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We can’t have a sustainable fashion conversation without talking about dyes and the dyeing process which can be super toxic for both out health and the health of our mother Earth. After noticing a flood of tie dye outfits on our Instagram feeds we decided it might be a good time to bring this up. In case you’re planning to dye an old white tee or if you’re looking to become a more mindful shopper take some notes.

Most commercial dyes are synthetic and they are made of chemical compounds that can be harmful to humans, even more so to those working in making your clothes. Some of the chemicals that can be found in these dyes are: chromium, copper, chloride, mercury, led, benzene and toluene. Azo-dyes which are commonly used in dyeing fabric have been linked to cancer and they have been banned or restricted in places like the EU and California.

Another big issues with these dyes is water pollution.  As Fashion Revolution explains, post-production water containing residual dye and chemicals is thrown into water streams untreated, frequently through pipes which cannot be traced back to the factories. These toxins then enter our rivers and oceans.

An alternative to these harmful dyes are some vegetable or plant-based dyes. There is still controversy with some plant-based dyes on a larger scale. Some of them are not able to adhere to clothing well requiring toxic chemical compounds in order to do so (and defeating the purpose of using plant-based dyes in the first place). Also, some of these natural raw materials are harvested in non-sustainable way, which is clearly not ideal.

If you’re looking to becoming more conscious on your fashion habits we would suggest one of these three options: 1) buy natural-toned clothing that has not gone through a dyeing process, 2) buy from smaller transparent brands that have control over their supply-chain and production process, 3) dye your own clothes (you can even host a Tie Dye brunch party).

If you’re planning to do this at home, here are some eco-friendly dyes made from plants and vegetables:

Onion skin

This vegetable can help dye fabrics into shades of yellow and even green

Link to tutorial


Logwood produces violets, greys and blacks. It is an affordable dye and it is also easy to use. A small amount of logwood will give you a good color.

Link to tutorial

Walnut Shell

Walnuts are rich in tannins used in ink manufacturing due to its natural dying properties. Walnut shells turn the fabric into a beautiful beige color.

Link to tutorial


Eucalyptus can dye fabrics into a golden rich tone. It can also turn into red depending on the amount of water used and the quantity applied as well. It works best with animal fibers such as wool or silk.

Link to tutorial


This is the only red colored FDA approved natural dye. Since it’s a concentrated powder that comes from the insect called cochineal, with a little amount, you can see a saturated color. The powder is also easy to store.

Link to tutorial


This fruit is high in tannin. For that reason, it works perfectly with cotton and other plant fibers, but it can also work with silk and wool. If you use the pomegranate without mordant, it will turn yellow fawn. When using mordant it will turn yellow golden. If you add iron, it can turn into grey, mossy green or black.

Link to tutorial


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