Is it possible to dye leather/cloth with blood without it fading, perhaps by using a sealant of some-kind?

Note: This would be in an apocalyptic world where advanced chemical compounds would have long expired.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure about human blood, but oxblood has been used to dye many materials including leather. I imagine human blood is probably usable, but I've no direct knowledge of this. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ What colour do you want the dyed leather to be? Because even freshly died it won't be very red. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Apr 21, 2019 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB In this case the colour is less important, that said I know it will not be very bright. More brownish I would assume. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenG Looks like you're onto something with the ox-blood. Best I can tell alcohol might act as a sealant. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! Please take the time to read our Tour page if you haven't yet and visit the help center to get more information. I would also advise you to look at our list of worldbuilding resources if you need inspiration: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/143607/62187 $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


Fresh blood has a bright red color, so if you would dip a cloth in fresh blood, it would get the same bright red color.

But then, as the enzymes and proteins present in the blood would start interacting with oxygen, it would turn to a brownish tint.

Anyway, this is what can be found online:

What you want to do is basically the opposite of what one is supposed to do for blood stains that you want to wash out. You should cook the blood into the fabric, and then let it age for some time.

Heat will denature protein. The denatured protein loses its shape and tangles around the other molecules of denatured protein. A good way to apply the heat would be to spread the fabric out, as much as possible, and bake it. Perhaps you could air-dry the blood on the fabric, then wrap the fabric around layers of crumpled unprinted newsprint paper, to allow air between the layers, and bake it in the oven, on a very low heat, for several hours.

I would advise you to not wash the fabric any more than you have to. Blood cannot be used as a true dye, but it can stain the fabric very effectively. Repeated washing will cause it to fade and gradually wash out, however. Rinse no more than you need to to get the artwork to look the way you want it to.

It is traditional in Japan to use freshly made soymilk as the binder for hand-painted earth oxides on fabric. The soymilk, of course, like blood, contains mostly protein. (Blood also contains some iron.) Treating your blood like the soymilk in the iron oxide painting recipes would probably be a good idea. Do NOT wash the fabric for several months, if possible. The longer the soymilk ages, the more permanent and washable the fabric designs become, though it should never be machine-washed or used for clothing that must be washed frequently; the same might be true of blood, as well.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah I saw that article, I was hoping there was another easier way of doing it, like using animal fat. Thanks though. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 11:26
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    $\begingroup$ @TrueDarkness Isn't this the easier way? It sticks without chemicals. Suits your setting well. No chemicals needed, temperature to denature proteins can be reached with sun light. They probably do not have washing machines or detergents too so the color is more practical than it would be to us. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi I mean a quicker (easier) way that can be done in the field without needing a lot of equipment or processing time. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ @TrueDarkness: In terms of equipment/time requirements, it’s hard to imagine much lower than this — at minimum a few hours of waiting with a reasonably controlled heat source, e.g. by a smouldering campfire overnight while the characters sleep. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2019 at 16:58

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