Homemade Wood Dye Disaster Number Two: Coffee
As you might recall, I tried this before, and it didn’t work. Like I said, I tried it on finished wood. Yes, there was a nick, and technically that part wasn’t finished. But, I suspect that the sealants (or whatever) soaked down into the wood, making it darn near impossible to fix the nick with coffee.
This time I’d be using unfinished wood, which always takes stain better than finished wood. I assumed my luck would be better.
Homemade wood dye made from coffee: attempt number one
After breakfast one morning, I grabbed the used coffee grounds from the coffee machine and dumped them in the jar.
I wasn’t not going to waste perfectly good unused coffee grounds on this!
I added some water and got this:
Looks like coffee to me, which likely means it would stain my teeth. But wood? I don’t know. So, I let it sit overnight, kinda like making cold brew only I was brewing homemade wood dye. Side note, if you’re not making cold brew at home, you should. It’s fantastic!
The next morning, I had this:
Looks about the same to me, but what do I know?
I grabbed the sock and gave it a dunk into the coffee dye.
So far, so good.
Then I did a test swipe on the wood.
Also clear. OK, then.
I let it dry and was left with this:
Mostly, all I see is residual coffee grounds and a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of stain, if you want to call it that.
Still batting zero on homemade coffee wood dyes.
Homemade wood dye coffee variation: add chocolate!
One of the recipes called for adding cocoa powder to the coffee to get a deeper color. Of course, I have cocoa powder lying around.
I added it to the coffee and mixed it up. It’s well, take a look:
The word you’re looking for is “lumpy.” I mixed the heck out of that stuff with a whisk, but you see how well that went.
Well, maybe it looks fine on the wood?
I gave it a shot, and the answer is no, it doesn’t. Here’s the “just applied picture”
It looks the same after. No picture. Just take my word for it. Wet wood is the look.
Yeah. Not working at all.
If at first you don’t succeed (and then still fail)
Disappointed by the results, I figured I’d try again. I know for a fact coffee stains! I’ve got the destroyed white shirts to prove it!
As it happens, I reached the bottom of my cold brew batch while I was running these homemade wood dye experiments. I never drink the stuff at the bottom. It’s just like the stuff at the bottom of the pot when you brew hot coffee. Only, this stuff is thick and cold and gross.
If I’m not going to drink it, I might as well see if it makes a good homemade wood dye.
Spoiler alert. It does not.
Here’s the before:
Here’s the after:
Man. This is not working.
Homemade wood dye from instant coffee
The problem, I think, is that I was using diluted coffee. Yes, I know that cold brew is actually concentrated coffee, but it’s still diluted. So, I thought that maybe if I used instant coffee and used a tiny bit of water, I’d get better results.
Fortunately, I have instant coffee lying around, too! I take them with me when I travel since finding decent coffee in a hotel is a bit of a gamble. And, since I’m not traveling right now, I decided I could sacrifice one pack for the sake of science.
These really are quite good as a travel, back-up coffee.
Hot water plus coffee equals homemade wood dye. Maybe.
Here’s the before picture:
Not bad. It’s on there, and it looks kinda nice. And yes, that’s the steel wool and vinegar stain next to it.
Of course, first dyes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, so I waited a bit before calling it.
Glad I did.
It worked, too! It’s not the same color as the RIT dye (as you can see in the picture), but it did work. So, yes, you can make homemade wood dye from instant coffee! I have not yet tested different brands, though, so your results may vary.
Homemade Wood Dye Disaster Number Three: Tea
Like coffee, tea stains, too, making it a candidate for homemade wood dye. I already had hot water, so I poured some in a mug and added a tea bag.
I only made a little, I swear, but here’s what the wood looked like just after I applied the tea dye.
Yeah. Clear again!
I’ll save you the suspense. There’s no proof I ever dyed the wood with anything but water.
Homemade Wood Dye Is Possible (Kind of)
To summarize, it is possible to make homemade wood dye out of steel wool and vinegar or instant coffee. However, you have to get real steel wool and not stainless steel wool and don’t use brewed coffee. It’s a waste of good coffee.
I’m glad some of these worked. For me, they were some delightful science experiments that helped me take my mind off the state of the world right now. For someone with the time and the inclination, they could create a whole rainbow of homemade wood dye out of stuff around the house.
While I have the time, I don’t have the inclination, and here’s why. It’s cool that I can do this, but I don’t see an easy way to control the final color. Yes, with time and practice, I’m sure I could master it. That’s what practice is for. But, I don’t have that much time or that much patience really, which is why I’m going to stick with the commercial stuff for now. I’m sure to get the results I want every time. And if something is wrong with the product, I can get a full refund.
Using homemade wood dye, I have no one but me to blame but me if I screw it up. And I hate having those kinds of discussions with myself. They’re so depressing!
So, what about you? Ever DIYed wood dye? Or any kind of dye? What would you suggest as the next level up from “newbie mistake”? Let me know in the comments!