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How to Dye the Back Cover of Your Phone or Tablet

By Patrick Nelson
Oct 10, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Early upgrade plans are tips of the hat to phone-as-fashion-statement. Who wants a graying two-year-old phone? Such plans do come at a cost, however.

How to Dye the Back Cover of Your Phone or Tablet

What if you don't actually need a new phone and the innards and battery are still good? If you're not a hard-core phone geek, aren't they all just about the same? Slab of plastic with screen, in other words.

It's possible that all your phone needs is a midlife change of look -- a fresh color, perhaps. Believe it or not, a do-it-yourself back cover color change is very doable for many devices. The secret is Rit-branded clothing dye.

Here's how to go about the job.

Step 1: Determine the Scope of the Job

Just like with fabric dying, you should only go darker to obtain good results. So, if your back cover is a gray or black, you'll be able to go blacker. You can't go the other way, say black to lavender. However, silver to black, or even orange or crimson works well.

Look for damage on the cover before starting. Scratches and worn plastic, where fingers have destroyed the film-like outer layer over years, can cause the dye not to take properly in those spots. Abort in that case, or browse eBay for brand-new replacement covers to use.

Tip: Silicone or hardened coatings don't dye well -- softer, more tactile finishes do.

Step 2: Gather the Parts

Purchase one box of your preferred-color Rit dye from an arts and crafts store. It will cost two or three dollars.

You'll need rubber gloves, a stove, a pan, some tape, a copacetic spouse -- it can get messy -- a rag, isopropyl alcohol and a sink.

Step 3: Prepare the Cover

Remove the back cover from the phone or tablet, and carefully tape any camera lens cover. This is so that the clear plastic there won't pick up a hue.

Then wash the cover well with detergent. Oil from fingers can affect the resulting quality.

Step 4: Prepare the Dye

Pour water into the pan to about the half-way mark and boil. Then dissolve the contents of the Rit packet into the boiling water. You can optionally add one cup of vinegar and one cup of salt, which is anecdotally said to improve the take.

Then allow the water to cool slightly from boiling. This is so heat doesn't warp the plastic cover.

Step 5: Dye the Cover

Drop the back cover into the dye mix and leave it for 10 minutes. Swirl it around a bit. Use gloves -- the dye colors fingers too.

The cover will start to pick up a hue. In the case of silver to black, you'll see a purple tint start to show.

Step 6: Inspect

View the cover again after an hour. If the obtained tint is to your satisfaction, proceed to the next step. You can leave the cover in the dye for some days if the cover is resistant to coloring. It should eventually take. Periodically remove the cover from the mix, re-heat the dye and replace the cover in the dye. You might have to do this a few times.

Tip: Once the dye has taken, but before it's fixed, you can remove any dying of logos by scratching the dye off at the logo with a fingernail. Logos and plastic chrome are hardened and so are more dye-resistant.

Step 7: Fixing

Drop the cover into a sink filled with water and ice. Ice helps the fixing. Repeatedly soak, rinse and rub off any accumulated dye residue with a rag, until no dye comes off. Then dry well. Rub some more, this time with isopropyl alcohol. Rinse and then remove the tape covering the camera. Replace the now-groovy cover onto the phone or tablet.

Want to Ask a Tech Question?

Is there a piece of tech you'd like to know how to operate properly? Is there a gadget that's got you confounded? Please send your tech questions to me, and I'll try to answer as many as possible in this column.

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