Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What You Can't Dye with Food Coloring

In my various yarn dyeing videos and tutorials, I always mention what you can and cannot dye with food coloring, and I decided that it was time to actually show what works with these methods.  In the following video, I attempt to dye 100% wool, 100% cotton and 100% acrylic yarns in one pot.

As expected, the 100% wool took up color extremely well and the 100% acrylic yarn did not take any color.  Surprisingly, the cotton obtained a stained appearance that I was unable to wash out during the course of filming.  In comparison to the wool, the cotton received significantly less color.  There are much more reliable methods for dyeing cotton to get vibrant colors (such as a Tulip Tie Dye Kit) and I would recommend trying these rather than wasting a lot of food coloring and vinegar.  


  1. This is an interesting and scientific knitting experiment. Well done!

    1. Thanks! I like doing experiments based on questions I get here and on the youtube channel. :)

  2. Wow! What a difference! Would using a different recipe for cotton make a difference? I've read about alum on other sites, but no recipes are given. It also doesn't seem safe for cats and a toddler to be near. I'd LOVE to see the video for that!

    Thanks for all the info!

    1. Cotton and other plant fibers require different chemical conditions to dye. You can purchase "acid dyes" (which use similar techniques to my videos) and those tend to not work on cotton either.

      I've dyed cotton using conventional tie dyeing kits (i.e. for Tshirts) with great success. I have not tried to die it using any types of mordants (like alum) and I'm not sure if even that would work with food coloring.

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