I See Some White Shorts and I Want to Dye Them Black

I visited Old Navy the other day, and was delighted to find that they had half the store on clearance. A huge section was dedicated to white shorts in all lengths. I got a couple of pairs, since Old Navy’s shorts fit my pear-shaped butt fairly well. But white shorts have a problem — a HUGE problem, if most of your undergarments are colorful.

That’s right: VISIBLE UNDIES. Scourge of the warm-weather world. So I figured I’d keep one white pair (to only be worn with flesh-toned underthings, I swear) and dye the other. Because they were so cheap to buy, and they fit so well.

I got Rit dye from the grocery store. I haven’t used this stuff in almost 20 years. I think the last time was when I was a summer camp counselor, and we did tie-dyed t-shirts. Although apparently Rit isn’t the best option for cotton, but it’s what was available. And cheap. Did I mention that cheap was a big part of this project? Anyhoo, they print the instructions in tiny grey type on the inside of the box. If that’s too small and hard to read, they do have the instructions up on their Web site as well (thank goodness).

First I set up my dying vessel. You can use plastic, glass, metal, whatever. But they warn you that it’ll probably be permanently stained afterward. I didn’t want any of my pots and pans to get stained, so I put a garbage bag inside a storage box. It was perfect! The bag got totally stained in the end, but the box was dry and untouched. Before I threw in the dye, I soaked the shorts thoroughly in plain warm water. This apparently helps the dye soak in more evenly.

I heated some water to 140°F on the stove, poured it in my bag, mixed in the entire dye packet (as well as about a half-cup of salt, which Rit says will help the color stay better), and plunged in the shorts. You’re supposed to soak your fabric for a half-hour, agitating the entire time. Honestly, I don’t have that much patience. So I just squooshed everything around thoroughly every five minutes or so. And did I mention the need for gloves? I have a huge box full, initially purchased for hair coloring but handy for 1,001 household uses. The gloves immediately turned purple, and I’m just glad it wasn’t my hands.

After a salty black soak, it was time to rinse. And I’ll tell you what, these things took FOREVER to rinse. I thought it was boring to wait for the water to run clear when rinsing out hair color. This took five times as long, and I had to sqoosh and smoosh the shorts the entire time. Bottom line: I just rinsed Rit dye out of some shorts, and BOY are my arms tired.

After wringing out as much water as I could, I sent them through the dryer. And now, here they are. They’re not exactly black — more of a dark grey. Which I don’t mind. And the threads, zipper fabric, and part of the lining of the waistband didn’t take much of the color at all, which I think is kind of cool.

Every other pair of shorts I got this season was plaid (which I guess was big this year), so now it’s nice to have two solids to choose from. For cheap! Plus I got to have fun in a sciency, messy way, so it’s a win-win.