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Are Clothing Dyes Vegan in 2024? And What are they made of?

Are Synthetic Clothing Dyes Vegan.

Last updated on December 16th, 2023

As the number of people following a vegan lifestyle skyrockets around the world, it’s creating more questions about vegan-friendly products. And as much as I love chatting about vegan food, not all questions are related to food. So, today we are sidetracking a little and I’m asking are clothing dyes vegan?

Yes, we know about materials such as leather, suede, silk and wool not being vegan. But an important part of making clothing that people often overlook is the dye that colours the fabrics. 

For a long time, I never even thought about the question are clothing dyes vegan? But as a vegan, I’ve learnt that every day is a school day.

In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about clothing dyes and what makes clothing dyes vegan or not vegan.

What Are Clothing Dyes?

Clothing dyes are substances that can be either natural or synthetic and are often used to add colour to fabrics. Just look in your wardrobe and you’ll see adding colour is a pretty important of the process

What is clothing dye made of?

The global clothing industry is absolutely huge! It’s a bit scary to think about! And many different types of dyes are part of it. This includes natural dyes derived from plant or animal sources and synthetic dyes made from petroleum-derived chemicals. Below I’ll go into more detail about what natural and synthetic dyes are made of.

What are Natural Clothing Dyes made of?

Natural dyes have been around for thousands of years to colour fabrics and it’s where it all started. These clothing dyes come from plant sources such as roots, leaves, and bark, or animal sources such as insects and snails. Some common natural dyes include indigo, madder, and cochineal.

Vegan tie dye clothing

What are Synthetic Clothing Dyes?

Synthetic dyes are a considerably newer development in the clothing world. They’re created from petroleum-based products. Synthetic clothing dyes were first used in the mid-19th century. They pretty quickly became the most popular type of dye used in the textile industry. This is mostly because they are cheap to produce, of course, but also because of their ability to produce bright, long-lasting colours.

Are Clothing Dyes Vegan?

Are clothing dyes vegan? Some are and some aren’t, it depends on where the dye comes from really.

The answer to whether clothing dyes are vegan isn’t straightforward one. And if you’ve read many of my previous posts, you’ll have heard me say this before.

Natural dyes derived from plant sources are generally vegan, this is because they don’t involve the exploitation or harm of animals. However, some natural dyes, such as cochineal, come from insects, which are not vegan-friendly.

Colourful clothing hanging on a rail

Are Natural Clothing Dyes Vegan?

You may feel inclined to believe that ‘natural’ simply means vegan, but this is not necessarily the case.

If the dyes are made using plants then it’s likely they will be vegan however it’s common for clothing dyes to be derived from insects too. 

So, simply put, it depends on the source of the natural dyes.

Are Synthetic Clothing Dyes Vegan?

Synthetic dyes, on the other hand, are not from animal sources, but they do involve the use of petroleum-based chemicals. As a vegan, these aren’t ideal either because these chemicals can be harmful to the environment.

Are fabric dyes tested on animals?

Yes, some synthetic dyes are tested on animals as a way to show they’re safe for use in the textile industry. Animal testing is not vegan and these days many people, not just vegans, are taking a stance against products that use animal testing practices.

Vegan clothing dye

How to Know if Clothing Dyes Are Vegan

If you’re a vegan and want to be sure that your clothing choices fit in with your lifestyle choices, here are some tips to figure out whether the clothing dyes are vegan or not:

  • Look for clothing made from organic cotton or other natural fibres. These fabrics often get their colour using natural dyes, which, if plant-based, are vegan-friendly.
  • Check the label or ask the manufacturer about the type of dye used to colour the fabric. Asking questions not only gives you answers but it also lets the company know what customers want. 
  • Some companies may indicate whether their clothing uses natural or synthetic dyes on their website or product labels.
  • Research the company’s ethical and sustainability practices. A great website to help with this is Good On You. Some companies may prioritise vegan-friendly practices, such as using natural dyes and avoiding animal testing. Most companies are usually quick to tell their customers if they are vegan-friendly, so it’s often easy to find the answer.
  • Consider purchasing clothing from fully vegan clothing brands. Like the ones I talk about in this post about vegan T-shirts. These brands typically use vegan-friendly materials and avoid animal exploitation throughout the whole process. 
Are Clothing Dyes Vegan.

FAQs About Vegan Clothing Dyes

Is all clothing made from natural fibres vegan-friendly?

No, not necessarily, while clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton or linen may be vegan-friendly, they may still be coloured using non-vegan dyes. What the fabric is made from is a different question from what the dye is made from. So, what we’re looking for is both vegan fabric and vegan clothing dye. 

Are all synthetic dyes tested on animals?

No, fortunately not all synthetic dyes are tested on animals. 

However, it is a fairly common practice in the textile industry to test dyes on animals to ensure their safety and long-term effects on fabrics. So, while they aren’t always tested on animals, they often are, so another obstacle for us vegans to look out for.

Are there any alternatives to clothing dyes?

Yes, there are lots of great alternatives to traditional clothing dyes, such as natural dyes made from plant sources or eco-friendly synthetic dyes that use less harmful chemicals. If you want to get creative you can even make your own clothing dyes. Take a look at this article: A Guide to Natural Dyes: Make Fabric Dye With Food and Plants.

Make your own clothing colours


If you’re vegan and want to be sure that your clothing choices match your other lifestyle choices, it’s essential to consider the type of dye used to colour the fabric. 

Natural dyes derived from plant sources are generally considered vegan-friendly, however, remember that some natural dyes are derived from animals, such as cochineal, meaning they are not vegan-friendly.

Additionally, synthetic dyes may not involve animal exploitation directly, but they do involve the use of petroleum-based chemicals, which may be bad for the environment.

As with many things, while following a vegan lifestyle it’s important to do research and ask questions. The more we ask, the more we learn!

By choosing clothes made from natural fibres or eco-friendly synthetic dyes and supporting companies that prioritise ethical and sustainable practices, you can feel great that your clothing choices align with your vegan values.

Before reading this post, clothing dyes may have not seemed like an important factor in your clothing choices, but they can have a significant impact on animal welfare and the environment.

Want to read more about vegan clothing? Take a look at some of my other posts – Vegan Silk – Everything You Need to Know About it and A Guide to Vegan Fashion: Everything You Need to Know.

Meet the Author

Author Bio - Sinead OCarroll - The Wondering Wandering Vegan

Meet Sinead O’Carroll: Vegan explorer, sustainability advocate and the founder of The Wondering Wandering Vegan. Embracing veganism since 2018 and vegetarianism since 2005, Sinead is armed with a Vegan Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle qualification, and is on a mission to share her passion for cruelty-free living. 

With a taste for adventure and a heart for eco-conscious choices, she’s here to prove that vegans never miss out on flavour, fun or style. Join her in enjoying the delights of a vegan-friendly world! 🌱✈️🌍
Want to know more? Check out Sinead’s About page here.

Follow me on Instagram to see all the delicious vegan food I find, the vegan and cruelty-free products I use and what I get up to as a travelling vegan.

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