How to Dye Synthetic Fibers

Dyed wool


Cavan Images / Getty Images

Synthetic fibers can be difficult to dye because they are substances that have been man-made in a laboratory, then mass-produced in factories. These materials vary greatly in their chemical makeup, so a specific dye may be required for each type of material.

How to Dye Synthetic Fibers

  • Nylon can be dyed with an acid dye, just like protein fibers (such as wool and cashmere). 
  • Polyester can be dyed using a lot of heat. Crayola fabric markers can be rubbed onto paper, then ironed onto polyester. Dip-dying polyester, on the other hand, should only be attempted by professionals or hobbyists that have a lot of experience with dying fabric.
  • Acrylic is difficult to dye and should only by dyed by professionals.
  • Rayon (viscose) is a processed cellulose fiber and can be dyed with fiber reactive dyes, just like natural cellulose fibers.
  • Spandex cannot be dyed at home.

Combined fabrics can make dying more complicated. Nylon/Cotton blends, for example, can be dyed using an all-purpose dye, because these dyes contain both acid dyes (for the nylon) and fiber reactive dyes (for the cotton).