How to Dye Fabric With Onion Skins – (Full Guide)

Last Updated on August 5, 2023

Discover the process to dye fabric with onion skins: If you love all things natural and eco-friendly and enjoy exploring creative ways to reduce waste and create something beautiful. In that case, we have an exciting and rewarding project for you – learning how to dye fabric with onion skins!

How to Dye Fabric With Onion Skins
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Here, we’ll show you how to transform onion skins, a commonly discarded food waste, into stunning shades of orange to dye your textiles. It’s our favorite method to achieve deep, rich, and all-natural colors that will make your fabric look truly unique and vibrant.

Can I dye fabric with onion skins?

Yes, you can dye fabric with onion skins. Onion skins, especially those from red and brown onions, are rich in tannins, making them a great natural dye source for producing beautiful earthy colors.

Advantage of using onion skins as a dye

The advantage of using onion skins as a dye is that they are suitable for beginners, as they do not require a mordant, especially when working with cellulose fibers like cotton or linen.

So, if you have some onion skins and want to try your hand at natural fabric dyeing, it’s a great option to explore!

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How to Dye fabric with onion skins

So, how do you dye fabric with onion skins naturally? I’m Tersia and welcome to this guide on naturally dyeing fabrics with onion skins. I’m thrilled to share this simple and sustainable dyeing technique with you.

Material Needed – What do we need before start?

To get started, you’ll need just a few things for this project:

  • Onion skins – Gather onion skins from red and orange onions. If you can find a friendly vegetable shop that saves them for you, that’s even better!
  • Fabric – Choose the textiles you want to dye. I’ll be dyeing silk, cotton scarves, and bamboo silk for this demonstration.
  • Dye pots – Aluminum dye pots work well as an extra mordant for the fabric.
  • Water – You’ll need water for simmering the onion skins and dyeing the fabric.
  • Preparing the fabric – If you haven’t already, pre-mordant your fabric with alum acetate for an even color uptake.

Step by step Guide

Now, let’s get started with the dyeing process!

Step 1: Preparation

sorting out your onion skins
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Start by sorting out your onion skins, separating red and orange ones. Rinse the onion skins to remove any dirt or impurities. Now, choose a dye pot for each type of onion skin.

Step 2: Extracting the Dye

Extracting the Dye
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Fill the dye pots with water and add the onion skins. Let them simmer for a couple of hours on low heat. You’ll notice the colors extracted from the skins, with the red ones producing a pinkish hue and the orange ones giving off a yellowish tint.

Step 3: Preparing the Fabric

Preparing the Fabric
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While the dye pots simmer, prepare your fabric for dyeing. Ensure it has been pre-mordanted with alum acetate. Give it a good soak for at least two hours to ensure even color absorption.

Step 4: Dyeing the Fabric

Dyeing the Fabric
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Once your fabric is ready, choose which fabric goes into which dye pot. You can experiment with different patterns and techniques to create unique designs on your fabric. Place the fabric in the dye pots and let them simmer again for an hour, stirring regularly to ensure even dye distribution.

Step 5: Letting the Magic Happen

Letting the Magic Happen
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After simmering, allow the fabric to sit overnight in the dye pots, soaking up the rich natural colors.

Step 6: Straining and Drying

Straining and Drying
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The next day, strain the onion skins from the dye pots. Rinse your dyed fabrics in cold water and spin them in the washing machine to remove excess water.

Step 7: Final Touches

How to Dye Fabric With Onion Skins
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Dry your fabrics, iron them, and let them sit for a few days before washing them again. This will allow the colors to set and intensify.

How many onion skins to dye fabric?

The number of onion skins needed to dye fabric is generally collected in a 1:1 ratio with the weight of the fabric. For instance, if you have 100 grams of fabric, you should collect approximately 100 grams of onion skins.

However, onion skins are very lightweight when dried, so you might need to collect more onion skins than you initially thought. The exact quantity may vary depending on the intensity of the color desired and the specific type of fabric being dyed.

What color does onion skin dye produce?

Onion skin dye, made from yellow onion skins, is known for producing a range of warm hues, including golden, yellow, and orange tones. The dye tends to take on a more vibrant and intense appearance when applied to animal-based fibers such as silk and wool.

However, its effect on plant-based fibers like linen and cotton may be less pronounced, resulting in softer and less saturated colors. Compared to other natural dyes, onion skin dye is relatively colorfast, meaning its colors are more resistant to fading over time.

As a natural and sustainable dye option, onion skin dye offers a beautiful and versatile range of colors for various fiber-based projects.

Is onion skin dye permanent?

Yes, onion skin dye is considered a great permanent dye, especially when used on wool and silks (animal proteins). It can also work on other fabrics like linen, hemp, ramie, and cotton, although the permanence may vary depending on the fabric type and dyeing process.

Does onion skin dye fade?

Yes, onion skin dye is relatively light- and wash-fast even without a mordant, and it can provide a natural tie-dye effect. Remember that all natural dyes, including onion skin dye, will eventually fade over time.

Is onion skin dye colorfast?

Yes, onion skin dye is relatively colorfast compared to other natural dyes. It is particularly effective in dyeing animal-based fibers like silk and wool, yielding good results. However, the intensity of the dye may be less pronounced when used on plant-based fibers such as linen and cotton.


There you have it! Your fabrics are now beautifully dyed with all-natural onion skins, giving them a unique and earthy charm. Embrace the beauty of nature’s gifts and wear your creations with pride. So next time you’re cooking with onions, don’t discard those skins; instead, use them to dye your fabrics and enjoy the rich rewards of sustainable and creative living.

@sophievautour8573 Told About this process: “I finished my first pair of peel, husk and autumn leaf dyed pants today. I mordanted with soy even if pomegranat hushs were in the dyepot along with every onion skin i could find. What a process!”

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