Although using natural dyes is an age-old way of diversifying our closets, fashion has been using chemicals to dye clothes due to their low cost and potent efficiency. But the marginally higher cost of natural dyes is, in reality, extremely small compared to the adverse health effects of chemical dyes.

And in my day to day life, red wine happens.

One night out, my white flirty pair of Rag & Bone jeans (yes, an old investment piece) took a glass of red wine to the face (on accident, of course). As the red wine stain is one of the most stubborn of them all, I thought giving it a makeover could spare me from throwing away a perfectly great pair of denim (which, by the way, requires a lot of water to produce).

So I decided to spend a few more bucks on natural dyes rather than harm myself and the environment with the cheaper chemical options. My goal was to turn my nicely stained white denim into black. This ended up being a cool slate blue. While there are more intensive ways to naturally dye your jeans, I took a quick fix. Below I recorded the process so you, too, could get your Martha Stewart on and get crafty with a fun DIY.

Here’s my recipe:

• About 1.5 gallons of warm water
• 1 cup of tannic acid
• 8 grams of iron salts

Here are my directions:

1. (Above) I used white vinegar to get some of the red wine stain out, then washed the jeans. To start, soak the pre-washed jeans in hot water, as close to boiling without the threat of burning your skin. This opens the fibers.

2. (Above) Soak jeans in tannic acid for about 30 minutes. The tannic acid turns the water and the white denim brown, which will go towards a dark slate blue when you add the iron salts.

3. Here’s a little in between step. Soak jeans in soap to neutralize acid in tannin. This will help the fibers retain the natural dye better.

4. (Above) Immerse the jeans in iron salt solution (what will turn it slate blue) for as long as you want them dark. I did about 3 hours.

The next steps are time but not labor intensive:

5. Air dry jeans.
6. Rinse in the kitchen sink by hand.
7. Air dry jeans.
8. Presto!

Below is the final color change!

Final Product

Final Product Final1

Photos: Jessie Cagliero

Chanel Fu
Chanel Fu is an ethical fashion stylist who is committed to responsible style. A second-hand shopping expert, she knows how to curate looks that are environmentally and maker friendly.