The use of Rit Dye to stain pipes

Blog by Troy Wilburn

imagesYesterday I sent an email to Troy about his use of Rit Dye to stain pipes. I have been reading and enjoying his blogs on the various restorations he has done here on rebornpipes and from reading them had some questions about his use of the dye. I have had questions for a while now about water based stains in general so I looked forward to his reply. His response was very helpful and gave me the information I wanted to know. I have included my email that started the conversation before Troy’s response.

Hey Troy,
Hope the morning is going well for you. I have been thinking about your Rit dye stain. I have a couple of questions for you.
1. Does the dye swell the grain being water based? I wonder if you could mix it with Isopropyl alcohol like the aniline stains that come in powder form and mix with alcohol.
2. What is the durability? When you heat it does the stain come off on your hands? Over time does it come off with use?

Rit2 Here is Troy’s response:

The dye does not mix with alcohol well from my experience.

The mixture does raise the grain some but not as much as you think. That is one reason I rub the pipe down with mineral oil after drying. It seems to knock down the raised grain. I usually use a cotton ball with oil. If it’s a rusticated or blasted pipe after wiping with oil I take a tooth brush and gently spread the oil in recesses.

Some dye will be lifted in doing this and in the first time you apply wax with a wheel, so I tend to make it a little darker as it will lighten up slightly. When I apply the first base wax I do it very lightly as I just want to use it as a sealer.

As far as durability I have had no problems using this and all the pipes I have done have held up well to constant smoking.

If I want to do a light stain I simply wipe on and wipe off. I repeat this process if I want to add just a slightly darker coat. If I want to do a very dark stain or a dark base I wipe the mixture on heavy and use a small paint brush and brush the stain after applying it with a rag or cotton ball.

I used to do be employed as a wood finisher for a custom cabinet furniture company in Florida, so I have some experience in water based stains and mixing my own colors. One reason I chose to try and use fabric dyes is basically they are water based stains and can be found easily and they are cheap to buy.
I have used alcohol based stains before also but prefer water based as they are more forgiving and easier to manipulate if you want to lighten or darken. They are also easier to tint over.

Getting the Rit dye to mix well and figuring out the right amount to use does take a little time but can be mastered by trial and error rather quickly. The hotter the water the better and use small amounts until you get the right consistency and the depth of color you are looking for.

If you are interested in trying out the Rit dye I suggest messing around with some old trashed bowls and judge for yourself if it is something that you would like to use. Just because I like it and works for me you may not like it.

I think for someone who has used a lot of alcohol based stains and is comfortable with them this may not be their cup of tea.

As I stated before I’m more comfortable with water based stains and used to mixing my own colors.

Hope this helps in your questions and feel free to ask anymore anytime.


I thought I would include some of the colours that are available for Rit dye. The chart below gives just a few of them and the combinations that can be made are many. – SteveRit dye

3 thoughts on “The use of Rit Dye to stain pipes

  1. Anthony

    Thanks for this, Troy and Steve. I was curious about the use of Rit, since I’ve used it on other projects in the past. I like to experiment. So, I think I might give it a try.

  2. Troy

    The liquid dyes i have not used but i imagine they are like tint for making your own colors in wood finishing water based stains . I imagine they would work pretty well and you would not have to spend time getting the powder mixed up good in hot water.


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