Has anyone tried to stain concrete with shoe polish, hair dye, or other household substances?

I am casting small concrete panels for Xmas presents. I like the look of stain more than integral color, and am wondering if there are options to stain the pieces outside of commercial acid stains. The pieces will be decorative only, and not need to stand up to wear and tear like floors, countertops, or even coasters would. Would like to hear about unsuccessful attempts as well.


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 I've used both black and brown boot polish on concrete sculpture castings, (Using a toothbrush for the more intricate areas), and found it to be an effective stain.
I have tried this on a small corner in my garage just to see how it would look, and I wasn't a big fan of the result. When I decide to do an acid stain floor, I think I will follow another instructable that I found on here!
liamm13205 years ago
My friend is going to love this, he's had some major problems with concrete acid stains and I don't know if he knows how to deal with it. Now I can sound smart and tell him how to get rid of them.
ZAR would stain is my choice of stain on most things. I've even used it on PVC quite successfully. A 1/2 pt. does 200/300 sq.ft. and you can faux with it. That said, I've recently bought the powdered tempra paint that we used to have in elementary school and mixed with water. I've been experimenting putting it in concrete as well as "staining" with it. Works pretty well. The trouble is finding the stuff anymore. I finally ordered it over the internet from a discount school supplies website.
Owlman76 (author) 8 years ago
Thanks all for the tips!
Concrete is hard NOT to stain !

Owlman76 (author)  steveastrouk8 years ago
Steve and Bigev-
   I know too well how easy it is to stain accidentally - I'm looking for stuff that I have some control over...

I'm planning on fooling around with a few things - keeping an eye out for hidden pitfalls and wastes of time.

Burf8 years ago
You can mix the clothing dye, Rit in powder form, with the concrete as you mix it. If the concrete has already set, the Rit liquid dye will work but the color variations will be hard to predict and it may look blotchy on some pieces.
Owlman76 (author)  Burf8 years ago
Thanks! Never thought of RIT...
Bigev8 years ago
Steveastrouk is pretty much on. My basement has stains of wood stain, paint, marker, blood (nasty accident, trust me). I say try whatever color you want, let it sit for a bit, and wipe it off to see the result.
seandogue8 years ago
I've used common dirt and charcoal as a surface coloring to blend mortar repairs into existing joints to reduce that gray/white color that new portland gives.  Ages it a bit and doesn't really compromise the strength too much...just distresses it a bit.

When I've actually colored concrete, I've used dyes made for the task.
 Concrete is very porous, it will adsorb almost any color--water colors, oil colors, felt-tip marker, and Rit dye, as Burf says.

When it sets it is a bit alkaline.  It might be a good idea to wash it first to and let it dry before coloring.