 responses to “re-dyeing jeans to make them dark again

  1. I have about 7pants to be dye I need your expert opinion were to purchase these kind of product thanks

    • Hi Luis – If you want to go with the RIT dye method here, you should be able to find RIT dye at most large grocery stores, walmarts, etc. You can also find it at craft stores like JoAnns etc.

  2. Do you find that the jeans once they are re-dyed stain other clothes? Do they need to be washed separately after?

  3. I re-dyed my faded blue jeans today, I think, a total of 7 pair. I could only find liquid RIT dye, so I use one bottle of black, one bottle of navy & one bottle of denim. I did it all in my top loading washer, adding some boiling water to the hot water fill. I also added a 1/4 cup of salt & a bit of detergent. I agitated about 5 times for about 5 minutes within a 3 hour soak. Then I ran them through 3 cycles of cold water wash without detergent (basically an agitated rinse). I’m on the final cold water wash with detergent, but from the looks of the damp jeans, they came out perfect!

    Thank you so much for your blog post!

    • Are your jeans quite dark? I want to do some of my jeans, too, and I was wondering if I should mix in some black. I just saw your comment saying that you had done that. Do you have pictures? I’m really interested to hear how they are after they’re dry.
      Anna

      • The black helped balance out the blues, so they didn’t come out purple-ish. The end result was a dark blue, which is what I was going for. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures…. sorry.

  4. Great I need this info exicted!

  5. what about the thread tht goes around….probably the pocket and side….how do you not get them dyed too??

  6. just dyed my light blue Roxy jeans using 1 gallon boiling water, 1/4 cup salt, 2 Tablespoons Black Tulip Fabric Dye (1/2 pkg.) and 2 Tablespoons Royal Blue Tulip Fabric Dye (1/2 pkg.) Let Jeans Soak 40 min (stirring occasionally) They turned out a perfect dark blue. You can buy the Tulip Fabric Dye from Walmart in the fabric section.

  7. I just dyed my favorite Silver brand capri jeans and they turned out amazing!! The stitching even stayed gold. Thanks so much for the great details on how to do it. I’m thrilled!

  8. I for all time emailed this weblog post page to all my friends,
    for the reason that if like to read it after that my contacts will
    too.

  9. so, what % cotton were the jeans with a little more stretch to them (the ones that turned out better)? Because I have a pair of jeans that I love and they’re 98%. the other two is elasticity. So, I’m wondering if I should go ahead and do it, or not? Also, what “recipe” do you suggest if i don’t want that dark navy, but just a refreshed darker denim color? is 98% cotton low enough to have them turn out well?
    thanks!

  10. Do you think the results would be the same if one used the bottled (liquid) Rit Dye instead of the boxed (powdered) ones? Has anyone tried this out? Thanks for the replies.

  11. I just did this today! I looked up how to do it online (including this page) and went for it! I used 2 Rit Navy and 2 Rit Black boxes of powder dye. I dissolved the dye in 8 cups of boiling water on the stove, filled the washing machine (old top loader) with hot water (enough to cover the jeans), put 1 cup of salt and a dab of laundry detergent into the water, dumped the dye solution in, agitated it for a minute, then put the 3 pairs of jeans in (wet in hot water from the sink). I agitated it all then let it sit for about 1 hour (made sure to poke down all the parts of the jeans that were sticking above the water level with a kitchen utensil). Then just let the cycle finish with an extra cold rinse. They looked super dark so I immediately washed them in hot water with detergent then dried them. They look FABULOUS! I do think they’re slightly (only slightly though) darker than I had wanted so next time I’ll try 3 Navy and 1 Black. I’m so excited! I feel like I just got 3 new pairs of jeans for $6!!!

  12. I think im going to cry! I have about 20 pairs of jeans that have been retired due to there faded appearance.. Im just concerned.. Anyone have sucess with miss me n rock revival jeans?

    • Kimberly Hylton

      This works fine on Miss Me’s but not sure about Rock Revival.. I use Black only because I don’t like the purple look on the thighs from the Navy Blue, they still come out looking blue. The stitching does not dye.. You get longer use of your expensive jeans..

  13. I had typical worn spots on blue jean knees. Bought RIT denim blue dye. Pours small amount into empty hair spray bottle along with small amount of salt; mixed with hottest tap water. Shook bottle. Sprayed on worn spots. Allowed to dry. Repeated where needed. Jeans look great.

  14. Wondering if after you do this process you have to worry about bleeding when putting through the washing machine with other clothes?

    • I didn’t have that problem, but after dyeing and rinsing I washed them inside out (on cold) in the washer at least once.

  15. The Rit dye I bought calls for a cup of salt. I don’t see that anywhere in your blog. Should I use it or not?

    • Sorry for the late reply Mary – I didn’t use salt but I’ve read other posts where they do. I think it helps set the color.

  16. So glad I found this site! I have a pair of jeans that are light blue. Very ugly color, but I love the cut. I hardly ever wear them because of the color. Can they be dyed dark? I think I would actually wear them then.

    • Light blue is a tougher color to dye I think (versus formerly dark jeans that have faded). If you want to risk it, use black and navy dye. More black than navy I think.

  17. Additionally I stirred them in the bucket for about 22-25 minutes. They are very similar in color to the pictures of the 100% cotton jeans you posted.

  18. Dyed my Levis with one package Rit Navy blue and one package black, they’re OK, dark and because they are 100% cotton they do have an over saturated look to them. The yellow stitching looks good IMO. Did them in a bucket with about 4 gallons boiling hot water. I washed then a couple times to try to fade them and then used 1 cup vinegar to set the dye (in the rinse cycle)I am going to try again (Levis Jean Jacket) but will use one package of Navy, Black & Denim. I let you know how it comes out.

  19. Reblogged this on blaxhartbrandclothing and commented:
    this is great

  20. ok well laundry is a bit of a mess, but the jeans look well. I just need to wash/dry them now.

  21. Ok about to dye my faded black jeans, that look more like charcoal grey than black now, black again. I was going to do the washer method but I have a brand new front load washer and was a bit reluctant, so decided to go with the bucket method. Hopefully it works well. My friend got me two packets of the Rit black dye, so see what happens.

  22. This can be used for example in blue chinos?

  23. how is it that the stitching didn’t dye? synthetic I guess? They came out great…I’m gonna dye my Favorite jeans :)

  24. Hi there great tips on how to dye jeans especially levis. I was just wondering if I could use this method to dye my 4 pairs of true religion jeans because I don’t want to buy another 4 pairs because they are very very expensive. If not what could you recommend? Thanks in advance
    Ericson

    • It’s hard to say Ericson…True Religion jeans are really nice (and expensive). The color mixture I give here works best if your jeans have some stretch in them. If your jeans are 100% cotton I would be careful about dying them unless you’re cool with a very overdyed look

  25. Thanx for showing the before and afters. I have had the rit dye for a while yet had a fear of dunking my 130$ jeans at the risk of ruining them past the point of not being willing to wear them. You restored the love of my fave jeans! Thanx!

  26. When you rinsed the jeans, did they stain your tub/sink/washer?

    • No, they didn’t, but that could’ve been the type of tub surface we have. Obviously a stainless steel sink would be ideal, or a workroom/studio sink since they’re often dyed up anyway.

  27. Hey all, I have been dying black jeans forever and here’s what I do: Buy black Ritz dye, 3 boxes per pair of jeans. Fill your washer with HOT HOT water, I pour in a couple gallons of BOILING water. Pour in 1/2 a carton of salt and about 1/2 cup liquid laundry detergent. Add the envelopes of dye. Let the washer agitate to mix all. Add your jeans (I do 5-6 pairs or black tops all at once). Let them agitate a few minutes, then STOP the washer. Let your jeans soak 6-8 hours for best results. Be sure you “poke” them to submerge all parts of the jeans during the soak time. Then turn the washer back on, let it go through the cycle. Then I put it through a COLD WATER rinse. Toss in the dryer, and your jeans will be BLACK again. I have some I have dyed over the years and no problem. Be sure and wipe your washer out well, run a dark load through it before you wash light colors. You can dye jeans and shirts this way! The $ you spend on the dye is waaay cheaper than a new pair of jeans!

    • Thanks for the detailed (and tried-and-true) instructions, Lj!

    • Help!! I just used 1 packet of navy blue and thats all . They now look royal blue!! Can these be fixed? Should I dye them again with black ? Or denim ? Or both? I was going for a dark denim look.(not black).

    • I stumbled upon this looking for tips to dye jeans and need to do a few pairs of black ones myself. I’m curious as to why you used the half cup of laundry detergent with the dye.

  28. just tried this with 1 box of denim dye + 1 box of black of RIT dye (bought @ Michael’s Craft Store) and they look great! used it on a pair of dark jeans that had faded from Banana Republic (98% cotton 2% spandex) saved me from having to drive 2 hours of of town to buy more pairs! thanks! ~

  29. I did this so many times when I was in my teens and twenties to make my jeans dark again. I used washing machine dye and it came out perfect every time. In fact, your post has left me feeling that maybe I have a couple of pairs of jeans that could do with being a bit darker….
    ClaireBear

  30. bedajo@charter.net

    HELP! I used 1/2 bottle of navy and 1/2 bottle of black to dye a pair of Capri pants (stretch). They have a hint of purple to them. Can you help me figure out how to correct this??

    • I haven’t experimented with this to know for certain, but i think that the purplish tinge comes more from the navy than the black. I’d try re-dyeing them in 100% black dye…but that’s just a guess!

    • I think I finally found the solution. Two boxes of black rit and one box jean rit makes them darker and takes the purple tinge away.

      • Hi I dyed a pair of jeans that were originally tied dyed blue and white I purchased them this way, first time dyeing them they turned light purple and dark purple and I used Navy Rit Dye. Then I remove the color with the Rit Color Remover all it did was make the pants a lighter purple. Tried again to dye them and use Navy Rit Dye. At first pants were a dark blue but as I was trying to get the dye out of the clothes the color got lighter and went to a purple and the color is fading and parts of the tied dye are showing through. Please help me with this I really like this pair of jeans. They are about 78% cotton about 24% polyester and about 4% spandex. Please help me with this. I also dyed a light blue sweat shirt with pants and now the sweat shirt is a dark purple with dark spots on it. Also no matter how many times try rinsing the clothes the water is never clear and the sweatshirt and pants are stiff.

  31. hi- i’m curious about why the seams and tags didn’t get dyed, too?
    thanks!

    • I’m not completely sure, but I’m guessing it’s because they’re made of synthetic (not cotton) material.

  32. Pingback: DIY: Painter’s Jeans » Mint Maison

  33. Hi, I dyed my jean following your tutorial but they came out spotty(?) Did you wring your jean while rinsing?
    I wonder if I can dye them again.. please help!

    Thank you

    • Oh no! You got them thoroughly wet (and then wrung them out) before dyeing them, right?

      Don’t see why you can’t dye them again. I wrung them a lot while rinsing too…just kept pushing the water out of them until the water ran clear.

  34. i had to dye three pairs of levis for work, they wanted them darker and i used one packet of navy and one packet of blue and they cam out perfect! thank you so much! you were the only tutorial i trusted with the rit dye. all of the other websites said they would turn purple!! thanks again!!

  35. This blog is about to make my life so much better! Where did you get the dye? And would it work for black jeans?

    • RIT is sold as most big box stores like Walmart, Target, etc. A lot of grocery stores carry basic colors too. I think it would work for black, but you’d have to be really careful about washing them on cold and inside-out afterwards. Black tends to fade into purply shades…

      Has anyone else tried this on black jeans?

    • Update! A commenter on my “About” page wrote that she successfully dyed her jeans black again…she doesn’t have photos but says it worked well.

  36. I love this post. I inherited a great pair of Diesel jeans that had only been worn once or twice – the only problem was that they were a very faded blue/grey color. I went with the same 2 parts navy and 1 part black and they turned out great. 45 minute soak and they look awesome. Similar to your non-stretch pair, the color is uniform throughout, but now they look like something I’ll actually wear.

    Thanks for the tutorial!

  37. This is an awesome and very helpful post, from a midwesterner turned Bostonian no doubt. A woman after my own heart.
    I have a pair of “skinny jeans” that I really like and have a couple more years left in them, but have faded so much that I hardly wear them anymore. Medium/light wash skinny jeans are extremely unflattering. Now that I have some free time, I cannot wait to try this.

  38. Thanks for the helpful post, especially comparing the stretch and 100% cotton jeans with photos:)

    So what made you use black & navy instead of navy alone?

    • The color on the box of navy dye didn’t look deep/dark enough. It was a guess though. If you dye some with 100% navy be sure to post on here or email me at foxflat@gmail.com to let me know how it turns out!

      From what I can tell, RIT makes the navy or black (I’m not sure which…maybe both) with a purplish base. So once the jeans start to fade again they take on a slight purple tinge. That’s the most noticeable downside to this dye. I want to buy the Dharma Fiber Reactive dye (it’s pricier) just to see if it’s noticeably better.

  39. Awesome post. I have some black Levi’s that I want to try this on.

  40. ok a couple of questions: did you use boiling water or just hot water from the sink? and did you just use regular laundry detergent to wash them?

    • I used the hottest water I could get from the shower, and then super-heated it with a couple kettle-fulls of boiling water. I used regular laundry detergent, but definitely washed them inside out on cold/cold. Have you dyed some yet? How did it go?

      • I just got home and put mine in the dryer, but they turned out really dark- i might have used more black than i meant to. I also think that they will still fade a little bit, and i can always wash them right side out in hot water if i think that they are too dark. I ended up using a couple of kettle-fuls of boiling water, and stirred them constantly for 30 min. It took a really long time to rinse them- almost 20 minutes. My friend that was with me as decided to try it as well, and i think we might try a recipe that i saw on yahoo- i packet navy blue, one packet indigo, and one packet black (but we will probably only use half) how do you think that would turn out?

      • Yes, they’ll still probably fade a bit. Too dark is better than not dark enough!

        I would be really interested to hear how the color recipe you described would turn out. Be sure to write on here and let me know. The indigo might be a great addition. I noticed that the RIT navy color is very purple-based, so the indigo might offset it some.

  41. Great tutorial. I followed all the steps and I love the color of my jeans except they are kind of blotchy. Did I do something wrong? Do you have any suggestions for me?

    • If you get the jeans thoroughly soaked (then wrung out) before dunking them in the dye, the dye should work uniformly. That’s the only thing I can think of. If any other readers have had this issue, or have another suggestion, leave a comment!

  42. Hi There, Im about to Dye my jeans and found your post through a desperate search for advice….. How are the jeans wearing? Did the color fade quickly? So curious! Wish me luck.

    Thanks
    Heidi

    • The jeans are wearing really well…they’ve been dyed for almost exactly a year now and are looking about the same. Granted, I usually just wear them on weekends and i ALWAYS wash them on cold, inside-out. But I’ve felt like it was well worth the time and couple bucks of RIT dye :)

      lemme know how yours goes! Esp if you come up with a different “recipe’ for the RIT dye color

  43. Thanks for the before and after pictures. I need to dye a denim dress for my daughter and she wants that darker color that you have on your 100% cotton pair.

    The dress is lighter than your jeans were but if they could come close to the cotton pair she and i would be thrilled.

    thanks again!

    Lara

  44. You would fit in well with my family…everyone sews and is all about reclaiming stuff. Gotta say that I’m impressed with the stretch jeans new color.

    • thanks eric –i will be relieved when dark jeans aren’t in style…they’re high-maintenance! But I’m glad a couple bucks worth of dye brought back at least one of the pairs :)

  45. We got Fiona from the pound at 3 months. They called her a “pastel Tortoiseshell”. I’m sure she had been born outside. There were lots of brothers and sisters but no mother. She’s VERY independent, she doesn’t like to be picked up or hugged (too much anyway); but if you let her come to you she’s very loving and fasinated to be in the same place as humans.

  46. HA! They are definitely look-alikes. Edith has little tiny patches of the same color orange as Fiona. What is her temperament like? Edith is secretly very loving, but keeps up a rough hell’s angels exterior.

  47. :) we have the same cat! :) Your Edith’s rump looks just like my Fiona’s rump, they could be sisters, I’ve got her picture here, http://fiberartcafe.wordpress.com

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