My experience dyeing a flokati rug

Dyed Flokati Rug

Dyed flokati rug, September 2011

Here is an off-food-blog topic that I’m including because it may be useful information that I was unable to find when trying to dye my flokati rug.

The moment I saw the white wool shag rug at Ikea, I had my heart set on what I learned was called a flokati rug. The rug was to be for the living room we added in our recent remodel. To my dismay, the 6-foot by 9-foot rug I ordered online arrived a different color from the sample and didn’t work well in the room. It was pinkish rather than golden, stood out from the floor rather than blending in, and didn’t match the kraft-paper color of the curtains.

The site owner was unresponsive. (I’m not going to name the site except to say beware of the cheapest option.) In addition, the prospect of returning a 34-pound item was daunting. Besides, I did like the rug’s style and luxurious feel. So I decided to research dyeing. Since I was unable to find first-hand reports about dyeing this type of rug, although off-food-blog-topic, I’m posting my experience as a service in case others might be interested.

Dye Tests 1

Blue tuft was a test using dye I had on hand to find out if the fibers would take the dye. Pinkish tufts are tests of golden brown fiber reactive dye and golden straw and tobacco leaf acid dyes. Tuft at upper right is the original color. Tuft directly left of original is sample/goal color.

CAUTIONS. I must include the disclaimer that this was of course entirely at my own risk and if you try it, at yours. Dye results were surprising, so testing beforehand is essential. Water temperature is important. For my dye to work properly the water needed to be warm, and when doing the final dyeing, I duplicated the temperature of the test as closely as possible.

Staining from the drainage and rinsing wasn’t an issue in my case because I wasn’t changing the color dramatically. Therefore the dye bath was fairly dilute, didn’t need to be rinsed out, and the water could be drained onto our concrete garage floor without staining.

Is it a concern that you may be washing out fire-retardant properties? Some say that wool is naturally fire-retardant. If added protection is desired, fire retardant sprays are available.

In the end the rug took the dye well and evenly, and I’m very, very happy with the results.

Dye Tests 2

Fine-tuning the Rit golden yellow and tan dyes

TESTING. First I tried some Rit dye that I had on hand just to test how the fibers took the dye (see blue tuft in photo above). It worked great. After some Internet research, I ordered dyes online. I tried a golden brown fiber-reactive dye, which turned the fibers pinkish-red. The dye company then suggested their acid dyes. Those still turned out too pink. I then tried Rit dyes. Bingo. The final formula was equal measurements of Rit tan (liquid) and golden yellow (powder).

Backyard Pool

First attempt to fill pool. Location in the back yard was not flat enough. Pinkish cast of the rug, pre-dye, is more evident in this photo.

THE POOL.  According to calculations the project would require about 100 gallons of water (approximately 3 gallons to 1 pound of fabric).  I racked my brain, because my bathtub wouldn’t be big enough. I ended up purchasing a 3-foot by 6-foot family-size inflatable pool from Amazon for $30, free super-saver shipping.

Pool in Driveway

My second location for the pool was in the driveway.

DYEING DAY: I first filled the pool partway in the back yard, but the surface wasn’t level enough. I drained the pool and moved it to the driveway. There the concrete was sufficiently level. The day was predicted to be warm and sunny, and I had intended for the sun to warm the water to the needed temperature. But guess what? Rain.

Dyeing in Garage

The rug folded in thirds in the dye bath. The drainage trough is the line at upper right.

So then I drained the water again and moved the pool into the garage. But how to get warm water? With the garden hose manually attached to the kitchen faucet I managed to sufficiently fill the pool with warm water. It took an hour and fifteen minutes to get to two-thirds full. I’m pretty sure it was less than the 100 gallons, but I could tell it would be deep enough to immerse the rug with room to move. In a bowl, I dissolved the dyes in boiling water. The dissolving took about 10 minutes. Then I mixed the dye formula into the water in the pool.

Before putting the rug into the dye bath it would need to be wet, so I placed the rug on the garage floor next to the pool and dumped several bucketfuls of water on it. Our garage is sloped toward the overhead door and has a trough drain, so the excess water went into that drain. The wet rug was heavy, but I was able to inch it into the pool to be soaked and stirred for 30 minutes. The dye bath was dilute enough that I could step into the pool and agitate the rug with my feet without staining my skin.

DRAINING AND DRYING. After the 30-minute soak I deflated the sides gradually, one tier at a time, with my foot pressing a channel in the side to direct the slow drainage. I inched the heavy rug out onto the garage floor again, allowed it to drain awhile, then rolled it up and walked on the roll to press out more of the water. When my husband came home from work, he helped put the rug up on boards on sawhorses to allow it to drip and drain. I also directed a fan onto the underside and left the garage windows open.  The rug dried surprisingly quickly overnight. Finally, I laid the barely damp rug on the deck, first one side up then the other, to dry completely in the sun. After drying, it seemed to have some tangling that I noticed when walking on it barefoot, so I finger-combed it to remove as many of the tangles as possible.

Before and After

Before and after.

THE RESULT. Now the rug is the lovely golden brown of the sample and of my imagining, It looks great in the room, plus it’s all clean and fluffed. Love, love, love. Also, now I know the rug can be immersed and dry fairly quickly, so I won’t be afraid to wash it in the future.

LESSONS LEARNED. Take time to test, test, test on small pieces until you get the color you want. Look at your samples in daylight as well as nighttime artificial light. Record quantities and other variables. Reduplicate the conditions of the test as best you can including dye formula, proportions of water to dye, water temperature, and length of time in the dye.

The final lesson for me is that, while big risks can fail magnificently, sometimes, when every effort is made to prepare, they work out and can result in a big reward.

19 Responses to “My experience dyeing a flokati rug”

  1. Jessica Walker says:

    So it’s dried just from my first wash before dye and on a few spot it’s turned this gross dirty red / orange from it being so dirty ?
    I’m wondering if I should wash a few more times ?
    I’m using my fence a garden hose to spray it down and detergent and bleach to help clean before I apply my color :(((
    So sad .

  2. Jessica Walker says:

    I have the same rug it was a cream white with this yellowish tint from my dogs laying on it as my dinner table sits on rug .
    I’ve washed in my big bath tub once and that seemed to help .
    I now have it draped over my fence preparing to dye it .
    I hosed and bleached w/ soap ,rinsed and now it’s dying in the heat of the day .
    I started to google how and what dye to use and bam this link piped up !
    Thank so much 🙂
    I’m thinking of doing a retro pink as my house is very mid century .

  3. Charlotte says:

    I just bought a beautiful shag rug from Craigslist that is a cream (kind of a yellowish cream) and it WAS gorgeous! I was so in love and so happy. Then…ohhhh. My 2-year-old climbed onto the sink and sprayed my entire kitchen, dining room, and half my living room for about 10 minutes (long enough for me to make my bed with fresh linens)…and of course my gorgeous rug got soaked 🙁 My heart was broken. I dried it as best I could and even laid sheets over it so it wouldn’t get filthy on the edges, but by the next morning, not only was it dirty on the edges, but it smelled HORRIBLY! I spent that night washing it (kind of like you’d wash a dog) with a solution of detergent and bleach. Most of the smell is gone, but the color is definitely not the same…kind of a dirty dingy white around the edges I cleaned (about 2 feet in towards the rug). I could cover it by repositioning it, but the furniture will still not cover it all. I am so sad. My only hope now is maybe to dye it a beige/tan color. I wish I could add a picture because my question is, what was the texture of your rug. Mine has different sized “hairs,” some thick and long, some shorter, and some skinny and long and shorter. I just want to be sure this is even feasible to do. It’s also an 8 x 10, so it’s pretty large…and I also know it’s super, super heavy when wet, probably over 100 pounds! I really want to try this, but I’d like to know if your carpet is the same…or is it the fuzzy kind…or the regular carpet fiber type that’s just longer hairs (if any of that makes sense. lol). Thanks so much for your time.

    • Hi Charlotte, Oh, my, I’m sorry about your damaged rug. The little darlings can cause lots of havoc in a very short time, no doubt about it.

      One helpful thing I did was snip a few fibers and test-dye them, which helped me decide it was safe to go ahead with the whole rug. I remember mine was really heavy when wet too.

      Best of luck. Would love to see before and after pics if you try it.

      • Melody says:

        Try using hair dye. You can bleach it just like ya own head. Then choose the color hair dye you wish. Good luck. I had a he’ll of a time with rit. Good rittens.. haha

  4. amy lortie says:

    Thank you so much! I have a old flotaki that i just love, but i just built a tiny house in the woods and the creamy lovely whiteness just isn’t going to work! I was shopping for a dark gray one, when it occurred to me to try dying the one i have. Very helpful indeed:) it will have to wait for spring though, as there is 2 feet of snow on my deck at the moment….CHEERS:)

  5. Leila S says:

    I would also love to know the cheapest spot to find them!!

    • Eileen Beran says:

      As I mentioned to Neo, I’m not comfortable passing on the name of the place I got mine from–I don’t feel they were reputable or supportive. I hope you find one for a good price AND with good customer service.

  6. Neo says:

    I would also love to know where you purchased it! Great post!

    • Eileen Beran says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Since I didn’t feel there was good after-purchase support and the site, ordering process, and packaging screamed fly-by-night, I don’t feel comfortable recommending it, sorry. Hope you find a good economical place to purchase one. We still love ours–it’s so luxurious.

  7. Stacey says:

    I am so excited to try this out!!! Exactly what I was looking for! and pools should be on sale at target!

  8. I totally dont mind dying my own rugs but where did you find the best price?!?! Please email me as I would love to get a larger size than the one I got at Ikea.

  9. Teresa Cundiff says:

    Thanks so much. I can’t wait to see my results. Your article is definitely pin worthy!

  10. Bonnie says:

    I have a natural flocatti rug that I have had for 30 years. It now has a few stains on it and my thought was to have it dyed in hopes that the stains would be covered and I could continue to use the rug for many more years. I have not found someone to do it for me and I came across this blog. I am excited to give it a try. I have nothing to lose and lots to gain. Thanks for your post – just what I was looking for.

  11. Nikki says:

    This was incredibly helpful. Thanks!

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