Used coffee grounds are a greener way to dye fabrics brown

Researchers find way to dye clothing with coffee grounds

When it comes to things you can do with coffee, the list is seemingly endless — you can use it to help in your garden, to stain wood, to clean, and to even keep bugs away in your yard. Now, you can add "dye clothing" to this ever-growing list. 

A birds-eye view of coffee grounds sitting inside a white coffee filter

Changhyun "Lyon" Nam of Iowa State University started experimenting with coffee grounds and dyeing pieces of fabric. Since the textile industry uses more than 2 million tons of chemicals and synthetic dyes annually, researchers are looking for cleaner and greener alternative methods. 

Nam started using coffee grounds to dye fabric by drying them for three days and then boiling them with purified water to extract the dye. He then tested it on cotton, linen, rayon, silk, and polyester. He used different mordants (these help dye bond to fabrics) and created a variety of brown shades.

There are many advantages to natural dyes, but one of the biggest challenges is to prevent the color from fading and replicating the color over and over again. There's still more research to be done before natural dyes are an option for mass production, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Related: Our chocolate maker used coffee to stain wood in their new space

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