Washing and Dyeing Chaps


Follow these simple directions and it's as easy as 1-2-3



To wash chaps, fill the washer with hot sudsy water using any brand of detergent. Hot water is best to get them as clean as possible. Add the chaps and let them agitate for a couple of minutes. Next, pull the chaps out and apply Spray N' Wash to the insides of the legs where dirt and sweat from the horse really accumulate. (Skip this step if you are planning to dye the chaps as these areas will turn out a lighter shade.) Using a fingernail brush, gently scrub these areas and return the chaps to the washer and let them go through the entire cycle. Use the regular or normal wash cycle and not the delicate or permanent press cycles. Set the wash timer for eight to ten minutes.

When the chaps are in the last rinse, some people add a quart of PINK fabric softener. (Using blue fabric softener will turn white chaps green, so use the pink kind.) This practice makes the chaps nice and soft. Some people feel that using fabric softener leaves a slight residue that attracts dirt. Do what you're comfortable with.

Do not put the chaps in an automatic drier as the intense heat will cause the chaps to shrink badly. Instead, hang them outside in the shade to dry. Hanging them in the sun will cause the color to fade and may shrink the chaps as well.

When the chaps are bone dry, throw them in the drier and let them tumble for about ten minutes on the fluff cycle with no heat. This will soften the chaps and make them more comfortable.

When the chaps have finished tumbling, take a hold of them and pull firmly in all directions. If they did shrink a little, this stretches them. If the chaps do shrink a bit, it's usually in the width of the thigh area and not in the length of the leg. So, really pull to stretch the thighs. Careful use of a blow-drier is good to raise the nap.

Note: Some people let their chaps get only about half dry, then wear them while they finish drying to achieve a more formed fit.

If you are going to dye the chaps, it's not necessary to dry them. Just wash and rinse thoroughly. It's not necessary to add fabric softener to the rinse water. It is a waste of time and money since you have to rinse them thoroughly again after dyeing.


You cannot dye the finished side of a top grain leather as the finishes will prevent the dye from absorbing into the leather. You can however dye the suede side of top grain leather as well as chaps made from suede splits.

Use Rit liquid dyes because they are much easier to use than powdered dyes. The difference in price is negligible.

Changing some colors is easy. Like grey to black. But for some color changes it is best to strip the existing color first.

If you have never dyed chaps before, do something simple at first. Try freshening up a faded color or taking an old pair that's a lighter color such as sand or tan and changing them to navy or black.

When you are ready to dye the chaps, fill the washer with hot water. The hottest possible. Thoroughly shake the bottles of dye and pour them in. How much dye should you use? If changing the color, use four to six bottles depending on how deep you want the color. If you are just freshening up a color, just a couple of bottles should do. Mix the dye in the water thoroughly, then dip in a strip of old white sheet to check the color. This is especially important if you are dyeing the chaps to match a hat or shirt. Keep playing with the dyes until you reach the right intensity of color. Then put the chaps in.

If you're dyeing the chaps to a pastel color, let them agitate just a minute or two. Then pull them out and check the color. If it's not quite right, let them agitate another minute or two and check them again. As soon as the color is right, put the chaps in an empty bucket or tub while you drain the water. Then immediately refill the washer with rinse water and put the chaps back in. On the final rinse cycle, put in about a quart of pink fabric softener (optional). Let them dry by hanging them in the shade. After they dry, run them through the fluff cycle on the drier without heat to soften them and tug in all directions to stretch them out.

You have to do some guesstimating as to the color because when the chaps are wet, the color will appear darker than when they are dry. Also, a little of the dye will come out in the rinse water.

Dyeing for darker colors is easier. Agitate them for several minutes, then let them soak for a few minutes. If dyeing chaps black, you may even let them soak overnight. When you dye a darker color, be careful to rinse the chaps very thoroughly. Send them through the rinse cycle twice. Otherwise, the excess dye might rub off against clothing and/or the saddle.

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