Dyeing Easter eggs naturally with non-toxic coloring agents is a fun and science-minded project for adults, older kids, and younger kids who have patience. If you're looking for a quicker dye process for kids with less patience, I suggest Eco-Eggs Easter Egg Decorating Kit, which is still safe and non-toxic, but offers faster results. That said, if you're considering making homemade dye this Easter, there are plenty of pros, such as zero toxic dyes and eggs with more muted but in my opinion, naturally prettier colors. Plus egg dyeing is very educational and teaches kids about how found items in nature can be used for many purposes. Bonus, if you've got leftover produce or freezer burnt berries, this is an excellent way to use those items up. Keep reading to learn how to dye your Easter eggs naturally this holiday.
Supplies You’ll Need
- An array of colorful veggies, fruits and other items found in nature. Use organic items when possible, but you can experiment with fresh, frozen or canned fruits and veggies (this is a great chance to use up leftovers).
- Plain white vinegar.
- Hard-boiled organic white eggs. If you use brown, the colors will be more muted.
- Pots for boiling your dye water.
- Tongs and spoons for dipping eggs.
- Shot glasses and little bowls for dyeing.
- A pan to set your egg dye bowls on, which makes it easier to move the bowls to the fridge.
Choosing Coloring Agents
Most items found in nature produce color if you add heat and water. Instead of making your own dye, you can also choose to use natural food dyes made with safe ingredients, such as India Tree’s Nature’s Colors. The above glasses of dye include cranberry dye, dye made with natural yellow food coloring, blueberry dye and purple cabbage dye. One thing to be aware of is the dye color is not the color of egg you’ll end up with. For example, the purple cabbage dye above produces lovely blue, not purple eggs. Also nature dyes are tricky and change on you from batch to batch and can also change if you add vinegar (more on that below). The only color I have problems with is light green – nothing I’ve found yet produces a springtime green color. However, there are plenty of other colors found in nature. Below are some nature items and the colors they’ll produce if used for Easter egg dye – remember results can vary.
- Red – onions, wild plum root or beets.
- Blue – purple cabbage, red cabbage, sometimes blueberries, elderberries.
- Yellow – marigold flowers, turmeric, white onion skin or goldenrod.
- Violet or purple – Camellia, blueberries, purple grapes or blackberries.
- Dark purple (blackish) – hibiscus.
- Pink – most red berries, cranberries and sometimes cherries work. Note, I’ve had better luck with fresh, not frozen cherries.
- Brown or tan – coffee, various dark teas, walnut hulls, paprika or sassafras.
- Orange – yellow onion skin, chili powder or carrot roots.
- Dark orange – red onion skins.
- Dark green – blueberries and a few tablespoons of tumeric.
Making Your Easter Egg Dye for the Cold Dip Method
There is a hot water method for dyeing eggs. However, it’s not kid friendly because it involves boiling then simmering the egg in the dye, so if you’re dyeing Easter eggs with the kiddos, stick to cold dipping. Let’s say we’re using cabbage to make dye. Chop up 1/4 of a cabbage and place it in pan or pot with 4 cups of water. The more water you use the more diluted your color will be. Experiment to see how strong your colors can be using different amounts of water. In many cases, you’ll want to add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar for each cup of water used. *NOTE, vinegar is not a must-have – more on this below. Bring your cabbage to a boil, reduce the heat and let the cabbage simmer awhile to allow the color to deepen. I usually let my produce, flowers, what have you, simmer for 30 minutes.
Dyeing Natural Easter Eggs with the Cold Dip Method
To dye your eggs, strain any stems and leaves out of the dye water. Let the water cool down to room temperature. Pour the dye liquid into small cups or bowls. Using a spoon or tongs let your kids dip their hard-boiled eggs into the dye mixtures. Make sure each egg is completely submerged for full on color. The color won’t take immediately, so leave the eggs in the dye until they reach the desired color. For the brightest colors, leave the eggs in the dye overnight. However, be sure to place all eggs, in their dye, in the fridge. If you leave eggs sitting out, you can’t eat them as it’s a food safety issue. In case you’re wondering why I place parchment on my pan before setting the little egg bowls down, it’s so we can jot down which dye is which. This is useful as some dyes look very similar, yet produce different colors, so it’s nice to keep track. In the morning you and your kids can take the eggs out of their dye and see all the cool colors.
Vinegar vs. No Vinegar
In the picture above I used purple cabbage dye for both eggs. However, I added vinegar to one and left it out of the other. Vinegar in the dye produced a bright blue egg while no vinegar created a pretty aqua blue color. That’s the first lesson of vinegar – it changes the colors of your dyes. The second vinegar issue to consider is it helps some natural dyes stick better. For example, I’ve made blueberry dyed eggs often, but if I don’t add vinegar the dye wipes right off the egg. Vinegar has varying effects on all natural dyes. The best way to see what happens is to play around with vinegar in your dyes. However, keep the amount of vinegar used about the same no matter which dye (2 tablespoons vinegar per cup of water).
Shot Glasses for Double Dipped Eggs
I don’t like hard alcohol, but I keep shot glasses around for art projects, such as double dipped eggs. To double dip an Easter egg, place a small amount of dye in a shot glass. Place the egg carefully into the glass. Once the first color saturates the egg, flip the egg into a second shot glass with a contrasting color dye for cool double sided colored eggs.
Other Fun Easter Egg Dyeing Tips
As you can see in the picture above, using shot glasses is a fun way to keep half the egg a specific color. That’s not the only fun trick you can try though. Other fun ideas include:
- Make beautiful botanical eggs with the hose method.
- Dip eggs into more than one dye color to make new egg colors (experiment).
- Wrap string, tape or rubber bands around eggs before dyeing for neat designs.
- Draw on your egg with a light colored crayon before dyeing to leave white spaces.
- Leave some of the produce in the dye. When it rubs against the egg it will create a cool design.
All images © Jennifer Chait