Dye your hair at home

My hair started going grey a handful of a years ago.

Actually, I lie. 

I found my first grey hair the night of the Christmas dance my senior year in high school.  There I was primping in the bathroom waiting for my date to show up, when I found a silver hair on my wee baby 17-year-old head.

dye your hair at home

I’m afraid its only been downhill from there.  I’ve spent the intervening years plucking a handful of grey hairs at a time from the crown of my head.  That worked out okay until the grey decided to spread out and make itself at home, at which point I started dyeing my hair with box color every 6 weeks.

After a little trial and error I found the right brand and color for me: Clairol Nice n’ Easy dark brown.  Now I buy two boxes at a time whenever it’s on sale and dye my hair in the comfort of my own bathroom, and today I’m going to tell you how to dye your hair at home with all the little tricks I’ve learned the hard way.

Here’s what you need to dye your hair at home:

  • box of hair dye
  • grubby old t-shirt and a pair of old sweats
  • stained old towel
  • wet washcloth
  • bathroom or kitchen sink

tip: dye dirty hair that’s hasn’t been shampooed for at least a day, it will help the color absorb better

how to dye your hair

Pick your color, bring it home and open up the box.  Spread out the contents.  You should have some instructions, a pair of rubber gloves, a color formula and a bottle of activator.  Put on your grubby old clothes and grab the old towel and washcloth.

tip: buy 2 boxes of hair dye if your hair is extra thick and/or extra long to make sure you have enough dye for full coverage

  • Step 1: Put the rubber gloves on and uncap the activator.
  • Step 2: Uncap the color formula and dump it into the color activator bottle.  Put your rubber gloved finger over the top and shake until they’re both combined.

tip: pull your hair back into different sections so the dye can penetrate each section separately

dye your hair at home

tip: drape old towel over your shoulders so the dye won’t drip onto your shoulders

  • Step 3: Smooth Vaseline or hair conditioner along your hairline, around your ears, and along the nape of your neck.  This will help prevent the dye from staining your skin.  Spread the dye into each section of hair from root to tip until thoroughly saturated.
  • Step 4: Use a Q-tip to remove any leftover smudges of hair dye along the hairline and tips of the ears.
  • Step 5: Once your hair is completely covered in dye leave it on for 20-25 minutes.  Use a wet washcloth to clean any errant globs of dye that have found their way onto your: counter, mirror, sink, face, floor, neck.  Trust me on this one.
  • Step 6: Once the time is up, put your head over a sink or tub and use lukewarm water to rinse the dye from your hair completely.  Once the water runs clear squeeze out all the remaining water and wrap hair in a towel.
how to dye your hair at home

That’s it!  The dye I use comes with a deep conditioner so I apply it straight onto my hair while it’s wet and leave it on overnight.  The first few times I wash my hair a bunch of color washes out, but pretty soon it looks smoking hot and stays that way for about 4-6 weeks.  You too can have all this for the low, low price of $5.99 a box.

Use all the cash you save to buy some sassy makeup and shoes. 

I won’t tell a soul.

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Hello there! I'm Allison Czarnecki, founder + editor of Petit Elefant, a blog all about style on a budget for every part of your life: style / home / travel / family. I do a lot of how-to beauty + style tutorials, travel posts, easy recipes, home remodel projects, and cool DIY crafts you totally want to try. I'm super happily married (to a hot Polish immigrant) and am the mother of two kids, a daughter and son, all of whom are featured here on the regular. We live in the country but we're a little bit rock + roll. Welcome!


  1. senja :

    I have never gone to the hair dresser to get my hair colored – I always do it myself the same way as you do :)

    You look beautiful in the last photo!

    • Allison :

      So glad I’m among good company, and thank you!

  2. endy daniel :

    it’s like a nightmare to find grey on our head… i remember i was in deep depression and not long after that i found my first grey, and it was when i was still in senior high school :(
    I didn’t find more grey years after. Then in college, i was into trend in coloring hair, but as my hair was too dark, i needed 2bottles to make the color shown up, so i decided to use hair bleaching… about 4years ago, i found back one and two greys, and after that it’s spread mostly around my bang or top of the head, but i believe it was bcoz i used hair bleaching few times b4… at least that what my friends said (they work in saloon). Now i regret i’ve bleached my hair, wish i just coloring without bleaching it :(

    • Allison :

      Isn’t it the worst? I learned the hard way not to bleach my hair back in the 80’s. {smile}

  3. Leah :

    Do you dye your entire head every time? I’ve heard that’s not good for your hair. I only do my roots and pull the color through my whole head for the last 10 min. It’s a total pain in the backside though. It would be easier to just do my whole head.

    • Allison :

      I do dye my whole head every time. I probably shouldn’t, but I like the way it looks in the end so I keep doing it, I just condition like crazy when I’m done.

  4. Jess :

    Yay, Allison! I loathed having to cover my gray at the ripe young age of 17 too! I’ve been a box color fanatic ever since because there was no way I would have been able to afford getting a professional color every two weeks at $60 a pop. (Thank you Italian genes for giving me a head of hair equivalent to that of five with each strand the thickness of a horse’s mane.) When it was long, I only opted for the roots which still took two boxes. Now that I’ve been wearing it short, I’ll do the top half of my head since my ends tend to hold the color longer. Ah, hair maintenance…don’t we just LOVE it?! ;)

    • Allison :

      Mercy, I loathe it too. Let’s just say we’ll go into our 80’s looking raven haired and fabulous….

    • Leah :

      Jess – I have the same hair as you. It’s been thinned into submission (got talked into that one and will NEVER make that mistake again) and I still have more hair than anyone I know. I’m so tired of dying it myself but you can’t beat the price. Sigh… I’m too young to be this gray :(

  5. mel :

    I’m a DYI hair coloring fanatic as well. Been doing my own hair for over 10 years now. Like you, I always color my whole head of hair–I like the look much better. I’ve found it’s easier to get all the dye out by showering rather than trying to rinse my hair without making a mess in the tub or sink. I also sleep with a towel on my pillow the first night–I only use white sheets and this has saved many a set of pillow cases from being spotted with dark hair dye.

    • Allison :

      Mel, I knew I liked you the first time we met.

  6. AlishaJaybird :

    I dye mine at home, too. And I got my first gray at 16. A friend pulled it out on the school bus. I swear, it was attached to my brain the way it hurt. And now (I’ll be 30 next month) I look like Cruella DeVil if I don’t color it. And I prefer red to my natural color… but I am considering going nearly black just for a change because every dang time I find a color I adore, they discontinue it! This is the 3rd time it’s happened! I’m tired of it! I need an in-your-face-red, STAT! And they’re hard to find! I like your q-tip around the hairline tip. Definitely will be using that next time. I always tend to have a stained spot, lol. And you look fab, dahling, simply fab. :)

    • Allison :

      Alisha I feel your pain. 16? That’s ridiculous! And thank you.

  7. Jill :

    I’ve been doing my own hair for years (very dark red/brown), and for so long I didn’t shampoo until the next morning, as per the instructions. But a few years ago I was talking to my hair-dressing cousin, and she said that’s crazy, you can totally shampoo your hair right away, and wow, what a difference. It helps my skin and scalp get cleaner faster (because I always end up dying my forehead), and saves a bunch of time. I just leave the dye on for the recommended 15 minutes or however long, then rinse out and shampoo as normal, and then use the special conditioner.

    • Allison :

      Yep, you totally have the system down. I’ve kept it in for too long before and it just makes my head burn, no better results.

  8. Kristen :

    I used to dye my hair at home but have had such a hard time finding a natural looking blonde color… it always turned out banana yellow or too red.

    Your hair looks fab!!

    • Linda :

      I wish there was a way to turn the gray into beautiful blonde highlights!

      • Allison :

        Yeah, blonde is a tricky thing. I have a friend who uses all kinds of stuff from Sally’s Beauty supply and mixes all the highlights herself, but I’m not that talented.

  9. Nanette Davis :

    I could use a 5.99 dye do. I pay $100 every 5 weeks and it gets really expensive. I have highlights though. Are they hard to do?

  10. Amanda :

    Poor me I’m only 29 and almost fully grey and get this sh**, I’m allergic to hair dye. Miserable is what I am.

    • Leah :


      Have you tried Henna? I know they make versions for gray hair. I used to dye my hair with it all the time and it’s completely herbal. Smells like tea but it’s a tad messy….