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How to Ice Dye: My Black Ice Dye Napkin Tutorial

This post will teach you how to ice dye by sharing my black ice dye napkin tutorial! I ice dyed cotton napkins using Jacquard Procion dye powder in Jet Black. See how.

How to Ice Dye: My Black Ice Dye Napkin Tutorial

I was watching “Making It” on NBC a few weeks ago and said to Mike, “I really need to step up my crafting game and learn some more techniques.” He said, “well you aren’t going to do that sitting here watching TV.” (Right, but I had to watch Damask Love!)

So I decided to dive in and try something I have been wanting to try for a while: ice dying. I haven’t had a ton of experience with dying items other than the occasional tie-dye and some minor projects dyed with Rit dye (refreshing old jeans, etc.).

I had seen ice-dyed items on Pinterest before and wondering, was this really something that would look good? Could I, someone with pretty much no skills in dying fabric, pull off a cool looking ice dye? The answer is yes.

Looks cool right? It’s like if tie-dye and shibori had a mashup that required no skill or technique. Really. Here’s how I did it.

finished ice dyed cotton napkins


A couple of notes before I go over the steps I took.

1. Getting true black. It’s extremely difficult to get a true black when dying white. This did turn out more navy than I’d wanted, and it looked even bluer in real life compared to these photos.

That’s okay, I still think it looks nice—was just really hoping for a higher contrast black, gray, and white. There are parts of the napkins that look black, which is pretty cool. Those parts must have just gotten more of the dye as it melted.

finished ice dyed cotton napkins

2. What fabric to use. You must use a natural fiber fabric if you want to try this technique and maximize how vibrant your color is. 100% cotton is great. You can dye anything using this technique. It doesn’t have to be napkins. I just wanted something smaller, manageable, and practical to try it out. And you can use any color!

3. Prepare! Procion dye is MESSY and STRONG. I covered my workspace and didn’t wear anything that I’d care about getting dye on. I cannot emphasize this enough.

A tiny bit of the dye powder is extremely strong, too. So if you even drop a speck on a table and then try to wipe it up with a wet cloth, you’ll have a streak in that color that you’ll have to clean up. 🙂

Ok, here’s how to ice dye!

Step 1: Prep materials and workspace

First I submerged my napkins in a bath of water and washing soda. Washing soda is also called soda ash, which I only discovered after a lot of confusion while looking for the right thing to buy. 🙂

The dye has the ratio of washing soda to water on its instructions, as well as how long you need to soak it. I think it said 15 minutes, and I ended up soaking mine for about 30 minutes because I had a baby to attend to. The purpose of the washing soda soak is to help the fabric absorb the dye better.

white cotton napkin
white cotton napkin submerged in soda ash water
white cotton napkin submerged in soda ash water

Step 2: Twist

Then I lined a baking pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup and popped my cooling rack in. I wrung out the napkins as best I could (I didn’t rinse them, just wrung out the excess), and then twisted them up. I twisted some more tightly than others to see the difference it would make in the dye’s pattern.

For all of them, I twisted them up like I was wringing out a towel, and then I coiled them up in different directions. Don’t overthink this step…the dye is going to migrate!

pan, foil, and grate for dying
pan, foil, and grate for dying with rolled up cotton napkins on it

Step 3: Add ice and dye

I put a layer of ice cubes over the coiled-up napkins and sprinkled the Procion Dye over them. I really just guessed at how much I’d need and aimed for a decent layer over the ice cubes.

pan, foil, and grate for dying with napkins added in and ice on top
black dye powder melting over ice
black dye powder melting over ice
black dye powder melting over ice
procion dye in jet black

It looked pretty cool while it started to melt—definitely made for some cool pics. I was hopeful that the napkins would take on a similar pattern to how the dye looked on the ice cubes.

Step 4: Let it sit

After I sprinkled the dye, I let it sit for about 24 hours. This is why the cooling rack part is necessary—if you just let the dye melt through the ice and the napkins sit in a dye bath, there won’t be any pattern. Mine would have just turned solid black on the parts that touched the dye bath.

Here’s how mine looked the next morning. The blue color disappointed me, but since the dye bath was black, I had high hopes for how the napkins would look rinsed out.

dye melted over the cloth napkins

Step 5: Rinse

This was the worst part. Rinsing the dye out with cold water in the sink until the water ran clear. I would probably not have done this in a white sink, that’s for sure! There was a lot of dye to rinse out.

But after a while, the water started looking clear, so I threw a bit of detergent in and washed them for the last rinse. Then I threw them in the dryer to see how they’d look dry.

They verdict? I think they look pretty cool. The black may not have taken as a pure black/gray, but I still think the navy looks nice. I knew getting a pure black would be difficult and that navy or purple was a definite possibility. Luckily I still like both colors 😉 You can also definitely tell a difference between the napkins I twisted tightly (they have more white space) and the napkins I twisted loosely (less white space).

finished ice dyed cotton napkins on a table
finished ice dyed cotton napkins on a table
finished ice dyed cotton napkins on a table
finished ice dyed cotton napkins
finished ice dyed cotton napkins
finished ice dyed cotton napkins

I’m going to call this one a success. New skill in the books!

For more fun craft projects, check out my upcycled tea tin planter, my adventures in dyeing shibori style, my DIY resin and wood serving tray, and my tips on how to make resin jewelry using molds!

Share my tutorial on how to ice dye napkins black on Pinterest!

pinnable graphic about how to ice dye cloth napkins including photos with text overlay

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