Make Your Own Iron Mordant Solution

Put rusty nails to good use by creating an iron mordant solution that can be used for multiple home dyeing projects.

  • Rusy nails in an iron bath
    You can create an easy iron mordant solution, or iron liquor, by soaking rusty found objects, like nails.
    Photo courtesy Timber Press
  • Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes Book Cover
    “The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes” by Sasha Duerr is full of helpful tips and recipes for home dyeing enthusiasts.
    Cover courtesy Timber Press
  • Japanese Maple Leaf Dye
    Red Japanese maple leaf dye without a mordant creates a pink, and when splashed with iron yields a rich dark gray.
    Photo courtesy Timber Press

  • Rusy nails in an iron bath
  • Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes Book Cover
  • Japanese Maple Leaf Dye

Home dyeing can be a gamble if you are new to the idea, but even if you are experienced in the art, knowing the different reactions given by plant based fibers and animal fibers can be crucial to proper dye absorption. Using The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes (Timber Press, 2010) Sasha Duerr walks you through using mordants and natural dyes in perfect harmony. Try your hand at making your own Iron Mordant Solution with this excerpt.

Iron Mordant Solution

You can create an easy iron mordant solution, or iron liquor, by soaking rusty found objects like nails. Once you have created your iron liquor, you can keep it stored indefinitely in a lidded jar for your projects. A little can go a long way. Be sure to label the iron liquor jar. Presoak the already dyed fiber for at least 1 hour before mordanting with the iron liquor.

Large glass jar with a tight lid
Rusty nails or other rusty iron objects
White vinegar

In the jar, place the rusty iron objects. Add 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar to the jar, filling the jar to cover the iron objects. Put the lid on the jar and seal tight. The water will turn to a rusty-orange color in 1 to 2 weeks. You can let your iron mordant liquor sit for as long as you like.

The iron liquor can be used as a mordant by adding it to a stainless steel dye pot, and adding enough water to cover your fibers.

Put the dye pot on the stove. Add presoaked dyed fiber, bring the iron bath to a simmer, 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius), and gently simmer for 10 minutes.



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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