We gave up the chemical dyes and switched to natural colors created from herbs, plants, and food, which made dying eggs for Easter far more enjoyable and rewarding for me. Natural colors may be more variable and may require a little more planning, patience, and effort than petroleum-based chemical dye kits, but the Easter eggs' unique character and beauty make the extra work worthwhile.
Onion skins, turmeric, and red cabbage are a few everyday foods that are well known for their ability to color eggs. They are unquestionably essential materials that provide outstanding outcomes.
I enjoy experimenting with the ingredients in my herb cabinet and the plants in my yard as a herbalist who is captivated by my cup of vibrant red hibiscus tea as well as the plant-based dyes used traditionally to color textiles. In our online courses, we cover a number of therapeutic herbs and spices that also generate fantastic coolers. This year, I used my kitchen as a laboratory to experiment with mordants and modifiers and test new herbs as potential dye sources.
Jars of dye on a table
Eggshell-penetrating mordants Alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) is a mordant that facilitates color penetration. A modifier, white vinegar (acetic acid) alters the pH of the dye solution, which in turn affects the dye hue. (2012) Griffin Dyeworks
Eggshells are composed of calcium carbonate, and the thin outer layer, known as the "bloom," covers the pores in the shell to stop bacteria from getting inside the egg and to stop moisture loss. Remove this covering with soapy water or vinegar to help the dye cling better to the eggshell's surface. It will also be beneficial to add acid to the dye bath itself. Throughout the course of the hydrogen bonding process, the acidic dye reacts with the calcium carbonate shell, causing carbon dioxide bubbles to develop on the shell and allowing the color to permeate the shell.
Components for dying Easter eggs are arranged on a table.
Natural Egg Dyeing
Let's return to the craft of naturally painted Easter eggs now that the science is through!
The dye color range produced by the plant materials I worked with is shown in the chart below. The plant/mordant combination I would highly suggest is shown by the vivid colors.
Chart of natural egg dyeing herbs and plants
I bought white eggs from the grocery store to get a good idea of these dye hues. Using the beige, pink, brown, and blue eggs from my own birds, though, may give these hues some great depth or diversity.
The magnificent and unexpected hues produced by hibiscus, red cabbage, lavender flowers, and violet flowers, to put it simply, knocked my socks off!
What worked was as follows:
With both kinds of mordants, hibiscus and red cabbage generated magnificent blues, ranging from robin's egg and turquoise to midnight and denim blues.
The grassy green hue that is so difficult to achieve with natural dyes was generated by combining lavender flowers with alum and violet flowers with vinegar.
Old standbys like turmeric and yellow onion skin provided lovely, rich oranges and yellows, while chamomile and calendula petals combined with vinegar produced the most fascinating greenish-yellow beauty with speckles.
Although coffee might be a more readily available, sustainable option, I drank my Chaga tea after I dyed the egg, just for the record. This resulted in a rich and gorgeous brown.
These things didn't work:
Beets that had been cooked were unimpressive, despite adding a very faint pink tint and light green mottling. Though fascinating up close, I might try berries or fresh beet juice the next time.
Although I had read that avocado skins and pits might be used to make pink dye, I had no luck. Save your energy!
Orange peel made a fairly pale yellow, but in all honesty, for yellows, I'd stick with turmeric or the chamomile/Calendula mixture.
Easter egg boxes with colored eggs
How to Natural Easter Egg Dye
My strategy was to hard boil all the eggs ahead of time, preparing the shell for coloring by adding a few tablespoons of vinegar to the boiling water bath.
Add cold water and eggs to a saucepan, making sure the water completely covers the eggs, in order to hard boil eggs without cracking them. Immediately after bringing to a boil (I boil medium eggs for 12 minutes and big eggs for 15 minutes), remove from heat and place in a cold water bath to halt the cooking. It's alright to take the eggs from the back of the fridge for this if you're planning to consume them because new, fresh eggs are harder to peel than older eggs.
I then made the dyes. You can opt to make just one dye bath per herb or plant based on the chart above, where I specify which mordant works best for each plant, but I made two dye baths for each herb or plant because I wanted to compare alum and vinegar as mordants.
Ingredients in a natural egg dye recipe
Plant substance of choice (2 tablespoons of spices or powders, 4 tablespoons of dried leaves or flowers, or 1 cup of chopped fruits or vegetables) 1 12 glasses of water
1 tablespoon vinegar or 1 teaspoon alum
After bringing the plant material and water to a boil, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Turn the heat off.
Add vinegar or alum after straining the dye into a dish or container (compost the plant material).
Depending on the dye and desired color, add a hard-boiled egg to the dye solution and let it sit for a few minutes up to several hours.
Typically, I leave the eggs in the dye baths for between one and two hours (hibiscus with alum yielded vibrant results almost instantly). I was pleasantly delighted that these colors didn't require boiling the eggs in the dye baths and instead worked so well as cold dye baths.
This means that you can place jars or bowls of these dyes on the table, let the kids dip some eggs in them, and see the results appear quite quickly. Also, they can keep an eye on the eggs every fifteen minutes or so to see whether the color is deepening to their preference.
Advice: After the egg has been coloured, set it on a cooling rack for baking to dry (or use egg cartons as racks). When the egg is completely dry, add a lovely sheen by rubbing a small amount of cooking oil on the shell.
Note: Turmeric stains everything, including skin, clothes, countertops, etc. Carefully handle that dye! Eventually, it does wash off of the skin and other rough surfaces.