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What happens if you use rit on polyester?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric made from petroleum that is used in a wide variety of clothing and household items. It is a popular fabric choice because it is inexpensive, durable, wrinkle resistant, and retains its shape well. However, polyester is not as breathable as natural fibers like cotton and can show wear over time. Using RIT dye on polyester can help refresh faded polyester garments or fabrics, but there are some things to keep in mind.

How RIT Dye Works on Polyester

RIT dye is a popular all-purpose dye that can be used to dye natural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk as well as synthetics like nylon and polyester. RIT dye works by forming a chemical bond with the molecules in the fabric. For polyester, it binds to the plastic polymer chains that form the polyester material.

When dyeing polyester, RIT recommends using their line of polyester-specific dyes. These are specially formulated to adequately penetrate and bond with synthetic fibers. They typically come in convenient one-step formulas that only require adding the dye, salt, and soaked garment to hot water for full saturation of color.

Results of Dyeing Polyester with RIT

Using RIT dye on polyester can produce some great results. The dyed polyester takes on vivid, even color. The color also holds up well on polyester over time and maintain its hue even after multiple washes. Some potential outcomes of dyeing polyester fabric or clothing with RIT dye include:

  • Deep, saturated color that brings faded garments back to life
  • The ability to change the color completely for an updated look
  • No need to worry about the original color bleeding through
  • The polyester maintains its original texture even after being dyed
  • Minimal loss of stretch or shape in garments after dyeing polyester

With good technique, RIT dye allows for vibrant results on polyester that look professionally dyed. Many RIT shades for polyester also offer washing machine permanency when proper fixing techniques are followed.

Challenges of Dyeing Polyester with RIT

While RIT dyes make it possible to dye polyester, there are some unique challenges that make it more difficult than dyeing natural fibers:

  • Polyester resists accepting dye easily. It often requires very high water temperatures nearing the boil and extended dyeing times.
  • The smooth surface of polyester fibers prevents thorough dye absorption, which can lead to uneven results.
  • Prewashing and scouring is not an option with polyester to improve dye takeup.
  • White spots or light areas may persist even after attempting to redye.
  • Some polyester garments come with a coating that resists dye absorption.
  • Colors can fade more over time on polyester than on cotton.

To achieve uniform, vibrant results, following the package directions very closely and expect to spend more time pre-soaking and rinsing the polyester is essential. Using a hotter dye bath and constantly agitating the polyester for the first 5-10 minutes can also help the dye properly penetrate the fibers.

Dyeing Process for Polyester Using RIT Dye

Here is an overview of the typical dyeing process when using RIT dye on polyester:

  1. Select a polyester-specific RIT dye: Choose a formula made for synthetics like Polyester, for Fiber-Reactive dyes for synthetics, or One-Step Fashion dyes.
  2. Wash and dry the polyester: Pretreat with detergent in hot water. Rinse thoroughly and air dry.
  3. Soak the polyester: Wet it with warm water and soak for at least 30 minutes before dyeing for best results.
  4. Make the dye bath: Fill a pot with enough hot water to fully submerge the polyester according to package directions. Add the dye packet and stir to dissolve.
  5. Add the wet polyester: Put the soaked polyester into the pot and stir constantly for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Maintain heat: Keep the dye bath at a temperature just below boiling for 30-60 minutes for standard 2% strength RIT formulas. Check frequently.
  7. Remove and rinse: Rinse with cool running water until the water runs clear. Check for any remaining dye.
  8. Wash and dry: Wash in hot soapy water then air or machine dry.

It is crucial to keep the polyester moving in the hot dye bath to ensure full penetration of color into every fiber. For garments, this means repeatedly moving, rotating, and turning them to expose all sides evenly to the dye. Using a thermometer helps maintain the right temperature range.

Tips for Successful Results Dyeing Polyester

Follow these tips when working with RIT dyes on polyester:

  • Use acidic dye formulas designed specifically for polyester.
  • Scour natural fiber content first for fabric blends.
  • Sort garments by color family so dye needed is minimized.
  • Stir constantly for the first 5-10 minutes for uniform dyeing.
  • Keep temperatures 180°F-195°F for optimal even penetration.
  • Rinse in cool water until all excess dye is removed.
  • Wash dyed items separately the first few washes.
  • Use salt in the dye bath to increase depth of shade.

Taking these extra steps helps polyester better accept the RIT dye for brilliant, even coloring with minimal chance of defects or inaccuracies. Using extra dyeboost powder can also help drive more dye into the polyester in less time.

What Colors Take Best on Polyester

Color Dyeability on Polyester
Reds Excellent, deep and vibrant
Blues Good, slightly muted
Yellows Fair, can look pale
Oranges Very good, needs darker shade
Greens Good depth possible
Purples Fair to good depending on shade
Browns Good, rich depth of shade
Black Excellent, avoids a washed out gray

In general, darker, more intense shades achieve the best results on polyester over lighter pastels. Reds, oranges, blacks and other saturated colors are good bets for even dyeing with no white spots or washed out areas.

Special Considerations for Clothing

When dyeing polyester clothing like shirts, pants, coats, and dresses, a few special factors come into play:

  • Garment seams may resist dye absorption more than the rest of the material.
  • Areas of wear like collars and cuffs will show the old color underneath.
  • White buttons and zippers will remain unaffected.
  • Some lining fabrics or interfacing may not accept dye.
  • Stretch can be reduced in elastic-containing items.

To help minimize these issues, carefully inspecting garments beforehand is recommended. Consider if worn areas could be covered up by the new dye color or might stand out. Tightly woven polyester usually dyes most evenly. Try dyeing a test swatch first to predict final results.

What Items Can Be Dyed

Many common polyester products can be successfully dyed with good technique:

  • Clothing: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, jackets
  • Accessories: hats, scarves, bags, backpacks
  • Blankets, comforters, sheets, drapes
  • Tablecloths, placemats, curtains
  • Costume elements: capes, masks, wigs
  • Fabric by the yard to create new items

Items with polyester blends can also be dyed, but the polyester may take up more dye than the natural fibers. Caring for polyester properly after dyeing is also essential to maximize the longevity of the color.

Caring for Dyed Polyester Items

To keep your dyed polyester clothing or fabrics looking vibrant, follow these care instructions:

  • Wait 1-2 days before first wash post-dyeing.
  • Wash in cold or warm water, not hot.
  • Use mild detergent without bleach.
  • Avoid fabric softener which could coat fibers.
  • Line dry or dry on low heat setting.
  • Wash similar colors together.
  • Use a color catcher sheet to prevent transfer.
  • Spot clean as needed between washes.

With proper care, the new color achieved on polyester with RIT dye can look amazing for many washes. Taking extra care early on helps set the color so it can become wash-permanent.


Dyeing polyester fabric or clothing with RIT dye allows you to refresh old items with vibrant new color. However, polyester can be more challenging to dye evenly compared to natural fibers. Using high heat, constantly moving the items, and recipes specifically formulated for synthetics are keys to success. With some patience and the right techniques, RIT dyes can give faded polyester a bold, beautiful makeover.