Dyeing Acrylic: How to Dye Acrylic Yarn Without Ruining It

Unfortunately, there is no automatic color change when it comes to fabrics. You have to be hands-on and watch every step of the process and even if you do that you may not have a successful result.

The best way to dye acrylic is to use what is called a disperse dye. This option uses heat so you have to be careful when you put the acrylic fabric into the hot water and dye mixture. The drawback to this option is that it will not produce vibrant colors.

To learn more about dyeing acrylic materials just continue to read our article. It has that information and more. Just be forewarned that synthetic fibers like acrylic do not accept changes very well and your results may not be as you expected.

Does Acrylic Dye Well?

Not really and even if you use the disperse dye made for acrylic your results may not be as good as you would like them to be. Synthetic fibers are notorious for rejecting new dye colors and it takes a lot to get the job done correctly.

The best color to dye when wanting to change your acrylic fabrics is to go with a light color. Even if you do that your results may end up with a pale or a medium tint to it. Then the thing about acrylic colors and materials is that the color is added before the polymers are spun into fibers and then woven into fabrics.

What that means is that the color goes right through the material and there is no light or white color underneath. What you see is what you get no matter how you cutup acrylic materials.

Be prepared to spend some time doing the dyeing process as acrylic fibers are not like natural ones which readily accept color changes.

Can You Tie-dye Acrylic Yarn?


The best that can be said about this dyeing option is you can try. It is hard enough trying to dye acrylic with one color, adding more may be next to impossible. The reason for that is that the dispersed dyes that work with acrylic need lots of hot water and soaking time to make the color transition.

Then the dyeing process for basic dyes, if they work at all, is long and very complicated. Both methods use hot water and direct heat on acrylic or other synthetics that often melt the plastic fibers.

On top of that water-based dyes do not work well with oil-based fabrics. As you were taught in elementary school, oil and water do not mix. Tie-dyeing has enough difficulties without adding the problems that come with using synthetic materials.

It is best to leave tie-dyeing options to natural fibers that accept color changes well and do not need a lot of time to absorb the new color. With the need for heat, acrylic may distort on you or melt away.

This link shows you the result of tie-dyeing acrylic.

What Dye Works On Acrylic Yarn?

The one that seems to work the best on acrylic is disperse dye. This is not a water-soluble type of dye that easily dissolves in water. It needs high temperatures to dissolve, roughly over 250 to 300 degrees F.

This style of dye is sold as a powder and they were made specifically to change synthetic materials’ colors. You do not want to use a reactive dye as those options are designed to be used with natural fibers like cotton and wool.

Then disperse dyes need to be applied in acidic conditions which may not be suitable for home use. The good thing about this type of dye is that it is fairly inexpensive. That means if you want to try to do this at home, you won’t lose a lot of money if it fails.

But most people recommend that you let professionals handle dyeing acrylic and other synthetic materials as they are better prepared if something goes wrong.

Acrylic Dyes


The best way to describe this option is for you to carefully read the labels on the different dye products sold at the various craft, fabric, and department stores. Like fabrics, they are not all the same and you can ruin one fabric by using the wrong dye and the wrong dye method.

The types of dyes you want to stay away from are reactive, acid, and all-purpose dyes. These do not work on synthetic fibers like acrylic or you do have some success, the color change will not last.

These dyes should wash away and as they disappear they usually leave a stain. To find the right dye, you need to see on the label the words ‘acrylic dye’. If it says anything else, you should not pick up that bottle or powder.

Then even if you find the right dye, you still have a long process to go through and once that is done you may be disappointed in how the new color looks.

What do You Dye Acrylic Yarn With?

We have already talked about disperse dyes so you are now well aware that those types of dyes are okay to use on acrylic. There is one other type of dye that may work and give you a better color than disperse dyes will.

Sadly, the process is longer than the disperse dye process so make sure you block out enough time so you do not get rushed or distracted. Basic or cationic dyes will provide nice deep color hues on acrylic which is why it is a very popular option to use.

What makes basic dyes work is that there is an electrostatic reaction when dyeing the material and that reaction helps adhere the color to the fabric. When you wash your newly dyed clothing items, the color should remain. The process creates a strong bond between dye and fibers.

The drawback of using basic dyes is that they are toxic and have been known to be carcinogenic. When you use this option make sure to follow safety precautions to protect yourself from these toxic and cancer-causing properties.

But don’t get alarmed or afraid, the cancer or other illnesses caused by the toxic ingredients won’t happen tomorrow or the next day. It would take some time for those problems to appear.

How to Dye Acrylic Yarn With Food Coloring

According to one expert, you cannot use food coloring to dye synthetic yarns. The color should wash out the first time you put the clothing item into your washer. What they say is that food coloring works as a dye only if your fabric is 100% from animals.

However, it is possible to dye acrylic with food coloring if it is in a blend. The fabric it should be blended with is wool. Here is what you need to do:

  • 1. mix 8 cups of water with 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar, along with the amount of food coloring you want.
  • 2. add more food coloring as it will only be the wool that absorbs the color.
  • 3. place everything in a pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn to simmer when that happens and add your yarn.
  • 4. put the lid back on and lower the heat, letting the yarn stay in the bath for about 20 to 30 minutes. Or when the color is gone from the dye bath
  • 5. turn off the heat at this point and let the yarn cool. When cool, rinse in lukewarm water and mild soap until the water runs clear.​
  • 6. hang the yarn to dry.

How to Dye Acrylic Yarn With Tea


It may be possible to do this as tea may stain acrylic material, just like some vegetables, fruits, and coffee can. But most likely the results you will get will be dull, unexciting, and should fade fairly quickly.

Tea is not a disperse dye nor is it a toxic basic dye. You may not get the color to stick because you may not have the right equipment at home nor reach those high temperatures needed to make the dyeing process work.

Acrylic fibers will not change because tea is used as a dye. It may not soak up the liquid and if it does it will not hold onto it. if you try you may want to use a pressure cooker to force the tea into the fibers and use about 40 tea bags.

We cannot promise you will have success as acrylic is very hard to dye with non disperse dyes and non-basic dyes. Acrylic needs extreme heat to work when it is 100%. If it is in a blend then your results will be better as the natural fibers in the blend will soak up the tea color and change color.

If it is a blended fabric, then follow the steps given in the previous section to make it work. Just steep the tea first before adding the yarn.

Dyeing Acrylic Yarn With Kool-Aid

You can try but if the material is 100% acrylic then the color will probably wash right out in the rinse portion of the dyeing process. You want 100% animal fiber if you are going to use kool-aid as a dye.

When you use kool-aid you want the unsweetened kind. We say you can try as you may only want the color change to be temporary. For example, a Halloween costume or a costume for a party that requires attendees to come as their favorite __________.

Dyeing synthetic yarn with anything other than the approved dyes is asking for trouble and you end up wasting your time. Synthetic fibers are very difficult to change color and you need extreme temperatures that may not be produced on your home stove.

Some people use a microwave but even that may not help dye acrylic. the instructions we saw using a microwave did not use acrylic and specifically said not to use acrylic.

Will Rit Dye Acrylic?


Yes, it is possible to dye acrylic with Rit but you have to read the labels beyond the words Rit Dye. This company makes a variety of fabric dyes and you have to look for those words that say it will work on acrylic fibers.

Using an all-purpose dye, a reactive or acid option will not help you. Those are other words you need to not see when trying to find a dye for your acrylic materials. Those words apply to 100% acrylic materials.

If you have a blend of acrylic and natural fibers, doesn’t matter which one, you may have more options at your disposal. Again, you should read the labels to make sure the words ‘do not use with acrylic blends’ do not appear anywhere.

There is very little that is worse than buying the wrong product only to find out it is wrong when you get home. if you are in doubt, you should ask the sales clerk for help. Cross your fingers as not all sales clerks are knowledgeable on dyes and other fabric issues.

Can You Dye Acrylic With Dylon?

Generally, this company only makes dyes for natural fibers like cotton, wool, and so on. They do not make dyes for synthetic fibers but according to their UK website, it is possible to dye polyester if it is in a blend.

Of course, the larger the synthetic fiber content the less dye will be absorbed. The blends that do work with Dylon dyes are polyester cotton, polyester viscose, and silk linen.

The reason viscose can be dyed using Dylon dye is that it has a natural fiber core and that core soaks up the dye quite well. Acrylic does not have a natural fiber core thus it will reject Dylon dye or let it be washed out right away.

Dylon dyes also do not work with lycra, spandex, nylon, Goretex, 100% polyester, and other synthetic fibers. So acrylic is not the lone excluded fabric in this case. All-purpose dyes do not mean all fabrics, just in case you did not know that.

Can You Dye Acrylic Yarn With Coffee?


Like tea, coffee does stain acrylic fabric so there is some hope in changing a light-colored acrylic item into a coffee-colored one. But do not get your hopes up too high as the principles that stop tea and other dyes from working properly on acrylic will stop coffee as well.

If you have any success the color may be duller than you wanted and it may not last very long. it will either washout or it will fade fairly soon. You would have better success if the acrylic item you wanted to be dyed was a blend with natural fibers.

When you try coffee try to use a lot of coffee grounds and make the beverage nice and strong. You may need to soak it for a long time before you see any color change. The catch for coffee and tea is that prolonged exposure to direct heat may distort the acrylic item you are trying to change.

This is what makes dyeing acrylic and other synthetic materials so tricky. It is like you are dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.

How to Dye Acrylic Sweater

This process requires the right dyes to be used. There are no real alternatives to dye acrylic to a different color. The best way to instruct you is to tell you to follow the directions carefully that are printed on the packages the dyes come in.

Dyeing acrylic is tricky, risky, and difficult and many people just do not have the extreme heat sources or equipment needed to dye acrylic fabrics. The right dyes are a disperse dye in the color you want or a basic dye in the same color.

The drawbacks that come with using those approved dyes is that your sweater will not look vibrant or bright for disperse dyes, and they may shrink, melt, distort, or just get ruined like the one we linked to above.

If you are going to go ahead and do this, make sure to wash the sweater first, heat the dyes while the sweater is being cleaned. Make sure the dyes dissolve completely. Then add the acrylic material and soak for about 30 minutes while the water is boiling.

Let everything cool, then drain and rinse. Once done wash as normal.

Some Final Words

We have said it again and again. If you want to change the color of synthetic materials, buy a new one in that color. The trouble you go through dyeing it is not worth the time nor the effort. Acrylic is very difficult to dye right and your results may have you throwing the item away.

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