Onion Skin Dye For Beginners


Dyeing fabric with onion dye really eases one into the natural dyeing process. The process is quite simple, safe and results in shades of brown with a tinge of peach. Now, onion dye in this simple guide refers to dyeing fabric with the part of the onion that is usually discarded: the onion peel. While there is several ways to use onion peel dye, this is one of the simplest methods for beginners, though it may seem complicated. In order to improve colourfastness, soaking the fabric to be dyed in 80o C warm water with 5% alum to weight of fabric for 20 minutes is recommended.


Materials Needed:

  • Onion peels or skins
  • Access to stove
  • Lidded dye pots of stainless steel or aluminium (preferably ones not used for cooking, after)
  • Long handle spoon for stirring
  • Fabric for dyeing with onion skin dye, like organic cotton or linen
  • Stainless steel or cord drying line with pegs
  • And of course, a lot of patience



Time for some funions

Like with any natural dye, the output varies according to the mordant used on fabric (like alum in this case), pH of the water, variety of produce, the utensils used for dyeing, and so on. Refer to our blog titled Nature of Natural Dyes for a better insight. Only dyeing fabric with onion dye is included here since this blog covers the easiest way for onion skin dye.



Make sure to collect enough onion peels over time and to not let them dry out too much under direct sunlight. The best way to store onion peels would be in an airtight container at room temperature.



Choose fabric that is not dyed or dyed in light shades like white, off-white or cream. The weight of the fabric decides the amount of onion peel dye required. The heavier the fabric, the more onion peels would be required.


Dyeing Fabric With Onion Skin Dye:

To prepare the onion peel dye, crush the dried onion peels into tiny bits. Heat water in a lidded pot until the temperature reaches below boiling point. Ensure there is enough water to fit in all the fabric evenly, and for it to move freely. Add the onion peel, at least 50% of the weight of fabric, into the pot and let simmer for a few minutes until the water absorbs to colour from the onion skin dye.


Pre-wash the fabric to be dyed in warm to hot water, in order to remove any starch or coating that it may have. The output will be lighter as a result. Stir the dye pot with the fabric every 10 minutes to ensure that the fabric absorbs the dye, evenly. This would help clear air pockets that may be formed and bring more solid results than a patchy output.


Follow this routine for about 40 minutes to an hour, until the fabric absorbs enough colour, as required. A lovely brown shade with a peach hue should be observed. Once ready, remove the fabric from the dye pot, while being careful not to splash warm onion skin dye on your attire. Allow the dyed fabric to cool down and wring out the excess water. Wash the fabric a little more to ensure any excess onion dye is completely removed, preferably with non-ionic detegent. The shade may seem a little darker while wet; however, expect a much lighter shade when dry.


For a different shade, the pH level of the water can be played with. Squeezing fresh lemon juice to the water, before adding the onion peels, will increase the pH of the water, giving a much lighter shade. Similarly, vinegar will decrease the pH of water, giving a darker shade. For best results, ensure the pH of onion skin dye remains at 5. The process of dyeing fabric with onion dye may be tiresome, but totally worth it!


The pieces handcrafted at zy-lk are hand-dyed using organic dyes made of Marigold petals, Madder roots, Turmeric, Areca Nuts, Annatto seeds or Indigo leaves. These are individually hand-dyed every time after an order is received. Some of the dyes used at zy-lk are GOTS certified. View the entire collection here

For obtaining a pink shade, read our blog on Dyeing with Avocado Dye. Stay tuned for more blogs on natural dyes.