Rust Dyeing




Introduction: Rust Dyeing

Rusty metal is a really interesting material to dye with. It produces a warm orange and brown color and you can make patterns with it. Take a look how I dyed fabric with rusty sheets!

Step 1: Dyeing - What You Need

To dye the fabric with rust, you need:

- Salt

- A spray bottle

- White vinegar

- Fabric (natural fabrics made from, for example, cotton and linen work the best)

- Rusty objects

Step 2: Spray It

The first step is to spray a combination of water and white vinegar on the fabric with the spray bottle. It's important that the fabric is all wet. The white vinegar will speed up the process of the rust coming of the metal and go into the fabric.

Step 3: Create Pattern

To dye the fabric I'm using rusty sheets. By folding the fabric over the plates and put new plates on top I covered the whole piece of fabric. Make sure the fabric stays wet by spraying water and vinegar on the fabric and rusty objects. You can sprinkle some salt over the metal and fabric, salt has the similar effect on rust as the white vinegar.
Make sure the rusty metal is pressing on the fabric by putting some heavy weight objects on top op de metal.

Step 4: Sneak Preview

After a couple of minutes the textile is already absorbing the rust. Try to be patient and wait at least a day/night before you remove all the rusty objects from the fabric.

Step 5: Remove Rusty Objects

After a day or night of absorbing, you can see a pattern of brown, orange and even green colors. Remove all the rusty objects and see the result!

Step 6: Fixing - What You Need

To fix the pattern on the fabric and stop the rusting process, you need:

- Container or bucket filled with hot water

- Salt

- Spoon

Step 7: Fix It

Create a fixing bath by dissolving a spoon of salt in the bucket with hot water. Use this bath to rinse the fabric and to fix the rusty pattern. I used two fixing baths and also rinsed the fabric twice with clean water, without salt.

Step 8: Let It Dry

Let your dyed fabric dry. Let the rusty objects also dry, so you can reuse them.

The fabric is now ready to use! Check out my Instructable about making a Rust Dyed Tote Bag:!



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    25 Discussions

    How would you do this process with not-flat objects, and any idea what it would look like?

    1 reply

    I've seen beautiful patterns made with 3D objects, by wrapping the textile around the object. The result is always unpredictable, but that is part of the fun!

    I really love this! The colors are fantastic.

    It won't fade? How secure is the fix?

    This is pretty cool! Fabric looks amazing. Once I heard that rust corrodes fabric long term. Has anyone heard that before?

    3 replies

    Thank you for your feedback! Although I think that the corrosion doesn't have that much effect on the fabric since it's such a thin layer of rust, I can imagine the fabric will be affected if you wait long enough. I will keep an eye on the fabric and keep you updated if it seems to be affected!

    Iron salts on/in fabrics will destroy them in the long term. It just depends how long you want your article to survive. If you iron stain a pair of jeans you will probably find that they start to disintegrate where the iron was but the chances are you will either have already worn out the jeans by then or will not be too fussed if they finally go in that rag basket. If you intend to do this on a textile you want to last be prepared to see it eventually fall apart.

    Mind you, you get such beautiful effects with this technique that is surely worth doing despite it's chronic effect.

    Hi Jeokevdv! Thanks for you reply. Maybe the salt is enough to stop the corrosion. ? regards!

    To think of all them rusty bits of tin I've thrown away. Wahhhh

    Brilliant idea.

    2 replies

    A bucket of old nails or miscellaneous rusty hardware will work. So will iron filings. You don't have to have flat sheetmetal. Any steel or cast iron objects that aren't plated or stainless steel.

    You've convinced me to try it. Might do something for the grand-kids Xmas pressies. Thanks.

    What is the ratio of vinegar to water?

    This is fantastic! I can think of many craft projects I'd like this rusted fabric for....

    Lovely colors! Have you tried this with animal fiber like wool? I wonder if the mordant and fixer would be different. How would you change this for wool?


    3 years ago

    beautiful effects !!! thanks for sharing!!!