A sad-looking old carpet can make the whole room look dated, but a replacement isn’t the only way to get the floor back into shape.

Dye can breathe new life into a carpet and save you both money and time compared to a replacement.

It’s an especially practical choice if your carpet’s pile is still in good condition, but the surface is faded or stained.

© Photogalia / Adobe Stock

    Consider Your Options

    For all its benefits, dyeing a carpet still takes a fair amount of work, and it’s irreversible. Before you start picking out dyes, make sure re-coloring is really the best solution to your problem.

    If your carpet has stubborn stains, ask a professional about deep cleaning. If you have just a few stains on new carpet, it might be easier to cut out the stained sections and patch them with carpet remnants.

    If you do decide to dye, you’ll need to choose between spot dyeing to re-color stained or faded areas and dyeing the whole carpet to change the color.

    Think Through the Pros and Cons

    Dye is a relatively fast and inexpensive way to rejuvenate a carpet and a skilled application can give you beautiful results. It can’t always produce the color you want, though, and depending on the dye used, you might find it fading faster than you hoped.

    Restored beauty
    Cost savings
    A fresh new color
    Less odor
    Doesn’t work on all carpets
    Takes some effort
    Unpredictable longevity
    Limited color choice
    Potential for staining

    Pros: Like-New Carpet for Less

    Restored beauty – Especially with kids and pets in the house, carpets can quickly pick up stains that even deep cleaning can’t remove. In sunny rooms, the carpet can fade within just a few years.

    In both these situations, the pile might still be perfectly fine, so replacement isn’t really necessary. Dye can restore your carpet’s beauty, so you’re not stuck looking at a splotchy floor. 

    A fresh new color – Maybe your carpet isn’t faded or stained, but you’re tired of the color. Dyeing lets you get a new, on-trend color without the cost and waste of tearing out your existing carpet and buying a new one.

    Cost savings – Dyeing a carpet costs between 20 to 60 percent less than replacing it, including the cost of labor. If you’re willing to do the job yourself, you’ll save even more. Your only costs will be the relatively inexpensive dye and rental of a sprayer.

    Dye is also a cost-effective option if you’re planning to sell your house and want the interior in top form, but you don’t want to invest in brand new carpet.

    Less odorNew carpet has a distinct odor that typically comes from the compound 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PC). It not only smells bad, but can also irritate your eyes and respiratory tract.

    You can reduce your exposure by choosing a low-VOC carpet, but even then, you’ll want to stay out of the room for a day or two after installation. Dye produces less odor, and you can use the room the same day. Some dye manufacturers even claim their products are entirely odor free.

    Cons: Fewer Color Choices and Potential for Wear

    Doesn’t work on all carpets – Dyeing works best on nylon, wool, and silk carpets, but fortunately, most modern carpets are nylon or wool. Acrylic, polyester, and polypropylene fibers don’t absorb dye well and can end up unevenly colored. Some stain-resistant and high-pile carpets, such as shag carpets, don’t dye well, either.

    Older, worn carpeting might have to be replaced soon even with dyeing. If you’re unsure, take a sample to a carpet store or have a professional visit your home and help you choose a coloring method.

    Limited color choice – A carpet can only be dyed darker, not lighter. The darker the stains you want to hide, the darker the dye you’ll need, and that color might not be exactly what you want. If you have a beige carpet, dyeing it light tan might not be enough to hide all the stains.

    Takes some effort – Dyeing a carpet is cheaper than replacing it, but it’s not a quick and easy job. First, there’s the time it takes to find the right color to hide any stains. Then, for the dyeing work, you’ll need to spray the dye onto the carpet with a pressure sprayer and scrub it into the fibers by hand. On the plus side, most dyes dry within an hour.

    Potential for staining – Some homeowners find the dye transfers to their socks when they walk on the carpet the first few weeks after dyeing. That also means dye can end up on your pet’s paws and the hands of any small children who play in the room. While most residential carpet dye is non-toxic, the idea of it getting onto your kids and pets can be unsettling.
    Unpredictable longevity – How long your newly dyed carpet stays looking good depends on the quality of dye, the application, and the condition of the carpet.

    Even if the dye is formulated to last for years, if it’s applied incorrectly, you might start seeing stains or uneven coloring show through after just one year. A high-quality dye applied by a knowledgeable professional can last 10 years or longer.

    DIY Dyeing Versus Hiring a Pro

    Dyeing your carpet yourself is doable, but you’ll need to approach the job carefully. First, make sure your carpet can be dyed and choose the right type of dye for the carpet. For example, if you have a stain blocker carpet, look for a dye formulated to work on these carpets.  

    Before you get to work, you’ll need to move the furniture out of the room and cover the baseboards and at least 6 inches of the walls above them to protect them from dye.

    During the application itself, there’s a risk of getting an uneven or oversaturated color. This is even more likely if you use a basic, consumer-grade pressure sprayer, which won’t offer the same level of control as a commercial-grade model.

    Spot dyeing is even trickier because it takes a good eye for color, an understanding of how to use dye to counteract stain colors, and skill at blending dyes.

     A professional can get attractive results within one to six hours, depending on the room size. They’ll clean the carpet, remove stain blocking agents as needed, then perform a dye patch test. After applying the dye, they’ll reapply the stain blocker and dry the carpet.

    A skilled dye job can restore your stained or faded carpet to the beautiful floor covering it once was. As long as you don’t mind having a darker carpet and you can tolerate some risk of dye transfer or early fading, you’ll save both money and time.

    You can do the job yourself if you’re on a budget, but for flawless, long-lasting results, consider hiring a professional.

    Are you indecisive about what carpet fiber to choose for your floor? Read our comparison of carpet materials to aid in your decision-making.

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    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Henry Parker

    Henry Parker

    Henry Parker is a home improvement enthusiast who loves to share his passion and expertise with others. He writes on a variety of topics, such as painting, flooring, windows, and lawn care, to help homeowners make informed decisions and achieve their desired results. Henry strives to write high quality guides and reviews that are easy to understand and practical to follow. Whether you are looking for the best electric riding lawn mower, the easiest way to remove paint from flooring, or the signs of a bad tile job, Henry has you covered with his insightful and honest articles. Henry lives in Florida with his wife and two kids, and enjoys spending his free time on DIY projects around the house. You can find some of his work on Today’s Homeowner, where he is a regular contributor.

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