All-Natural Cabbage Dye

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Introduction: All-Natural Cabbage Dye

About: I am a fifteen-year-old foodie and diy-er who always prefers to make than buy. I love cooking, crafting, and eating.

You can use the color-changing (magical?) properties of red cabbage to make a vibrant, natural dye in many different colors. I particularly like the bright blue!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Dye materials:

Red cabbage

Salt

pH adjuster (none needed for purple dye, vinegar for pink, baking soda for blue and green)

Other materials:

Rubber bands

Cloth to dye (I used a large white t-shirt)

Step 2: Chop Cabbage

Using a sharp knife, roughly dice the cabbage into one-inch pieces.

Step 3: Cook Cabbage

Transfer the cabbage to a large pot. Cover it with a few cups of water and sprinkle the top with a layer of salt. The measurements here don't need to be exact, but I used about 3 tablespoons of salt. Boil over high heat for 4-8 hours, or until the mixture has reduced by nearly half and the cabbage has released as much moisture as possible.

Step 4: Strain Cabbage

After cooking, the liquid in the pot should be highly pigmented. Using a sieve, press down on the cabbage to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Save the dye, but discard (or compost) the leftover cabbage.

Step 5: Adjust PH

By itself, the cabbage liquid is a pretty purple color. Acidic vinegar turns the dye pink, while adding alkaline baking soda turns the dye a blue color. If enough baking soda is added, the blue dye will dry a greenish color.

The blue dye was my favorite, so that's what I decided to go with. There's no exact amount for the baking soda, so just add a teaspoon at a time until the dye just starts to lose it's purple tinge.

While the dye doesn't look super vivid at this point, the color will come through by the end.

Step 6: Prepare Cloth

You don't have to fold your cloth, but I used my favorite tie dye technique to showcase the blue pigment.

To do this triangle design, fold the shirt like an accordion until it becomes one long strip, then fold the strip into triangles. By the end, you should have one thick triangle.

Wrap rubber bands over the two side corners of the triangle, as shown above.

Step 7: Dye and Wait

Pour the dye over your cloth, cover it with plastic wrap, and let sit for at least 24 hours. If your cloth is not fully submerged, flip it over halfway through.

Step 8: Rinse and Enjoy!

After soaking, rinse any excess dye or cabbage particles that might be on your cloth. At first, the color may look a bit dull, but once you start rinsing and unfolding it, the bright color will start to come through.

I was shocked at how bright the color looked once I went outside! You can really see how vibrant it is in the natural light.

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    10 Discussions

    I tried this, and the color was great. The only problem is that it disappeared after one wash. I think this would work well for art projects, like tie dye and batik. Unless someone knows how to fix it, it won't work for clothes.

    Nicely done instructable! Please let us know how the color holds up with ensuing wearing and washing.

    Does this hold up to regular HE detergent? Thanks!

    Four hours on high heat with little water seems like a very risky undertaking for most people. You wouldn't dare leave the kitchen while doing that! I'm thinking a crock pot overnight (or longer) would be a lot safer and just as effective. Great Instructable, though! I plan to try this with my 8-yr-old grandson.

    How will it act when you wash the shirt? Does it bleed onto your other clothes? Can you "set" the color in the shirt to stay? Love the idea of natural dye. Nice instructable.

    This is awesome! Go Natural!

    Dyeing with natural materials is great, however some are very temporary (called 'fugitive' since they disappear) and cabbage is one of them. A much better choice would be cochineal as it is very lightfast. It is also very receptive to PH. Also to make a dye stay the fabric needs to be prepared properly and mordanted.

    This is Ancient Chinese craft,named ZaRan

    What a great post. I love to tie dye and to use cabbage juice to teach chemistry. I never thought to combine the two things. How stable is the dye? What happens if you wash your cloth in bleach after it has dyed?

    1 reply

    I haven't bleached it at all, but so far since rinsing it seems ok! Because it's a natural dye that's not super concentrated, I don't think bleach would be a good idea, though.