If you want to change the color of a couch or chair, Can Furniture Be Dyed Successfully?
Changing the color of a shirt, pants, shoes, or other fabrics is as easy as dyeing them. But what do you do with a chair or couch with stains or patterns you want to hide?
Pre-made slipcovers don’t always fit every furniture shape or come in the colors and patterns you want. Throws and blanket-style covers don’t stay in place and can look sloppy when they shift on furniture.
People today do everything from dyeing furniture to using special fabric paint to change their furniture’s colors.
An unsuccessful dye job can ruin expensive furniture and require a cover or even the purchase of a new piece.
You can dye furniture successfully if it has suitable fabric and you take care to use the right kind of dye. But dyeing isn’t always the best option and can do more harm than good if misused.
Some fabrics won’t take color well or will accept only certain types of dye.
A few different things can go wrong when you try to dye furniture. If the fabric doesn’t accept dye, the color will be uneven.
People who sit on the chair or couch could experience color transfer to their clothing.
The dye application could also shrink the fabric if it’s not pre-shrunk, causing wrinkles and a stretched look. Before you buy dye, check to make sure the upholstery fabric is pre-shrunk.
If the fabric is from plant fibers like hemp or cotton, your dye needs to be fiber-reactive.
You’ll need an acid dye that contains a fixative to successfully dye wool, silk, and some fabrics that have nylon.
Tip: Test the dye on a small, hidden spot of fabric before attempting to dye the entire piece of furniture.
An all-purpose dye like Rit can dye all those fabrics, but the company recommends against using it to dye most furniture.
Typically, when you dye fabric with Rit, you need to rinse the dye out thoroughly. This step is nearly impossible to perform on most furniture.
Some have successfully set the dye with a hairdryer after “rinsing” the upholstery using a fabric steamer that sprays water on the surface and immediately sucks it out.
The best way to dye furniture with an all-purpose dye like Rit is to remove the fabric, dye it, and have the furniture reupholstered with the dyed fabric.
This method prevents damage to the cushions and ensures that you’ll rinse any extra dye out.
No matter what kind of dye you use, you need to be able to remove as much as possible or heat set it to prevent it from transferring onto clothing, especially if it’s a red, black, or dark-colored dye.
Tip: Wear gloves when dyeing furniture. The dye will stain your hands in the same way it stains fabric.
If you’re ready to dye furniture with Rit or other fabric dyes, take the furniture outside when the weather is dry and warm.
Thinner furniture works best because you’ll spray it with a garden hose after painting it. Smoother fabric like microfiber also holds the dye better than rough fabrics like corduroy.
When the water runs clear, all the excess dye is gone. You can use a handheld carpet cleaner to suck as much water out as possible.
Tip: Spray on a color fixative designed for use after dying fabric before letting the furniture dry.
If you’re doing it indoors or dyeing thick upholstery that you don’t want to saturate with a hose, apply the die and spray it with plain water until very wet.
Then use a handheld carpet cleaner to suck the water out.
Spray and use the cleaner to remove water until the water runs clear, then apply a fixative and allow the furniture to dry. You can also use a hairdryer to “heat-set” the color.
You shouldn’t attempt this the first time on an expensive piece of furniture because the dye might not take evenly or look the way you want despite your best efforts.
Find a hidden spot on the furniture where you can remove a piece of fabric to test. Choose another place where you can apply dye while the material is on the furniture.
It’s better to cut a piece of it than discover that the dye won’t take during the project.
People who want to change the color of their furniture can paint it instead of using dye.
While paint generally covers well to hide ugly patterns or stains, painting furniture has a few potential drawbacks.
Things to know before you start:
- Rough fabrics take more paint and can dry hard.
- Some materials and paints might require sanding between coats.
- Painted upholstery can flake and crack over time.
Can furniture be dyed successfully with paint?
Some people who’ve had good results using paint have used watered-down chalk paint on their furniture. By watering the paint down, it’s less likely to dry hard and crack when you sit on it.
Tip: Use a spray bottle to thoroughly wet the fabric before applying paint to avoid it drying hard.
Others have mixed a few tablespoons of liquid fabric softener into the paint they chose to prevent cracking.
A fixative or sealer applied and allowed to dry will prevent paint from rubbing off or transferring onto your clothes.
If you’d prefer not to try methods that the dye and paint manufacturers warn against, you can purchase spray bottles of fabric paint to apply to your furniture, like the Tulip brand spray.
This type of spray fabric paint won’t rub off on clothing and stays soft after drying.
Tulip designed the formula to work on upholstery without covering the fabric’s weave as other paints might.
The biggest drawbacks to using this spray fabric paint are:
- Usually available in only a small selection of colors
- It typically takes more than one coat
- A can will only cover about one square yard
Because the cans don’t go far, dyeing your couch a different color could require several cans, making the project more expensive than using dye or other paints.
Buy more cans than you need to ensure you don’t run out during the project. Save the receipt and return unused bottles, or save them for touch up and refreshers later if the color starts to fade.
Tip: Move furniture outside on a windless day to avoid overspray in the house.
Always consider using a fixative or sealer after dyeing or painting fabric to help prevent the color from wearing off or staining clothing.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about dyeing furniture.
Dyeing the removable covers is like dyeing other fabrics. Remove them, wash them, and follow the dye instructions about submerging and dyeing them properly.
Estimate how much the fabric weighs dry (or remove it and see how much it weighs, if possible). One bottle of liquid dye typically colors two pounds of material before washing.
Choose an acrylic paint in the shade slightly brighter or darker than the furniture and add a couple of bottles of textile medium to the paint.
Follow the product’s instructions for the proper ratios.
Apply the mixture in straight lines, then allow the furniture to dry for at least three days. Spray the paint over the furniture for the second coat, then allow it to dry.
As you can see, you can dye furniture successfully as long as you make sure the fabric is suitable for dyeing and you’re willing to put in the work to do a good job.
If you can find the color you want, spray fabric paint may be the most successful way to change furniture color.
Because they designed the paint for fabric, it shouldn’t dry hard, crack, or flake off the material.
Chairs or couches with removable fabric make it easy to dye the fabric while off the furniture. This method offers the best chance of even color and no excess dye to rub off on clothing.