Beets are not only good for your health, they are a natural source of vegetable dye to color clothes at home without harsh chemicals. The finished color will range from a light pinkish-purple to a deeper purple -- depending on how long you leave the garment in the beet liquid. Opt for natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk as they absorb and maintain natural dyes better than synthetic fabrics, which can actually resist the dye.
Wash the T-shirt to remove any traces of dirt or perspiration. Do not dry it.
Put on rubber gloves or disposable gloves to protect your hands and arms from beet juice stains. Use a cutting board as a base to cut the beets into into dice-sized chunks with a kitchen knife. Put the chunks in a large glass or enamel pot and put the pot on the stove.
Add enough water to cover the beets, turn the heat on high and bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer the beets until they're cooked through and the water is deeply colored. This takes about one hour.
Remove the beets and discard them. Bring the liquid back to a simmer and place the T-shirt in the pot. Stir it with a paint stick to completely immerse it in the dye bath and let it simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.
Check the garment after one hour. It will dry to a lighter color, so the darker you want the finished color, the longer the shirt should soak in the dye bath. For really deep color, let the shirt soak for several hours or until the liquid has cooled to room temperature.
Rinse the shirt thoroughly in cool water until the water runs clear. Dry the shirt overnight on a clothesline or run it through a machine drying cycle with like-colored clothing or old towels to avoid staining other clothes.
- Wait at least several days before washing the dyed T-shirt to allow the dye to set into the fabric.
- Hand wash the shirt in cold water to clean it. As with dyes in general -- whether synthetic or natural -- residual color loss occurs with each washing that could stain other clothes.
- Beet juice creates a permanent stain on clothing, so wear old clothes and shoes when dyeing items.
Shelley Moench-Kelly is a writer and editor whose clients range from L'Oreal and www.Makeup.com to the McGraw-Hill Companies and FIDM. She has interviewed notables such as Dr. Andrew Ordon of “The Doctors” and the legendary Vidal Sassoon. Her first book, "Egg," is slated for release in 2016.
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