No, generally you cannot dye waterproof fabrics.
This is because they do not allow water to penetrate them which means the dye will not be soaked into the fabric, instead it will just roll off making it ineffective.
Waterproof fabrics are designed to withstand exposure to the weather which means they are impossible to dye with standard dyes.
Standard dyes are not UV resistant so will quickly fade back to their old color with added stains and streaks which will make your waterproof fabric look far worse.
That said there are a few rare exceptions to this rule, you can dye some waterproof fabrics if you carefully follow exact instructions.
Gore-Tex Is One Of The Few Waterproof Fabrics That Can Be Dyed
Gore-Tex is one such waterproof fabric that can be dyed.
Gore-Tex is a waterproof synthetic fabric which is designed to be breathable and therefore permeable to air and water vapors.
It is commonly used to make outdoor and sports clothing.
To dye Gore-Tex follow the process below, be aware this will only work if you are dying a light fabric a darker color.
- Find a container big enough to hold the fabric with plenty of room to spare (the fabric shouldn’t be too bunched up inside it otherwise some of it will not be exposed to the dye).
- Boil water to exactly 212 degrees Fahrenheit / 100 degrees celsius and pour it into the bucket/container until almost full.
- Add powder dye and mix it in until there are no lumps of powder left.
- Place the fabric into the container.
- Stir until the fabric is completely saturated.
- Leave the gore-tex in the mixture for one hour, stir frequently throughout the hour.
- After one hour remove the gore-tex and put it in another bucket filled with just warm water.
- Remove the fabric from the warm water and rinse it under a warm tap until the water runs clear.
- Then rinse the fabric with cold water.
- Hang it on a clothesline to dry.
This method is a lot of work and takes a lot of time to achieve.
An alternative could be to buy a non-waterproof fabric, dye it, and then waterproof it using a waterproof spray..
..or of course, you could just buy waterproof fabric in the color you want in the first place!
Using Fabric Conditioner To Strip Off Waterproof Coatings Is A Bad Idea
Some people advise breaking down water-repellent fabric coatings using fabric softener.
In theory, this will allow you to dye waterproof fabric.
However, the reality is that this will ruin the fabric.
You will have to wash the fabric in fabric softener several times to get rid of most of the water-resistant coating and even then you are likely to have patches of waterproof coating leftover.
Dying fabric that has had its waterproof coating stripped off is likely to result in a very poor finish with lots of patches and streaks, plus the fabric will no longer be waterproof so you may as well have dyed a standard garment instead.
Basically it’s not worth the effort!
Most waterproof fabrics cannot be dyed…the few that can be dyed require a lot of work to achieve a good outcome, to be honest it is probably not worth the effort.
We certainly don’t recommend trying it on a garment that you like, try it on an old piece of gore-tex first to perfect the technique.