Tutorial Tuesday – Tub Dyeing!

Not to be confused with tie dyeing.  Blecht.  What am I, a hippie?  No, I’m not.  You guys know me better than that.

OK.  So remember a little while ago when I talked about buying new slipcovers for our couch?  Come on guys.  You really need to start thinking about taking some ginkgo biloba.  Here it is.  Well, after calculating the shipping, I decided to try something else first.  Something that might be considered a little (or straight-up) crazy.  I decided to dye some.  Why?  Because the white slipcovers at Ikea are $40.  FORTY DOLLARS!  [Update – not anymore I guess.]  I mean, really.  How hard can it be to dye them.  When Ryan mentioned it in passing to the girl at Ikea when he bought the slipcovers, she said (very snottily) “Good luck with that…”  Thanks!

The problem – every single tutorial that dyed something this large was performed in a washing machine.  Because the world is one big kick in the balls, I don’t have a washing machine.  Well, we do have two communal washing machines in the Queen AnnE, but they are the ghettoist of the ghetto.  There is no way to determine where you are in the washing cycle.  You basically put in your $1M worth of quarters (seriously – $2.25 to wash and dry a load of laundry???) and hit start.  Okay, you can choose the water temperature, but that’s it.  So trying to attempt dyeing in there was wasn’t an option because everything is timed.

Enter the bathtub.  I know lots of people have dyed things in a bathtub or a bucket or something similar, but no one was brave (stupid) enough to consider dying two giant slipcovers.  Well, until Ryan and I came around.  You’re welcome, WORLD!

Let me start out by saying that if you do attempt this, visit Dharma Trading Co.  NOT the Dharma Initiative.  (I miss you so much Lost!)  Why didn’t I just grab some bottles of RIT dye from Jo-Anns?  Because I thought that I should buy some big girl dye instead of the stuff Grateful Dead groupies use to make their ridiculous costumes.  I wasn’t monkeying around!  And I’m really glad because Dharma Trading Co. has step-by-step instructions on how to dye and the additional products needed to make the end result as perfect as possible.

Also, give yourself a good window of time.  We mistakenly thought that we’d be done (well, minus the drying time) in 4 hours.  We weren’t.  We also couldn’t use our shower until the process was over which also set us back.  And we were supposed to be somewhere at 12:30.  Good times…

There is also quite a bit of calculating that needs to be done when you are going to attempt something like this.  You need to figure out the weight of the fabric, the amounts of water, salt, dye, ash, and other “ingredients.”  Initially we thought that we were going to have to do the job in two loads, but after finishing all the calculations, we decided to do them all at once.  We hoped that would minimize the problem of trying to match the dye proportions perfectly.

Here’s how it went down:

First, we washed the slipcovers.  This we COULD do in the washing machine, so we did.

Second, because I’m BRILLIANT, I decided to save the bathtub by buying a $2 shower curtain and duct taped it inside the tub.  I mean, dye was going to be sitting in there for over an hour.  Getting it out of the porcelain is a potential nightmare.  No thanks!

shower curtain liner

(Side note – don’t you love my little decals!  They remind of the ones we had in our bathtub growing up.)

Next, we filled the tub (we determined how much water we needed beforehand obviously), made a slush out of the dye, and poured it into the water-filled tub.

Dye mix

Pour in dye

Stirring Dye

Then we added the wet slipcover.  And the stirring began…  At first I was all “should I just use a wooden spoon?”  AAAHAHAHAHAHAAA!  I can laugh now because that is a ridiculous suggestion.  The fabric is HEAVY and a wooden spoon would have snapped in half at about the 10 second mark.  Ryan dug around in a little room the Queen AnnE uses as a bike room and found a discarded oar.  Right?  An oar.  Oh Queen AnnE…you’re such an enigma.  In light of that, if you are going to attempt this, get something sturdy like a 2×4 (or an oar) to mix it.

Getting darker

After about 15 minutes, we added the ash which we had already mixed with some water.  We pushed all the fabric off to the side so that we could stir the ash in without letting it directly touch the fabric (seriously – don’t forget to read the directions at Dharma Trading Co.)  To make this easier, I decided to put gloves on and just hold all the fabric over to the side with my hands.

Oompa Loompa hand

I guess the gloves weren’t long enough.  After a day, it’s faded a bit, but I still look a little Oompa Loompa-ish in and around my hands.

After we added the ash, we stirred for another 45 minutes.  Oh, and let me say that we didn’t just stir it around with the oar.  Every 10 minutes or so, I would pull out each piece of the slipcover to untangle it and then set it back.  I was very worried that it would get so bunched up that the fabric wouldn’t get covered evenly.  And there was a LOT of fabric in the tub.  It didn’t help that there were those sections of the slipcover that were made of something other than cotton and therefore didn’t color.  They didn’t need to be dyed as they are on the inside of the couch, but it still made me nervous.

And darker

OK.  This is where, in my opinion, we made a mistake.  Because we were unfamiliar with this kind of dye, we thought we should keep it in the dye bath even after we reached our desired color.  We were afraid that a lot of the dye would wash out and then it would be much lighter than what we wanted.  What we didn’t count on is the fact that this dye is awesome.  (I swear I’m not getting paid to write this).  Ryan thinks it did a tiny bit, but I don’t think it rinsed out at all.


That brings us to the rinsing.  Ryan rinsed this thing to death.  He rinsed it several times in the tub.  Like five times.  He even filled the tub up with water, squeezed each piece of the slipcovers out and then drained the tub.  Then we ran it through the washing machine three times.  Dun rinsed.

While the label on the slipcover says you can machine wash it, it says not to dry it.  I was bummed because we have no place to air dry something of this magnitude.  We just draped the pieces all over the place.

Here’s the before and after:

before and after

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you might be hungry for some Cheetos.  Right?  I know.  It’s O-R-A-N-G-E.  I’m not crazy about it.  But isn’t the before  picture a big snoozefest?  Could you even see the couch?  It blends in with the carpet and walls so well.  And the dye job itself is fabulous.  There are no streaks – everything is totally even.  That being said, I think we’re going to give it another go in a different color.  And even though I’m not over the moon with the color (which Ryan loves by the way), I’m totally obsessed with this dye.  I mean, it was actually a lot simpler than I thought it was going to be.  Especially since the end result was so great (minus the crazy brightness).

So, if you are a sad soul like me without a washing machine, don’t let that stop you from dyeing large things.  It may seem daunting, but it’s totally do-able.

*UPDATE* – Since this has now gone “live” on Ikea Hacker, I just want to state that I have grown to love my little Tangerine Dream and wouldn’t dream of getting rid of her.  She’s like a ray of sunshine amidst the cloudy haze of daily life (I should be a poet, you guys).  Orange sunshine is a thing somewhere, right?

*DOUBLE UPDATE* – Since this post is BLOWING UP, I thought everyone might like to see the brilliancy (is that a word?) we accomplished after the dyeing was done – we tufted the pillows!

orange couch

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  1. C. Welbourne
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 4:05 PM | Permalink

    did you go from brown to orange??? I’ve used the procion dyes from Dharma many times on yardage both in the washing machine and in large pots but never tried the bath tub! Glad it worked for you. I agree they are great dyes. I just didn’t think you could achieve orange when starting with brown. Maybe I missed something ?

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Permalink

      Sorry about that – I guess that might be confusing. We went from new white slipcovers from Ikea to orange. We still have the brown ones.

  2. Posted April 9, 2013 at 4:13 PM | Permalink

    Wow! This turned out amazingly. So clever lining the bathtub with a cheap shower curtain too. oh, and if you can’t find the Queen AnnE’s communal oar when you re-dye it here’s an easy tutorial from our favorite Nick Offerman on how to make one. http://www.marthastewart.com/307445/canoe-paddle-how

    Nikki Kelly

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Permalink

      OMG. You’re BRILLIANT!!!

  3. Posted April 9, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Permalink

    The orange looks wonderful! (in the photo)–bright and cheerful.
    Will you just overdye it? You could tone it down by adding a bit of brown if you wished.
    You took tub dyeing to a new level!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:48 PM | Permalink

      Thanks! I’m not sure what I’m going to do at this point. I was thinking I might change gears completely and try a new color with another white slipcover. But I’m getting so much positive feedback on the orange that I’m doubting my second choice. LOL.

  4. Kathy
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

    Nice video. Reminded me of my father’s boat building and hand tools, especially the planes.

  5. Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:12 PM | Permalink

    Just for future reference, the only thing that will dye in your tub would be the stickies. Porcelain won’t hold the color : ) I used to use my tub all the time until I got some really big pots and was able to stand. Good job though and VERY amusing write-up!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:51 PM | Permalink

      Thanks! And I’m glad I saved my stickies at least! I would have been a little bummed about losing them. Plus I would have probably slipped and cracked my skull without them. I use a lot of creamy conditioner…

  6. Kathy Scoggins
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 7:08 PM | Permalink

    Actually, if the glazed finish has worn off any on the porcelain tub, the dye will get in to it and it’s really the pits to get it out. Your idea of lining it with a shower curtain was excellent as was using an oar. I have used large commercial dye vats and that is what we use to stir the fabric. I also love the orange in your space and normally I don’t like orange at all! Good job!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 7:28 PM | Permalink

      Thanks! I’m so glad the shower curtain liner was my idea. I’d have to give those props to my husband. I mean, he found the oar. He can’t have BOTH of the brilliant ideas.

  7. ruby
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:29 PM | Permalink

    Honestly, that orange is absolutely beautiful! Really!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:57 PM | Permalink

      You guys are all making me change my mind! My husband will be so happy. LOL.

  8. Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:45 PM | Permalink

    This is fantastic! I bought some hella expensive covers for our Ikea sofa from Bemz and am NOT impressed. I followed the washing instructions to a T and they still shrunk enough that they tore slightly when being put back on. Extremely frustrating. So now we are planning to do buy a cheapie from Ikea (which wash and wear quite well) and dye it. I’m curious, did you prewash the cover on hot like the instructions say? Did you experience any shrinkage?

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:18 PM | Permalink

      Oh man, that totally sucks! We did wash them on hot before we started the dyeing, but we washed them in cold when we rinsed all the dye out. It was a SNUG fit when we put them on, but no rips. I read online that some people put them on the couch while they’re still a little damp which helps I guess. That was my plan, but they still weren’t near dry when we went to bed. Which meant they were as dry as a bone when we got up in the morning. Blerg.

  9. Nicky
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Permalink

    This is an awesome guide! I just bought an Ikea couch in November, but was too poor for the $200 slipcover I really liked to go along with it. Sad, I know. So I have the white one and it shows every spec or dirt along with my cats’ hair. Awesome.

    After reading this, I’m excited to dye it! I do have a question. Which type of dye on Dharma did you buy? Thanks!

    • Lizzie
      Posted May 23, 2013 at 5:46 PM | Permalink

      Yesssssss!!! Do it! And I know what you mean. When faced with the choice of white for $40 or something else for $200, those white slipcovers are pretty hard to turn your nose up at. LOL. I used the Dharma fiber reactive dye. It was perfection.

      If you end up giving it a shot, please send pix! :)

  10. Heather
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 3:29 PM | Permalink

    This tutorial is a great help to go along with the Dharma instructions I’ve been reading – thanks! I’m going to try to dye my sofa slipcover with the fiber reactive dye. Question — It looks like you initially put your shower curtain liner over the drain. How did you let the dye water drain from the tub without staining your stickies? Did you just carefully only peel back the shower curtain so far in order to drain?

    • Lizzie
      Posted June 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM | Permalink

      Thanks! We did exactly that – the careful peel back on the drain side. :)

  11. Heather
    Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    Hi – one more question if you have a second – I’m curious – after you dyed the slipcover, and then did the final wash in the washing machine – what temperature of water did you use for the final wash? –Dharma instructions say hot – I’m pretty sure my slipcover will not take hot water without shrinking too much — just wondering if by chance you got the results shown here using a lower-than-hot final washing temperature.)
    Thanks! :)

  12. Heather
    Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

    Oops, I just saw your comment above which answered this question!

    • Lizzie
      Posted July 11, 2013 at 10:59 AM | Permalink

      No worries! I’m just glad you got the answer. :)

  13. Liz
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

    I’m looking into dying a chair slipcover black, but it looks like I will spend almost as much money on dye and salt (and shipping charges) that it wont’ save that much money. Dharma says you need 4 times the amount of dye and 2 times the salt. The slip cover is 5.5 lbs so I’m calculating 22 T dye (1 cup 6 T) which according to the website would require 12 oz. of dye. So I need to purchase the 1 lb dye for $34.75. Salt for 5.5 lbs of fabric shows 33 cups, or 16.5 lbs of salt. So I need to purchase the 25 lb package of salt at $19. Then when you add in the Soda Ash and shipping, which will be high based on the salt, I’m up over $100. Does that sound right? Am I missing something. I know the cost is much more because of the black, but I didn’t think it would be that much.

    Am I missing something or calculating wrong? Thanks for your help, and I really appreciated your tutorial.

    • Lizzie
      Posted July 14, 2013 at 3:19 PM | Permalink

      That is pretty expensive, but I think your calculations are right. It’s just more because of it being black. We actually saved some money by buying the salt here in town instead of online. Smart and Final (I’m not sure if you have one near you) sells 1lb boxes of kosher salt. That saved us a lot in shipping as well.

  14. Liz
    Posted July 14, 2013 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    I’ll check it out. Thanks for the quick response.

  15. Jennyran
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

    Swear to God I SNORTED reading this!! Go team Orange! Where did you get that infinity symbol-looking cat scratcher (??) that is on the floor in the foreground of your before pic? My Minou is a little posh…

    • Lizzie
      Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Permalink

      Right?! I feel like updating this post to say that I now love my Tangerine Dream. The infinity looking cat scratcher is ONE of the ridiculous pampered modern cat “things” I own. I swear these cats have more and better “accoutrements” than we do. But it’s called the PetFusion Cat Scratcher Lounge (lounge – I think that’s where they got me) and you can get it on Amazon. Oh, and if you’re interested, I’ve got another hack on here for cat wall shelves. I’m telling you, our cats pretty much run our life.

  16. Amanda Schulz
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 6:39 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this! I too didnt want to pony up the extra $200 clams for the grey slipcover and after reading this I’m convinced my dye job will look legit. I’m a little fearful of the math and measurements. But the slipcover in white is so cheap perhaps I’ll buy 2 in case I royally foul up my first attempt. I have a washer, but I’m almost wondering if the tub method wouldnt be better?

    • Lizzie
      Posted August 1, 2013 at 7:57 AM | Permalink

      I’d totally go for it! And I’ve seen several tutorials on how to dye in the washer, so if the tub dyeing doesn’t work, you always have that as an alternative. Do it!!! :)

  17. elsie
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    Which orange color did you use from Dharma? There are a number of them on their website. Wondering which yours is…. It seems a quite rich color result.

    • Lizzie
      Posted August 6, 2013 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

      We used PR5 – Soft Orange. :)

  18. Amanda
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:54 PM | Permalink

    Hi I was wondering what the total cost was?

    • Lizzie
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 2:56 PM | Permalink

      I couldn’t give you an exact number, but it was under $150 including the slipcovers themselves. The only thing we didn’t get from Dharma Trading was the salt. You needed so much that we ended up getting it locally so that we wouldn’t have to pay for the shipping.

  19. Deb
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:04 PM | Permalink

    Are the covers colorfast? If you were to sit on the sofa in–worst case–wet white shorts, do you think any of the dye would rub off? I’m buying a cheap Ikea Klippan sofa on Craigslist. What few replacement covers Ikea offers are ugly. Using your tutorial, I’m going to dye a new, white skipcover that, thankfully, is cheap. My only hesitation is whether the dye will stay put. Thanks for a great tutorial!

    • Lizzie
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

      It definitely stays put. Granted, I’ve never sat down in wet, white shorts (I couldn’t pull that look off), but I’ve never noticed anything like that. I think that’s where either the salt or ash come in – one of them sets the dye.

      Let me know if you decide to go for it!

  20. Alex
    Posted August 31, 2013 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

    How much soda ash did you use? They only give you an estimate of how much you’ll need if you’re dying a large lot of t shirts!

  21. Dee
    Posted September 12, 2013 at 2:18 AM | Permalink

    Hi – did you put ALL of the slipcovers in at one time in the tub? Or did you do it piece by piece and keep them in the same amount of time. I’m guessing all at once, but I thought I would be sure! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Lizzie
      Posted September 12, 2013 at 5:57 AM | Permalink

      We did them all at once. We were afraid that we might not get the ratio perfect for two separate batches and they’d turn out two shades.

      I hope you give it a go!

  22. Natalie
    Posted September 16, 2013 at 6:05 PM | Permalink

    I love this idea! How much dye did you use, 1 pound?

    • Lizzie
      Posted September 16, 2013 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

      Thanks!! We only needed the 8 oz jar of the orange color. The amount differs with the color dye you choose though.

  23. Nancy
    Posted September 18, 2013 at 5:59 PM | Permalink

    Do you think the results would be as good if I try to dye a pale yellow slipcover? Or do I have to start with white?

    • Lizzie
      Posted September 18, 2013 at 7:07 PM | Permalink

      I think you should go for it. I can’t imagine light yellow being too hard to dye over.

  24. Shay
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    Firstly, I know it’s a bit ago that you posted this but it’s totally awesome. Amazing tutorial and I love the couch. I have the Ikea ektorp couch about the same, slightly different. I want to tub dye it as well. I went to the site and didn’t know where to start. Can you just tell me what you needed for yours? 8 oz of dye for your color, but which type of dye. They have so much stuff on there. And salt I would get in the store. How did you know what to get?

    So besides the 8 oz of ______ dye, what else?

    • Lizzie
      Posted October 2, 2013 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

      First off – THANKS! Now to the real business. We used their fiber reactive dye – soft orange. If you go here – http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/man/guides/tub-dye/dyes.html – it’ll walk you through the steps of what to buy. We got the dye (obvs), ash, calsolene oil, and Milsoft. We ended up buying kosher salt from the store because we needed so much and didn’t want to pay the shipping. We didn’t buy anything else they recommended (we bought our own rubber gloves & didn’t think we’d need masks).

      Unfortunately, I don’t have all the calculations written down anymore, but Step 10 of the process is the instructions which give you the calculations – http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/man/guides/tub-dye/instructions.html.

      I hope that helps!

  25. Posted October 7, 2013 at 8:15 AM | Permalink

    Were your Ikea slipcovers labeled “Dry clean only”? I really want to dye mine but this little label has given me pause…not sure if I should just ignore it.

    • Lizzie
      Posted October 7, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

      Mine did say I could wash it, just not dry it. I’m not going to tell you to ignore it (because that would probably be the wrong thing to do), but…I probably would. (Disclaimer: I am not an expert, so you might not want to listen to a word I say)

  26. Posted October 7, 2013 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

    :) thanks!

  27. Jerry
    Posted November 7, 2013 at 2:02 PM | Permalink

    You gave me such a big grin with this: “Not to be confused with tie dyeing. Blecht. What am I, a hippie? No, I’m not. You guys know me better than that.”. I too find that group of people disgusts me.

    • Lizzie
      Posted November 7, 2013 at 3:26 PM | Permalink

      Kindred spirits. LOL.

  28. Caryn Briggs
    Posted November 9, 2013 at 7:56 PM | Permalink

    The orange looks fab!
    So here’s my question… I have khaki colored slipcovers on a Pottery Barn couch and I thought down the road I could just buy new slipcovers… Turns out they will cost out $2k! What joke!!! I’m an idiot for spending that much on a couch in the first place. I want to dye them a dark grey but I’m afraid the dye will rub off on light colored clothing. Thoughts???
    The material feels more like a canvas rather than a smooth cotton, kind of like KEDS shoes.

    • Lizzie
      Posted November 10, 2013 at 7:43 AM | Permalink

      $2K??? Good grief! You could just buy an entirely new couch! Anyway, I don’t think the dye would rub off on light clothes once it’s set and dried. I’ve never had any problem with the orange. I’d read through the Dharma site, though. They may have something in their FAQs.

      • Shay
        Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:10 PM | Permalink

        So I dyed my Ektorp couch and chaise and dining room chairs. All ikea. Was an experience, wow. I couldn’t find dark gray that I wanted, theirs looked too blue on Dharma. So I decided to experiment. Silly me. I bought their lighter gray that I liked and added more than they said. So they are dark, not bad at all, but not gray. They are a dark gray blue, more blueish denim looking.

        The dye DOES NOT rub off on clothing. Ever. Totally the wrong color, but that’s my fault. ;). I’m pretty satisfied though. At least it’s not white.

        • Lizzie
          Posted November 11, 2013 at 5:57 PM | Permalink

          I’m so glad you tried it! I’m sorry about the color, though. It’s a real kick in the pants that it ended up denimy blue anyway. What a pain. But hopefully it’ll grow on you like my orange grew on me.

  29. Elizabeth
    Posted November 14, 2013 at 7:48 PM | Permalink


    I have the same pottery barn slipcover and I am also hoping to dye it versus pay $$$ for a new one. If you decide to dye yours, please post pictures! What color are you aiming for? I assume you must go darker than the original color so I’m considering a deep blue or possibly gray. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


  30. Leah
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 5:45 PM | Permalink

    Your couch came out great!! You did the slipcover in the tub and the cushions in the washer. That is just my intention as well. My slipcover is 11.6 lbs (so I think we will elect to do it in the tub since they don’t recommend more than 8 lbs in a washer) and all the cushions will require 5 loads in the washer. We have a wrap-around couch so it is pretty much double the work!! My biggest concern is that the tub dyeing won’t end up matching the machine washer dying. How did you get around this? Did you follow their simple guidelines for an 8 lb machine load (as they have listed on their website)? And then did you do your tub calculations based on how much water you planned on using??

    • Lizzie
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:13 PM | Permalink

      Thanks!! We actually did everything in the tub. We can’t do anything in the washers in our apartment building. And we did it all in one load because I was afraid it would be a different shade if we did it in two. I’m not sure what to tell you since you have too much for the tub. I’d just do exactly what you planned and worry about darkening one up if necessary. Let me know how it goes!!

  31. Posted December 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM | Permalink

    Nice! The thing I’m most freaked out by is the possibility of dye rubbing off on lighter colored clothing. (I once lazily dyed my leather iPad case with Rit on a whim, and I liked the effect but it was far from colorfast.)

    Either way, high five for going Thrifty Upgrade Viral! I love it! And I’m subscribing to your blog because I really want to hear more about the tufting process.

    • Lizzie
      Posted December 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Permalink

      A few other people have asked about the color rubbing off. I’ve never had a problem and have had to wet wipe cat-related filth off them at times. I’m not sure if it’s all the extra products I used in the dyeing process or what. Maybe the ash? I should know all of this because I read up on it, but…I had to make room for other facts. Much more useless facts, I’m sure.

  32. Hannah
    Posted January 15, 2014 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    You’ve inspired me! I just placed my order with Dharma Trading for all the essential supplies.

    Three questions:

    1. For the Prewash did you use regular detergent?

    2. Do you remember how much water you used? I have the standard kivik ikea sofa (no attached chaise) Did you calculate the gallons per pound of fabric?

    3. Did you use detergent in the Post wash or is the post wash just a rinse?

    Thanks so much! We will most def have your blog post up for reference when this adventure ensues! haha!

    • Lizzie
      Posted January 15, 2014 at 5:49 PM | Permalink

      Yay!!!! I’m so excited for you!! Now…your questions.

      1) We bought the special detergent they sell (and recommend) on Dharma – Synthrapol.

      2) I tossed our calculations, but I just asked Ryan & he said he thinks 40 gallons. But that was for the love seat and chaise. Regardless, we did measure it according to the weight of the fabric.

      3) We washed the finished dyed cover in the same stuff – Synthrapol – and we used Milsoft which is basically a fabric softener.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

  33. kp
    Posted January 16, 2014 at 7:38 PM | Permalink

    Hi amanda,

    I was actually planning on dyeing my sofa covers to grey.I see you wanted to dye them gray.were you able to dye.did you try tub or washing machine method?
    Pls let me know.also the quantity of dye and color code .

  34. Maddie
    Posted January 22, 2014 at 8:19 PM | Permalink

    Hiya! Love this tutorial!!

    I was actually wondering how you attached your loveseat arm to the end of your chaise lounge? I have the same set up and am looking for a tutorial, so any tricks much appreciated!

    Love this little orange couch! :)

    • Lizzie
      Posted January 22, 2014 at 9:21 PM | Permalink

      I’m glad you asked that question because I just ASSumed it was a standard thing through Ikea, but Ryan said he had to rig it himself. Score 1 (again) for Ryan! LOL. ANYWAY, he said he bought two large deep-reach C clamps and clamped the arm and the end of the chaise together from underneath. But he also had to add some extra wood pieces (about 1 1/4″ thick) in between so that they lined up nicely when they’re clamped together. Otherwise, if you clamp just the arm and the chaise, it’s crooked.

      Hope that helps!!

  35. Cynthia
    Posted January 27, 2014 at 9:58 AM | Permalink

    For starters, this was a blast to read! So glad I found this!

    Soo, I recently bought a home and with my low budget I bought the exact same couch in your picture from a local Craigslister. With that being said, my couch is obviously not as clean as I would have liked and it came with more stains than I can handle and my stain removing skills aren’t the best. I considered just buying new covers, but they are just too darn pricey. Bleh.

    I’m sure someone must have already asked, but what exactly did you purchase from the website? I found some stuff, but it’s telling me I need a butt load of other things.

    • Lizzie
      Posted January 27, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Permalink

      I’m just going to paste my response from above because I’m super, duper lazy today. :)

      We used their fiber reactive dye – soft orange. If you go here – http://www.dharmatrading.com/html/eng/man/guides/tub-dye/dyes.html – it’ll walk you through the steps of what to buy. We got the dye (obvs), ash, calsolene oil, and Milsoft. We ended up buying kosher salt from the store because we needed so much and didn’t want to pay the shipping. We didn’t buy anything else they recommended (we bought our own rubber gloves & didn’t think we’d need masks).

  36. Posted January 30, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Permalink

    FANTASTIC! Can’t wait to try this!!

  37. Christina
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 8:03 AM | Permalink

    This is amazing and I LOVE THE COLOR! Can’t wait to try this for my new couch! Really Excited! Also love that you tufted the pillows! BRILLIANT!

  38. Margaret Chase
    Posted March 6, 2014 at 3:03 AM | Permalink

    Aren’t I lucky, I live near Petaluma and I am going down there tomorrow to see for myself. I have a custom made white slipcover for my couch and I am tired of the look. I am a bit scared of doing this but love the results you got Lizzie, the orange is so bright and cheery. Thanks for the inspiration.:)

    • Lizzie
      Posted March 6, 2014 at 6:34 AM | Permalink

      I know what you mean – I was so scared too! I hope it goes well!!!

  39. amelia
    Posted March 15, 2014 at 10:59 PM | Permalink

    Weird question! How did you drain without staining the tub? I’m tackling this project soon and very scared since we are doing dark purple. Thanks!

    • Lizzie
      Posted March 16, 2014 at 12:52 AM | Permalink

      We cut a hole in the liner to funnel it into the drain, but then quickly realized orange dye water was going to be in the tub anyway because we had to rinse them. But nothing ended up getting stained. There were a few areas that seemed a little orange, but they came right out with bleach.

  40. Nikki
    Posted April 8, 2014 at 8:05 AM | Permalink

    How much dye do you think I need to dye a 10lb cotton slip cover? It’s from the IKEA Karlstad Loveseat. (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S29840493/)
    I bought white because it was cheapest thinking I would be able to keep it clean. (Foolish, it’s a stain magnet!)

    I’ve been googling tutorials for dyeing slipcovers all over the place, and yours was the easiest to comprehend. Plus, the bath idea seems safer to me than the washing machine ones.
    Any feedback you have would be appreciated :)

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 8, 2014 at 9:41 AM | Permalink

      I know. I’d love a pretty white couch. Within 10 minutes, I’d spill a cup of coffee on it. As far as the dye, I’m not sure. If you go to the Dharma website, it gives you all the calculations you need. It’s a wealth of info.

      I hope you give it a go & love it as much as we love ours!!

  41. Lindsey
    Posted July 5, 2014 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    How long did it actually take you to do just the dying process? I saw you said more than four hours but did that include washing and drying as well? Thanks!

    • Lizzie
      Posted July 6, 2014 at 10:34 AM | Permalink

      It includes all the dyeing & washing, but not the drying. It had to air dry for a while.

  42. philippe
    Posted July 15, 2014 at 7:19 AM | Permalink

    Hi Lizzie
    gtreat stuff!
    I’m planning to do the same, only me with 2 covers (1 convertible , 1 two seats both Karlstad)
    At the end it’s 13 kg (28.6 lbs)! and dry cleaning only of course, ahah
    That should be an experience.

    How much weight was yours?
    I’m asking cause I’m not sure it can all entered iat once in the bathtub.


    • Lizzie
      Posted July 15, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

      I don’t remember exactly how much ours ended up weighing, but I went on the Ikea site and it looks like it was around 18 to 19 lbs. for both of the covers combined (we did the love seat and chaise). That being said, I think 28.6 lbs would be too big for your bathtub. WELL, unless you have a big bathtub. We have one of those standard, tiny apartment ones.

  43. philippe
    Posted July 16, 2014 at 3:47 AM | Permalink

    I see, I’ll do it separately then.
    Or maybe I could rent a swiming pool.
    I’ll do it in a week, I’ll let you know how it goes.
    Thank you

  44. Michele
    Posted September 23, 2014 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    Hello. How many ounces/pounds of the dye did you order/use?

    • Lizzie
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:53 AM | Permalink

      The dye amount all depends on what color you choose. If you look at the Dharma site, it tells you how much you need for each color.

  45. Rita Kaye
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:22 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the tutorial. From the description, the Queen AnnE sounds like a wonderful place. I also do not have a washing machine for dyeing, and alas, I also have no bathtub. Do you think I would be able to use a plastic 55 gallon drum to dye my ektorp chair slipcover? I noticed in one of your comments a number around 40 gallons. I have rain barrels that I won’t need until next summer and I have no other large vats.

    I would appreciate any opinions or suggestions on how to tub dye without a tub. Thanks.
    BTW great tutorial.

    • Lizzie
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Permalink

      Oh, the Queen AnnE. She’s the definition of clASS. I think a 55 gallon drum would work great! I actually think it would be better than a bathtub! You’d just have to make sure you had enough room to mix/stir it. But I think that’s safe for a chair. We used 40 gallons for both the chaise and loveseat. It’d totally go for it.

  46. Sara
    Posted October 10, 2014 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

    Wow! you are lucky! I used Rite Dye on my Ikea couch and chair covers, each piece took the color different. I dont know what to do now? Ive have all unmatched colors, its almost like the fabric makeup is different?? I dont know how that can be? anyone have any advice, Im out a couch and 2 chair covers, do I toss in some black in with the brown to get a different color, I cant afford $100 worth of dye to buy the more exspensive stuff, but tdont want to toss this stuff either. Id advise to not attempt this, unless you use the best dye you can afford, for me rite was in my price range, but it worked awful!

    • Lizzie
      Posted October 10, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Permalink

      I’m so sorry! I wish I knew how to help.

  47. Sally
    Posted October 26, 2014 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    Wonderful job!
    I have pale yellow Pottery Barn twill covers. I was wondering of I could dye them tan? Does the old color come through? Should/could I bleach first?
    Thank you!

    • Lizzie
      Posted October 27, 2014 at 9:36 AM | Permalink

      Eesh. I’m not really sure. It might be better to bleach them, but it might cover fine. I wish I could be of more help.

  48. Lyndsay Brown
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

    which dye brand did you use? i want to dye a huge ikea sectional couch dark grey. i used RIT dye on our other ikea couch and it came out pretty nice. i used the washing machine method but i’m afraid that the large, main cover won’t get dyed evenly. Here is the link, if you’re curious to see what i’m working with: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50047590/#/80272742. i don’t have a scale so I don’t know how much dye to use (although I’m about to run out to the thrift store to snatch up a cheap one). anyway.. which dye should i use? the covers are 53 % linen, 47 % viscose/rayon. thank you!!!

    • Lizzie
      Posted November 12, 2014 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

      I used the fiber reactive dye from Dharma (the link is in the post). I highly recommend them as they have very detailed instructions on how to dye and what additional products you might opt to use.

  49. Marina
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 12:07 PM | Permalink

    Did you have much leftover dye? I have basically the same couch, but mine is the full size, rather than the love seat, so I’m wondering if I would be able to stick to your measurements or need to get more.

    Thank you :)

    • Lizzie
      Posted November 19, 2014 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

      I’m 99% sure that the amount of dye I needed was exactly 8 oz. which is the how much is in each dye container they sell.

  50. Alexis
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

    Okay I want to dye my pillows on my couch so can I take the cover off and do the same thing. I would love to do the whole couch but I can’t find the slip cover shapes I need. Help!!!

    • Lizzie
      Posted February 26, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

      I’m so sorry it took me so long to respond! I think it’ll be fine if the original color is light enough to dye over and it’s a cotton fabric. I’d look at the washing instructions for the covers before I washed/dried them, though.

  51. Bryona
    Posted March 17, 2015 at 8:55 PM | Permalink

    Your post was very helpful! I am planning on dying my white sectional Black how did you get the armrest and the base of the couch dyed? I’m new to purchasing dye other than Rit what would you recommend from the company you listed above?

    • Lizzie
      Posted March 18, 2015 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

      Ikea couch slipcovers cover the base and the arms as well. I’m not sure I’d know how to go about dyeing them if I couldn’t remove them. As for a the dye – I used the dye from Dharma. I believe it was fiber reactive dye.

  52. Sylvia
    Posted May 15, 2015 at 3:08 AM | Permalink

    Your couch really turned out great! I didn´t have the patience to try dying my IKEA ektorp 3 seater sofa, so I bought a slipcover from saustark design (a young start up company in Munich, Germany).Although, it was a little expensive, it was still cheaper than buying a new sofa and it´s still in great condition. I´ve had it for 3 years now, and its super easy to wash. I absolutely love it!

  53. Lauren
    Posted June 18, 2015 at 1:09 PM | Permalink

    How did you get the dye to drain from the tub without completely staining the tub?

  54. Cindy
    Posted June 20, 2015 at 11:21 PM | Permalink

    Hi Lizzie. Thanks for posting your tutorial. It gave me the courage to take the plunge. Dharma dye is soooo much better than Ritt. Today we dyed a slipcover for a big oversized chair and automan.
    First off, I shoved all of the pieces into one of the pillow covers and took it down to Pakmail and had them weigh it. This was really helpful when it came to calculating dye and chemical amounts. My slipcover weighed 12 lbs. it was a washed out tomatoe soup color and I over dyed it with chocolate brown and added some maroon. We ended up dividing the dying into two batches. One for the main body slip cover and one with the two pillows and automan cover. As long as you are careful with your measurements and consistent with water temp. Things come out just fine. You absolutely cannot tell that this job was done in two batches. We dyed in a restaurant stainless steel sink. We used the Dharma calculations for an 8lb. Washing machine load for both batches. We also used the Synthropol before and after dying. Also the Calsolene oil. We did not opt for the fabric softener.
    We kept the water good and hot. 130 degrees. The oar idea was genius. For our twelve lb. slipcover we needed a 8oz. Of Chocolate brown and 4 tbsp. of Maroon. Oh and here’s a helpful hint: after rinsing in the sink we piled it into tubs and took them outside. We draped the cover over two metal lawn chairs and let her rip with the hose. After the water was running fairly clear we washed in the machine with the Syntheopol and then one additional run with no soap.
    Our slipcover is gorgeous. It’s a deep, rich even color. It came out even better than I’d dare hoped. So thanks for your tutorial or I may never have tried it. I also love your orange couch! And to the lady with the rain barrels…yes they would absolutely work. Also we heated our water on big pots on our gas grill! Happy dying everyone! You can do it!!!

  55. Kate
    Posted September 30, 2015 at 11:09 AM | Permalink

    So excited to start my project! Thanks for your help. I thought I was the only person trying this when I initially had the idea. I am glad to know I am not! And I was going to use RIT until I read your blog. I bought the Dharma dye for my Karlstand Corner Sofa, in two colors and I hope to get a little wacky and creative with the two-tones. I was surprised that for 27 lbs of fabric I only needed 1 lb of dye. Okay- so I might be a little bit of a hippy but, I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    • Lizzie
      Posted September 30, 2015 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

      That’s awesome!! I hope it works out!

  56. Meg
    Posted October 1, 2015 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for the tutorial! I just tried this yesterday with a slipcover, but foolishly I did not buy Dharma’s quick dissolve salt. Did you use salt? I tried to dissolve it before adding it in as the Dharma instructions say, but that was next to impossible. I ended up just dumping it in the washing machine and hoping it wold dissolve while the agitator was on. The slipcover ended up coming out a little blotchy and it’s either from the salt mess up or my impatience! I took it out after 30 minutes because it seemed dark enough but a lot of the dye washed out.

    • Lizzie
      Posted October 1, 2015 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

      We actually bought boxes kosher salt (which I’m assuming I read somewhere that was what was supposed to be used). That’s a total bummer, though.

      • Meg
        Posted October 1, 2015 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

        I used the non iodized salt but maybe the kosher would have dissolved easier. At any rate, next time I’ll buy their quick dissolve salt!

  57. Posted November 21, 2015 at 9:54 PM | Permalink

    Great article! I love the Tangerine slip covers. You have inspired me to dye. I too will have to record my results.

    • Lizzie
      Posted November 21, 2015 at 10:19 PM | Permalink


  58. Bee
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 6:30 PM | Permalink

    Hi! I came across your post when I was looking for a tutorial on how to dye stuff at home (we live in an apartment and we don’t have a washing machine… Bah.) I love the idea of using a cheap shower curtain to line the tub, but my question is, how did you get rid of the dyed water afterwards..?

    • Lizzie
      Posted January 12, 2016 at 6:44 PM | Permalink

      Dude…it just washed right down the drain! No staining or anything!

  59. Katrina
    Posted February 14, 2016 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    This is ingenious! We are getting a Kivik chaise and I don’t care for any of the colors. I was searching for slipcovers and came across your blog. The custom slipcovers in colors that I like are $250+. This is a much more reasonable option – tub dyeing a $50 Ikea white cotton/poly slipcover. We also live in an apartment with communal washing machines but I’m sure dyeing isn’t allowed.

    The Ikea slipcover is just over 7 lbs so with the dye, detergent, milsoft, soda ash and calsolene oil it’s still far less than $250 … under $40 in fact with shipping (plus the $50 slipcover). We will probably get the salt at Costco.

    How did you select a dye color? I like PR10 : FIRE RED and PR136 : OXBLOOD RED but would love to see them used. Of course these colors require 2x’s the amount of dye – 1/2 cup (two 2oz jars) of dye per 8 lb. washing machine load (20 gallons of water). Colors marked with * on the color card or jar label require double those amounts to get the depth of shade on our color card.

  60. Jill
    Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:33 PM | Permalink

    OMG you used Soft Orange? It looks so bright? We just bought 4 different 2 oz jars of orange to test on the Kivik white cover samples, and also on some strips of an old sheet. (yes I guess I’m a bit nervous, want to be sure I like the 2,000 lb gorilla that’s about to sit in my living room).

    I should have read all this before. We tested Deep Orange, Orange Crush, Tangerine and Pagoda Red. I think we landed on Orange Crush – but it is so so bright! Now I’m scared. The other choices seemed to dull, but it might be flat out NEON.

    How is yours? Not too yellow? Still very clean, crisp and modern.

    It looks FAB!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 11, 2016 at 6:55 PM | Permalink

      It was bright, that’s for sure. 😏 Ted barfed on it one too many times, so we replaced the slipcovers and liked one of the newer fabrics they had at IKEA. But the color never faded. It was true to its color the entire time we had it.

  61. Jill
    Posted April 12, 2016 at 7:04 PM | Permalink

    Thanks Lizzie. I’m hoping Ted is a pet :)
    We are doing a 2 by 2 sectional, so I’m not sure it will all fit in the tub at once. I want to make sure there is enough room for stirring. But if I do it in two separate batches, the colors might not match, right?
    I’ll call Dharma to see if they have advise on how to measure accurately, and can tell me how exact I need to be. They are so nice on the phone. Only in Santa Rosa, CA are people that happy! Truly amazing.
    I’ve actually been to their store before, so this project has a nice connection for me.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 12, 2016 at 7:30 PM | Permalink

      Ted’s my husband. He has Crones Disease. ;) It’s our barfy cat.

      Yeah, the double batch is something I was really worried about and relieved that we didn’t have to do. Although, if you’re using the same dye batch and measure everything REALLY carefully, it should be fine. And the Dharma people are amazing. I absolutely love them. They were super informative and read this post and emailed me and said how much they loved it. Although, they didn’t want to agree with me on the hippies part. :D

  62. Aaron B
    Posted April 16, 2016 at 9:03 AM | Permalink

    Hey! I noticed you have the couch arm attached to the end of the chaise. Can you explain how you did that? The brackets that come with the couch don’t seem to work on the end, only the side.

    Thanks so much!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 16, 2016 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

      We got some c-clamps and some scraps of wood to use as shims so that it’s even when you tighten them. It’s super easy and sturdy. You’d never know it wasn’t meant to go there.

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 16, 2016 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

      Actually, if you read up on the comments, I give a more descriptive instructions.

  63. Selina
    Posted April 25, 2016 at 12:20 AM | Permalink

    Hi Lizzie,
    I’m in Australia and the Ikea covers they sell here are 78% cotton, 22% polyester. Is this the same fabric % as yours? Just that I’m planning on buying the dye from Dharma Trading co. It will really help me work out the best dye to purchase. The orange looks great too!

    • Lizzie
      Posted April 25, 2016 at 3:00 PM | Permalink

      Ours are 80/20, so I’m sure it’ll be fine. :)

  64. Kate
    Posted May 28, 2016 at 7:11 PM | Permalink

    Oh man!! My husband just got a job in a big city with an insane housing market- aka he shattered my dreams of owning a home in under three years :) I was getting bummed out about having to live with all Ikea/flatpack furniture in an apartment for the foreseeable future but now I know a fabulous bright teal couch is possible, I just might survive those beige walls.
    Not to be too forward, but I love you for this!!
    Are you collecting copycat photos from your readers who tried it themselves?

    • Lizzie
      Posted June 5, 2016 at 7:51 AM | Permalink

      I never thought of that!

  65. Orion
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 7:33 PM | Permalink

    Love the color and the layout. I also dyed my couch and restructured the layout – but now i’m a bit stuck on how to layout the rest of the living space in front of it. Did you drop in chairs or is it just open? My TV set up is left of the couch so i want to round out the space with a rug and some chairs. I’d love to see how you did yours. Thanks!

  66. Nan
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 7:49 PM | Permalink

    Lizzie, You’re a dying genius, I’m taking the plunge on my slipcovers that I’ve washed but they’re looking bad because the dogs are on them all the time. Thinking of using a deep red that will go with my colors. Again, thank you for your great ideas. By the way, thought you might like to know that I’m 67, I sew all my own clothes, and I tie dyed back in the day as well-it was an adventure and my friends loved my type dyed fabrics. I think you should give it a try just for fun! ☺️

  67. Nan
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    Lizzie, This is Nan, I just read my comment and it really should say you are a dye-ing genius, not a dying genius ( duh, sorry about the stupid spelling error) I’m embarrassed, but none the less, you’re my fabric dye guru now-thanks!!

  68. McSher
    Posted September 14, 2016 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

    Beautiful job. I’m still confused on how you kept the dye from still get on the tub. The plastic covering just doesn’t seem secure and it still has to drain. Im glad it worked out for you. I’m more determine to give It a try. Thanks for sharing.