Madder Root Instructions

Fiber Preparation and Mordanting

We offer scouring and mordanting instructions for wool, alpaca, silk (protein), cotton and plant (cellulose) fibers. Your fiber should be scoured and mordanted before dyeing.

Extracting the Dye

For deepest shades, use madder root at 100% weight of fiber, or use less for paler coral and orange shades. Soak in cold water for several hours, or overnight, to soften roots. Use a large volume of water as the madder swells and expands. If you want to avoid having madder root particles attaching to the fiber, you can enclose the ground roots in a mesh bag as you soak them.

Adding Fibers to the Pot

Add the madder root and all of the soaking liquid to the dye bath. Add additional water so that the fibers can move easily in the pot. Add the wet, mordanted fibers to the cold dye pot and begin heating the water and bring to about 90 degrees F (33 degrees C), rotating the goods gently. Hold at this warm temperature for 30 minutes, then bring the temperature up gradually to 180 degrees F (80 degrees C), rotating gently. Hold at this temperature for 30-45 minutes rotating regularly. Avoid boiling the madder root as the shade becomes brown and somewhat muddy.

madder root chips on a white background

Color Shift

To redden and deepen the color, add calcium carbonate (Tums or chalk) at 3-5% weight of madder root, and hold at temperature for another 30-60 minutes for burgundy shades.


Using the same temperature water as your fiber, rinse the dyed goods once or twice to remove excess dye, then wash gently in a neutral liquid soap. Dry away from direct sunlight.

Reusing Dye Baths and Disposal of Dye

Any exhaust baths with dye color left in them may be used to dye additional materials. I keep extra small skeins of mordanted wool yarn and throw those into the exhaust baths. There will usually be some residual color in the dye bath, even after using the exhaust bath. Dispose of the used dye baths in accordance with your local municipal guidelines.