Sustainable Dyeing: Transform Your Clothes with Onion Skins

When our clothes lose their vibrancy or just aren't in style anymore, it's tempting to push them to the back of the closet. But wait! There's a better way—one that starts with the humble onion. Discover how to rejuvenate your wardrobe sustainably and toxin-free by harnessing the power of onion skins to dye your clothes. Give your garments new life and a fresh look that's uniquely yours.

What you will need:

  • Red or brown onion skins
  • 1 x stainless steel cooking pot with lid
  • 1 x bucket (same size or bigger than the cooking pot)
  • 1 x piece of cellulose fabric * (see note)
  • 1 x pair of stainless steel tongs
  • 1 x stainless steel or wooden spoon
  • 1 x muslin cloth (bigger than the bucket opening)
  • 1 x face mask
  • Washing machine
  • Cloth or paper-towel

* Cellulose fabrics are those derived from plants such as cotton or linen.


  1. Prepare Materials: Start by collecting enough onion skins to dye your fabric. You'll also need the fabric you want to dye, such as cotton or linen, and a large pot designated for dyeing purposes.
  2. Create Dye Bath: Fill the pot with enough water to fully submerge your fabric. Bring the water to a boil, then add the onion skins. Allow the onion skins to simmer in the water for about an hour. This process extracts the natural dyes from the onion skins and creates a rich dye bath.
  3. Strain the Dye: After simmering, remove the pot from heat and strain out the onion skins. This step ensures that your dye bath is free of any solid particles.
  4. Add Fabric: Carefully place your fabric into the dye bath. Use tongs or a stirring stick to ensure that the fabric is fully submerged and evenly distributed in the dye bath. Allow the fabric to simmer in the dye bath for about an hour. You can adjust the simmering time based on the desired depth of color.
  5. Rinse and Dry: Once the fabric has reached your desired color intensity, remove it from the dye bath and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. This helps to remove any excess dye and prevent colour bleeding. After rinsing, hang the fabric to air dry in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

By following these steps, you can dye clothing with onion skins, creating unique and naturally dyed fabrics with beautiful earthy tones.

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Information & Image Sources: Suzy Quilts, 2022 ; I love linen, 2024