Tub Dyeing with Wonder Washer

When I’m not ice dyeing, I usually low immersion dye which often produces uneven color which I love. Here is an old blog post on low immersion.

However, there are times when I want uniform or solid color. For those of you not familiar with dyeing, the best way to get uniform color is tub or vat dyeing. The only problem with this method is you need to keep with it and stir it a lot. It reminds me of making ketchup, but a much less intense process. You can also dye in the washing machine which I don’t even want to go there. However, there is an alternative, the Wonder Washer, a portable washing machine.

WonderwasherI bought this little machine over a year ago, but just hadn’t gotten around to using it. Saturday was the day! I wanted to dye some napkins to go with these placemats I bought this Spring. I’ve been thinking all summer that I wanted to have napkins that matched instead of all of the mismatched ones.


Here is one of the original napkins. I found these at a second hand store. I love how they feel and when I saw them I knew they were destined to be dyed and used in our house.


Here is what they look like now.


So let’s get started. I use the directions on Tub Dyeing from Dharma Trading. You can find the info here. On that page on the right is a link to download a pdf.

Per Dharma Trading instructions, since I’m dyeing around a half pound of fabric (yes, I weighed it!) I added a total 1.5 gallons of water. A little of that water was held out to dissolve the salt, soda ash, and the dye.

So first I poured in the warm tap water into the Wonder Washer.


Next was to add the dye. I mixed the 1/2 teaspoon of fiber reactive dye (in this case, Dharma Avocado) in the extra water and then added it to the washer.


I turned the Program knob to standard and the Timer to 5 minutes, although you could do less or more. I just wanted to make sure the dye was mixed real well with the water.

wonderwasher7Now it’s time to dissolve and add the non-iodized salt. I added the 1.5 cups of salt to some of the reserved warm water and dissolved it before pouring it into the dye bath.


Now it’s time to add the fabric. In my case it is four napkins. Turn off the machine. Do not add the fabric when the machine is running.


Place the cover over the washer and set the timer for 15 minutes. At the end of the 15 minutes add another 5 minutes for a total of 20 minutes.  I had to take a peek.


Now we need to add soda ash. If you don’t add soda ash, the dye will wash out. Dissolve the 1/6 cup of soda ash in that reserve water.


With the machine off, use something that can help you push the fabric to the side. I used a clean paint stir. You want to make sure when you add the dissolved soda ash that it doesn’t come in contact with the fabric.


Add the soda ash solution slowly, but not all at once. I added about a third first, and once I added it to the area without the fabric, I stirred that area to distribute it. Then I put on the lid and turned on the timer for 5 minutes. After that time, I added another third again being careful not to pour on the fabric and then repeated the process one more time. So this takes 15 minutes.

Now it’s time to set your timer for 30 minutes (for light colors), 1 hour for dark colors. Since the Wonder Washer can only be set for 15 minutes, you need a regular timer to keep track. When the 15 minutes is over, just reset it for another 15 minutes until you are done. My time for this was 35 minutes since I was looking for somewhat dark, but not deep dark.

Now just take the fabric out and rinse in cool water until the water runs clear. I like to do a soap soak for 30 minutes before I throw them in the washer. I believe it helps get out the last of the dye so I know at the end of washing the loose dye is gone. Then the fabric goes into the washing machine set on hot with two rinses. Dry, iron, and you have some beautiful evenly dyed fabric.

Now let’s see how they look with the placemat.


A note about the Wonder Washer. You can use it on a table which I did. However, make sure that it’s a wide table and there is no chance that it will “walk” off. I also didn’t feel like I could leave the dye studio during that time for fear that it might take a dive off the table and create a real big mess! Operating it from the floor is probably a better idea.

Even though it’s a long process, when I want uniform dyeing this is the way I’ll go from now on. I was really pleased with my results.

As for the butterflies, I created a couple stencils on my Brother Scan and Cut from scanning the place mat. I usually would not scan someone else’s artwork, but since this is just for our use here at home, I see no problem with it. I stenciled with deColourant. For the dark butterfly I used deColourant Plus Bronze. If you’re not familiar with deColourant, here is a post about it.


I’m so happy to finally have matching napkins. Now I need to dye some of those vintage napkins I have stashed.

Oh, and for those of you who like videos, below is my video of this process. Thanks for dropping by.