Maybe you’ve bought a new house, and the carpeting isn’t exactly what you would’ve chosen—but replacing it all simply isn’t in the budget right now. Perhaps you have kids who leave a trail of juice spills behind them or dogs or cats who consider the carpet their lawn. No matter your reasoning for needing a carpet glow-up, dyeing your carpet is an easy way to make it look new in a matter of a few days.
Before you pick up your supplies, here’s everything you need to know about how to dye carpet.
Prepping to Dye Carpet
Photo: RgStudio / E+ / Getty Images
The first question you need to answer is can I dye my carpet? The answer is entirely dependent on the material. Carpet dyeing works best when you have carpet made from nylon, wool, or silk; it is not, however, an option for thicker carpet fiber, like polyester, that won’t absorb the dye evenly. If you have red wine stains or other dark sections of the carpet that a dye won’t cover—or the fiber isn’t conducive to dye in the first place—you could consider adding a large area rug or two instead.
Prepping your space is paramount to achieving a professional look and avoiding staining your walls and furniture in the process. Remove all furniture from the room and use painter’s tape to mask off any trim to ensure it doesn’t get any dye on it in the process. (You also might want to remove the baseboards entirely to be extra cautious that you don’t stain them, as you’ll be applying the dye right up to the edges of the wall).
Mask off your walls with painter’s tape and plastic wrap or masking paper to avoid overspray or splatter before thoroughly cleaning the carpet and starting the dyeing process. Depending on how dirty your old carpet is, you may want to bring in a local carpet cleaner to give it a once-over before you start.
Pick the Right Color
Once you know your carpet is a good candidate for dye, you can proceed with the step-by-step dyeing process. What carpet dye you use will come down to your budget and color preference, though you need to be sure to use actual carpet dye (versus a fabric dye). There are thousands of carpet dye colors from which to choose, but you’re limited by your carpet’s current shade.
While you can go over a light carpet with a darker dye color, you cannot reverse the process. So if your carpet is, say, red, and you want to transform it to a lighter shade like a beige, you’ll need to consider replacing the carpet entirely instead of simply dyeing it. If you’re covering substantial stains, it’s imperative you pick a dark enough dye that will sufficiently mask any trouble spots you’re trying to hide.
Do a Test Swatch
After you have your dye color chosen—or at least narrowed down to a few options—you’ll want to test it out on a small section. Before you commit to covering your entire carpet in dye, make sure you don’t need to add more color or, conversely, dilute it to lighten up the hue. Test the dye in a spot, perhaps, behind your couch, that you can easily hide if things don’t go as planned.
Mix Up the Dye
The dye you buy will have instructions on the bottle, but you’ll likely need to mix it with hot water as well as a pH Stabilizer that comes with the kit you purchase. Wear gloves to protect your skin from coming in contact with the dye, and prepare the dye in a space that has been covered by cardboard, newspaper, or a drop cloth to avoid errant droplets from staining your floors.
Since you need to keep the mixture at a high temperature—the water should remain between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit—apply the dye immediately after mixing with water and only work with a small amount of it at a time. You should also be sure the room is well ventilated.
Coat the Carpet
Start by coating a section of the carpet evenly with water, preferably with a light mist from a spray bottle or pump sprayer. This step will ensure uniform absorption by creating a thin layer on top of the old carpet. Then, add the dye with a sprayer, closely following the instructions on the bottle.
Run a Steamer Over It
Photo: SolStock / E+ / Getty Images
You’ll want to rake and work the dye into the carpet, so if you don’t own a carpet steamer, buying or renting one for this project is smart. After coating the carpet in the dye, you’ll run the steamer over each section to infuse the flooring with the dye/water mixture.
If you can’t get the edges of the room with the carpet steamer, coat the room's perimeter, then work it into the carpet using an old toothbrush or scrub brush.
Repeat the Process for 2 More Coats
Once you’ve fully covered the entire carpet with one coat of dye, you’ll repeat the process at least once more, as you’ll need to add two to three coats to complete your carpet dye job. After the first coat is dry, apply a second coat, let it dry, then determine if your carpet needs a third.
Let the Carpet Dry
Photo: JacobH / E+ / Getty Images
Before moving your furniture back into the room, the last step is letting the carpet fully cure. Depending on ventilation and humidity, your carpet could take one to three days to completely dry. You can walk on it at this time, but wait until it’s no longer damp before moving the furniture back into the room.
DIY Carpet Dyeing vs. Hiring a Pro
Carpet dyeing is a DIY job you could fairly easily handle on your own, assuming you have the time and patience to follow the instructions. However, if you simply aren’t into DIY or are nervous about dyeing your precious floors, a local carpet dyer will be able to do the job for you quickly and professionally.
Tools and supplies to dye your carpet will run you between $100 and $200, while hiring a pro to dye your carpets will cost around $585. However, if you have the tools on hand, you’ll only need a carpet dyeing kit, which will run you around $50 to $100.
Additional Questions About Dyeing Carpet
Is carpet dyeing affordable?
Dyeing your carpet typically costs around one-third of what it would cost to replace the entire carpet, and the overall price is dependent on how much surface area you’re covering. Carpet dyeing is the more economical choice if you have stains but are looking for a temporary fix to last a few years before replacing your carpet entirely.
When should I replace my carpet instead?
If you have a dark carpet and are going for a lighter look, you should replace it, rather than dyeing, since you can only go darker with dye. If your stains are too heavy to mask with carpet dye or the carpet is more than 10 years old, you should also consider replacing it.