Natural Easter Egg Dye Review – Does it Work?

2 out of 5 leaves

2 out of 5 leaves

Decorating Easter eggs is a fun tradition for many families in springtime. In the United States eggs are typically dyed bright colors by an inexpensive commercial egg dying kit that can be purchased most anywhere this time of year. Making homemade egg dye from vegetables is a natural alternative to the chemical dye kits, but does it work?

The Good

  • Better for you – the evidence against synthetic dye safety continues to mount
  • Better for the Earth – no chemicals to dump down the drain when done, you can compost the leftovers
  • Gorgeous earthy hues are a nice alternative to the unnatural brightness of synthetics

The Bad

  • Costs money – buying the natural materials required can easily cost 5X more than the commercial egg kits
  • Takes a long time – making the dye, then letting the eggs steep can be a 18 hour time committment
  • Smells weird – I didn’t really like the smell of boiled beets and boiled cabbage filling my house
  • Not kid friendly – sharp knives and boiling water do not make a great event for families with small children
  • Not color fast – the colors fade very quickly and transfer off with handling

My Experience

Naturally Dyed Eggs: Blue from red cabbage, Red (fading to brown) from beets, Yellow from turmeric, Pale Green from spinach, Blue Green from red cabbage and turmeric

Dying Easter eggs is one of those family traditions I have always loved. Every year when I was young, my dad would cover the dining room table in newspaper and use the stockpot to hard boil a large pile of eggs. My siblings and I would watch carefully while he mixed up each color using hot water, vinegar, and the little dye tablets that came in the PAAS egg decorating kit. We always had a fun evening decorating eggs. My dad would tell funny stories about when he and his siblings dyed eggs while we waited for eggs to steep. We would make little tops out of the PAAS box and toothpicks, then have top spinning contests. We dipped eggs in multiple colors trying to make “plaid” eggs. It’s one of those childhood things I always remember fondly. Maybe it’s because it was a special activity that we did with our Dad. Maybe it was because of all the stickers that came in the dye kit.

I like dyeing eggs so much, I’ve even done it most years as an adult. There is just something I enjoy very much about having a bowl of rainbow hued eggs. Honestly though, it’s not nearly as fun to do by yourself. Last year I tried it with my little guy but he lost interest after only one egg. But this year he is three and is finally old enough to actually get it. I thought I would try out the natural egg dyes that some (including Martha Stewart) have recommended.

A quick survey of the internet give lots of recommendations for natural materials to use in creating natural egg dyes. Not wanting to go overboard, I chose four colors: Red (beets), Blue (Red cabbage), Green (spinach), and Yellow (turmeric powder). The beets, cabbage and spinach all needed to be shredded and then boiled for some amount of time to pull the color into the dipping water. The turmeric was an easy mix-in into hot water. With the distractions of a one and three year old underfoot it took me about two and a half hours to hard boil the eggs and prepare the dyes.

Hard Boiled Eggs, Spinach, Red Cabbage, Turmeric, and Beets is all you need!

I mixed a small amount of vinegar with each of the natural dyes and carefully lowered the eggs into the liquid in large drinking glasses. Each glass was covered and placed in the fridge for an overnight soak. My three year old (who is not allowed to use knives or boil water) was somewhat interested, but had no way to participate once he ran out of “why”s.  He continued to ask about the eggs for the rest of the day but I had to keep reminding him that we had to wait until tomorrow.

Letting the Eggs Steep

In the morning we carefully removed the eggs and surveyed the results. We had gorgeous blue (cabbage), magenta (beets) and bright yellow (turmeric) eggs. We also had some whitish-yellow eggs covered in wisps of green spinach slime. I mixed together some of the leftover cabbage and turmeric liquid (yellow and blue makes green?) and let fresh eggs steep for another 12 hours. The result was an interestingly mottled grey/blue/yellowish green. I really liked the way all the eggs looked once finished.  Unfortunately much of the brightness of color faded away very quickly – within about 24 hours in the fridge.  Also the dye transferred off the eggs any time they were handled.  It got really messy just taking the photo of the eggs at the top of this post.

Overall, this was much more of a grown-up project than a fun family event. It took a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of dishes, and had few “fun” moments.  The eggs don’t keep their color, and transfer dye to anything they touch even when dry.  When I think about dyeing Easter eggs, I want it to be a whole family activity that is minimal work and fun for everyone. The store bought dye kit fits the bill. And you know what? Because this is a once a year thing, and the eggshell is removed before eating, I don’t think that using synthetic dyes for Easter eggs is anything to worry about. Making your own natural egg dye? Interesting concept, but totally not worth it to me!

Have you ever made your own egg dye?  Did I do something wrong?  Please share your tips and tricks below!

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23 Responses to Natural Easter Egg Dye Review – Does it Work?

  1. Heather says:

    Just like with the tablets, adding vinegar to the home colors makes it more color fast. 🙂 We love to use onion skins for amazing, shiny, brown eggs of all colors and patterns. 🙂

    • Victoria says:

      Hi Heather! I used some vinegar in the dye, but maybe more would have helped. Thanks for the tip!

    • CP says:

      Actually, vinegar is only a mordant for the artificial dyes. Natural dyes are a whole different world from the artificial dyes and though vinegar may affect the hue of a natural dye, it does not affect color fastness and is usually not necessary at all. You could add some alum to a natural dye bath to improve color fastness, but mostly color fastness depends on the plant used. Beets are fugitive, onions are very fast.

  2. Kimberly says:

    I love this! Who knew? I don’t dye egge any longer, but my daughter will
    want to use this technique for sure! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Teresa says:

    This is a great review. I think it would be good to do the natural way, but it sounds like it takes all the fun out of it.

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks for stopping by Teresa. I loved the idea and the natural colors, but it was just too, too much work for me.

  4. eryn says:

    Thanks for this review! We haven’t colored Easter eggs yet with our son, and I was thinking of trying to do something like this. Now I’m thinking maybe we should skip it. I wonder if the store-bought eco-friendly egg dyes are any better? The one brand I found on Amazon seemed to get mixed reviews.

  5. I won’t ever have to worry about this, because both my boys are allergic to eggs, but I think I would probably agree with you!

  6. Kinsey says:

    As a mom to a 1 year old and 3 year old boy, thank you so much for reviewing this for me. I was feeling guilty that I should switch to natural dyes this year, but they sound like lots of work and not a lot of fun for little people. I think I’ll stick with the store dyes for the near future!

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks for stopping by Kinsey. You’re a great mama who is obviously concerned about giving your kids the best! I know how you feel, but I decided no guilt is necessary for a once a year fun treat!

  7. Martina says:

    we color our eggs with crayons… everybody can participate and we don’t have any messes.

  8. April Harris says:

    I so admire you for taking on this project, and your eggs do look beautiful. I appreciate the honesty of your post though, as well as the detail you have gone into explaining the steps you followed. I have fond memories of those PAAS dye kits as well, colouring eggs with my late mom every Easter – and liked the stickers too!

    • Victoria says:

      Thanks for reading April – sometimes it’s important to let nostalgia trump natural!

  9. colleen says:

    Your blue is so pretty! I had a lot of fun using natural dyes and my 3 year old did do it with me last year …. I know we used vinegar and didn’t have any problem with the colors fading or transferring. I didn’t let them set over night either. I did it just like I do with the store bought dyes. hmmmm. I remember that it was more work of course– but not nearly as horrible as your experience! Thanks for sharing.

    • Victoria says:

      Hmmmm – my experience wasn’t horrible, but way more trouble than I thought it was worth. I’m glad yours worked better!

  10. CP says:

    I like to add the color to the egg or water *before* hard-boiling the egg. Saves a lot of time, though it doesn’t save pots! Turmeric is best added to the water, onion skins and red cabbage can be wrapped around the eggs and tied with rubber bands. Hard boil, cool, and you’re done!

    • Victoria says:

      I hadn’t thought of actually tying the dye material to the eggs. I’ll have to add that to my list for Easter next year!

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