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Healthy Lifestyles that Last Blog

Dyeing with Black Beans, Colors of Nature

Week 3 of National Garden Month's Natural Dyes series is all about black beans which happens to be one of my favorite foods. I love beans in general but black beans hold a special place in my heart. They are full of fiber, protein, resistant starch (supporting the good bacterial in the lower GI) and several phytochemicals including anthocyanin flavonoids- giving them their black-blue color.

This color is what we are extracting to turn our clothes or fabric a beautiful blue or lavender; depending on the type of water you have. If your water is neutral (7 on a pH scale) it will be blue. If your color turns out to be more lavender, you have slightly acidic water so by adding a little bit of baking soda (base) your fabric will return to that natural blue hue. Voila!

Cold Water vs Hot Water

When using natural dyes you will most likely be using a hot dye bath method but in the case of black beans, the heat will destroy the color so always use a cold water bath when dyeing with black beans.

Preparing the Dye Bath

  • Start with a bag of dried black beans and pour into a large non-reactive bowl.
  • Fill with filtered water- 2 ½ times the amount of black beans used (the beans will expand).
  • Let them sit for 24 hours in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally.
  • 2 hours before you want to use the water, do not disturb the contents of bowl- you don't want bean protein in your dye bath because it could affect your color by turning it greyer.
  • Carefully pour the black bean water into a separate non-reactive bowl and add your fabric to be dyed.
  • Allow to sit for another 24 hours.
  • If you are happy with the resulting color, remove and let air dry.

Use the beans within a few days or freeze for later use (6-8 months for best quality).



McLaughlin, C. (2014) A Garden to Dye For.