Monday, January 28, 2013

Dying a Canvas Drop Cloth

I used black Rit powdered dye to tint a cotton-blend canvas drop cloth medium gray.  Here's how I accomplished it:

  • 9' x 12' canvas drop cloth $21
  • Rit black powder dye $2
  • 1 cup of salt
  • Tea pot of hot water
  • (Optional) Bleach or Mrs. Stewart's Bluing
  • Washing machine
  • Laundry detergent
  • Bowl for diluting dye and salt in water
  • Clothes line or dryer

The amount I paid is based on pricing in Hawai'i. 
I paid $23 for this gray dyed canvas that will be used as slipcovers over our inherited 30 year old sofas.

First, I pre-washed the canvas with soap, a capful of Mrs. Stewart's bluing, and fed some bleach into the bleach dispenser in our refurbished top-loading washing machine.  It's amazing how dirty the wash water looks even though the canvas came straight out of a plastic package and into the washing machine.  The fabric shrunk a little, became softer after line drying, and was much cleaner.  I highly recommend a first wash.

The pre-washed canvas, RIT dye, and a cup of salt.
I placed the salt and powdered RIT dye in a metal bowl we use outside.  The salt is used to help dye cotton, which is the main component of the drop cloth I bought.
I filled the bowl with hot water and mixed the dye and salt together.
I let the washing machine fill with water on a large load setting, then added the mix of powdered dye, salt, and hot water.
Using a super wash setting, the longest agitation cycle on our machine, and one rinse cycle, the fabric came out of the machine a fairly dark gray.
On the line, the dying appeared blotchy, but this evened out as the fabric dried.  The color also appeared lighter when it was dry and no longer wet.

Dying the drop cloth really was as simple as 1, 2, 3.

1.  Pre-wash
I used laundry detergent, bleach, and Mrs. Stewart's bluing

2.  Mix and Dilute
1 cup salt + powdered RIT dye + hot water mixed in a container and poured into a water-filled washing machine

3.  Wash, Rinse, and Dry
Run your washing machine on the longest agitation setting with one or two rinses.  Remove the cloth and dry.  :)   Let the cloth sit in the liquid before washing if you want your fabric dyed dark or closer to the powder color.  Consider this project done!

Here's an image I put together to help me remember the steps I took in case I want to dye the slipcover fabric again.

This project is part of my $500 living room
It's the final project, and may possibly break the bank!

Our living room furniture budget (costs rounded up to the next dollar):
$11 left for repairing and slipcovering those sofas...uh oh.

Any suggestions for how I could make $11 stretch are welcome here!

Need an easy way to keep track of Sunnyside Up-stairs?
Get new posts in your inbox and never miss a beat.


  1. Why did you go with the black dye and not gray?

    1. Hi, Cheyenne! I purchased the dye at a store local to me, and they only had black dye available. It worked out for me, though, because I had read elsewhere that if I ran it through my washing machine cycle, the drop cloth would not dye as dark as if I had let it sit for an hour or so. Thank you for the question! :) I hope my answer helps bring clarity to this post.

  2. Greetings Yvonne,
    Thank you so much for taking time from your busy life creating a comfortable and budget wise home!
    I am thinking of using a drop cloth to cover my couch, (My dog believes that this is the best seating in the house:)
    I wanted to dye the cloth, and noticed that you used both bleach and bluing. Did you add the bluing to remove additional color from the drop cloth? Also, as I looked around on your blog, I noticed that you also paint. Do you have any experience painting a drop cloth that will be sat on?
    Thanks very much:)

    1. Hi, Marlene. Thank you so much for your comment and questions. :)

      I added both bleach and bluing to optimize the whitening of the drop cloth as much as possible, primarily because I was shooting for a cool gray, rather than a warm-toned one like the drop cloth was naturally. I am not sure how much each helped, but I included that information in case anyone needed to replicate my steps. =D

      I've not yet painted a drop cloth to sit on, but I do hope to make stenciled drop cloth pillows in the future. You could use fabric paint or a fabric medium that you mix with other paints so that the fabric is still relatively flexible and washable.

      Here is a link to a drop cloth stenciled with fabric medium that may help:
      Stenciled Pillow Covers

      I'd love to see how everything turns out, Marlene! =D
      Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Have you noticed any color bleeding after using the dye? I'm thinking of doing a few drop cloths to cover my couch, but don't want to stain the original white brocade.

    1. I have not noticed color-bleeding, although the stain has faded after almost 2 years without stain guarding it.

      My best recommendation is to conduct a test - sample some dye on old white bedsheet and lay it against another white cloth to see if it does bleed through. :)

  4. Nice post. I was checking condtantly this blog and I
    am impressed! Extremely useful information specifically the last part :) I
    care for succh info much. I was seeking this particular info for
    a very llong time.Thank you and god luck.

  5. Does your blog have a contact page? I'm having trouble locating it but, I'd like
    to shoot you an email. I've got some creative ideas for your blog you
    might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it grow over time.

    1. Hello! Comments are sent to my e-mail address, so I am able to see messages posted here. :) Thank you for leaving a note for me. I'd love to hear your ideas.


Let's start a conversation. Seeing comments makes me want to do a jig. I love hearing from you, so please remember to leave your mark here. :)