How to Dye or Recolor Buttons for Clothes

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If you like to sew or tailor clothes, sometimes it is nearly impossible to find the right color button for a new garment or to replace a lost button. Buttons can also lose their original color or break if exposed to bleach or other harsh laundry products. Learn how to dye or recolor buttons to match your clothes or create the perfect craft project.

How to Dye or Recolor Buttons on Clothes

First find all the buttons you need.

 It is important to dye all of the buttons at the same time to keep the color consistent. Add in an extra button or two just in case one is lost and have a couple of extra buttons to use for testing to make sure you get the color you desire. 

The buttons can be plastic, leather or bone. Always take color into consideration. It is much more simple to dye a lighter colored button darker than trying to lighten a button. If the buttonholes are already in place, be sure to test that the button will pass easily through the opening. While buttonholes can be made smaller by sewing together a small portion of the edges, it is much more difficult to make a button hole larger.

If the button has a printed design or layers of color, it is nearly impossible to conceal the design. Test a button to see if you like the look.

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Supplies You Will Need to Dye Buttons:

  • Buttons
  • Latex gloves

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Steps for Dyeing Buttons

  1. Wear latex or protective gloves. If using a powdered or liquid commercial dye, mix the dye and water in a container following package directions. If using your own homemade natural dyes, mix enough to completely cover all of the buttons at one time. Creating separate batches can lead to colors that don't match. 
  1. Pour a small amount of dye into the cups of a muffin tin or individual custard cups.
  2. Begin with a test button. Time how long you leave the button in the dye to achieve your desired color. Remember, most buttons will appear lighter when they dry than they do while wet.
  3. When you have determined the proper dyeing time, immerse the buttons in the dye solution - one per cup. This will give you the best chance of an even dye allow around the button.
  4. Use tweezers to turn the buttons several times to ensure that they dye evenly on each side. Leave the buttons in the dye solution until they are the color you desire.
  5. Remove the buttons and rinse with water. Mix a solution of one teaspoon dishwashing soap and two cups of warm water. Wash the buttons with the dish washing soap and water, rinse and dry with paper towels. Let buttons sit on paper towels to finish drying. Turn a couple of times to dry on all side.
  6. When the buttons are completely dry, place on waxed paper. Spray them with a sealant (artist varnish), according to the directions on the sealant container. When the buttons are dry, turn them over and seal the other side.
  7. The process will take at least one hour. This is not a last minute rush project!

    Tips for Best Results When Dyeing Buttons:

    1. You can use liquid or powdered commercial dye. Follow the directions on the package and dye all the buttons you need using the same batch so colors will be consistent.
    2. If you use homemade natural dyes, you may need to leave the buttons in the solution much longer because the colors are often not as intense as commercial dyes.
    3. You can also use liquid food coloring to dye buttons. There are fewer options in colors but for basic colors or buttons for crafts, it will work fine. Follow the same steps recommended for dyeing.
    4. Custom colors can be mixed using liquid dye. Test the colors on extra white buttons or pieces of fabric before dying the buttons.
    5. Make sure that you have adequate ventilation when spraying the sealant on the buttons. The waxed paper will keep them from sticking.