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Make Natural Wood Dyes from Kitchen Leftovers

By Paul

May 8, 2024

 From Kitchen Scraps to Stunning Wood Tones

Hey folks, Paul here from Dusty Workbench! Today, we're diving into the wonderful world of natural wood dyes. Forget about harsh chemicals and store-bought stains – we're going all-natural with everyday kitchen scraps!

Now, I know what you might be thinking: "Natural dyes? Sounds like something out of a grandma's recipe book." Well, you'd be surprised! Not only are natural dyes safe and eco-friendly, but they can also create a stunning array of colors that rival their chemical counterparts.

In this experiment, we rummaged through the kitchen and gathered some unlikely heroes: old cabbage, a handful of blueberries, some rusty nails (don't worry, they were clean!), and even a splash of leftover red wine. We then used these everyday items to create a vibrant spectrum of natural dyes for wood. Let's get started!

Why Use Natural Dyes?

Before we unleash our inner alchemist, let's talk about the benefits of using natural dyes for your woodworking projects. Here are just a few reasons to consider this eco-friendly approach:

  • Cheap, Cheap, Cheap! You're probably already paying for these ingredients for your meals. No need to break the bank on fancy store-bought stains.
  • No Harsh Chemicals: Unlike chemical stains, natural dyes are safe for you, your family, and the environment. No harsh fumes or worries about disposal.
  • Gluing Up Like Raw Wood: Unlike stains that can interfere with glue adhesion, natural dyes won't affect your project's structural integrity. You can dye your wood first, then glue it up with confidence.
  • The Power of Personalization: Want a unique shade? Mix and match different natural dyes to create your own custom colors! The possibilities are endless.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Repurpose those leftover kitchen scraps instead of tossing them out. You can even use the leftover dye solution in your recipes (more on that later!).

Our Natural Dye Experiment

Now, let's get down to the fun part – the experiment! Here's what we used and how we did it:


  • For Purple Tones:
    • A head of old cabbage (red cabbage works great too!)
    • Water
    • Vinegar (optional)
    • Baking soda (optional)
  • For Blue-ish Tones:
    • Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
    • Water
    • Vinegar (optional)
    • Baking soda (optional)
  • For Brown Tones:
    • Rusty nails
    • Vinegar
  • For a Hint of Red (Bonus):
    • Red wine (leftovers are perfect!)
  • Wood Samples: We used a variety of scrap wood for this experiment, including pine, maple, and oak.


  1. Prepare the Dyes:
    • Cabbage Dye: Roughly chop the cabbage and simmer it in water for about an hour. Strain the liquid into a jar and discard the cabbage. You can experiment with adding a tablespoon of vinegar or baking soda to the simmering water to see how it affects the final color (vinegar tends to make the purple a bit redder, while baking soda pushes it towards a green hue).
    • Blueberry Dye: Similar to the cabbage, simmer the blueberries in water for about a half hour. Strain the liquid and discard the berries (or use in a smoothie). Again, experiment with vinegar and baking soda to see how they influence the final color. Baking soda tends to make it green.
    • Rusty Nail Dye: Place the rusty nails in a jar and cover them with vinegar. Let this sit for a few days, allowing the rust to infuse the vinegar.
    • Red Wine Dye (Bonus): This one's pretty straightforward. Just use leftover red wine (don't waste fresh wine for this experiment!).
  2. Prepare the Wood Samples:
    Lightly sand your wood samples to ensure a smooth surface for the dye to adhere to. Wipe away any sanding dust with a clean cloth.
  3. Dyeing the Wood:
    There are several ways to apply the dye to your wood. You can dip the wood completely into the dye solution, brush it on, or even use a rag for a more rustic effect. The longer you leave the wood in the dye, the more intense the color will be.
  4. Drying and Finishing:
    Once you've achieved the desired color, remove the wood from the dye and allow it to dry completely. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a overnight, depending on the thickness of the wood. Once dry, you can apply a natural finish like beeswax or linseed oil to protect the wood and enhance the

Natural Dyes are a Winner!

As you can see from our experiment, natural dyes offer a surprisingly vibrant and versatile way to color your woodworking projects. We were amazed at the range of colors we achieved with just a few simple kitchen ingredients. From the rich purples of cabbage to the earthy browns of rusty nails, the possibilities are truly endless.

Here's the best part: natural dyes are not only budget-friendly and safe, but they also offer a sustainable alternative to chemical stains. You're giving new life to kitchen scraps, reducing waste, and creating stunning results – all in one go!

Ready to Experiment?

So, the next time you're in the kitchen and have some leftover scraps, don't toss them out! Use them to create your own unique natural dyes. Remember, there's no right or wrong way to do this. Experiment with different ingredients, mixing and matching dyes, and see what amazing colors you can come up with. Share your creations and discoveries in the comments below – we'd love to see what you come up with!

And hey, don't forget about the leftover dye solutions! Some of them, like the blueberry dye, can be used in recipes for a natural color boost. Just make sure to do your research and ensure the dye is suitable for consumption (we recommend sticking to the cabbage water for your woodworking projects!).

We hope this blog has inspired you to explore the world of natural dyes. With a little creativity and some kitchen scraps, you can unlock a whole new palette for your woodworking projects. Happy crafting!


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