How to Dilute Developer – A Step By Step Guide

Published Categorized as Beauty Tips

Sometimes to achieve your desired hair color, you may need to dilute the developer you have. Developer is available in different volumes (such as 10, 20, 30, and 40), and each one serves a different purpose when coloring hair and trying to lift your hair color up a few levels. While you can purchase each volume of developer separately, it can be more cost-effective to dilute the existing developer you have from a previous hair coloring session. If you’re looking for how to dilute developer, keep reading! We’ll share all the ratios you’ll need!

Hi beautiful! Just to let you know, we earn a modest commission off of purchases made through Amazon affiliate links on this page. Don't worry, it's of no extra cost to you. We love the products we recommend in this post, and we hope you do, too!

Table of Contents

Schwarzkopf Blondme Premium Developer 6% / 20 Volume Hair Color Developer, 33.8 Ounce, 1 L

How to Dilute Developer

Before you begin thinking about diluting developer, it is important to understand what developer is and what the different volumes mean.  The different volume measurements refer to the percentage of peroxide in the developer.

Here is what each of the more common volumes mean:

  • 10 volume developer:  3% peroxide
  • 20 volume developer:  6% peroxide
  • 30 volume developer:  9% peroxide
  • 40 volume developer:  12% peroxide

Developer is activated when it is mixed with either bleach or a hair dye, and depending on the volume, will either lift or deposit color.  If you’re trying to darken your hair (deposit color), you’ll want to use a 10 volume developer.  If you need to lift your hair color to a lighter level, you will need to use a 20, 30, or 40 developer (depending on the desired results).

As you can see from the information above, the percentage of peroxide in developer increases by 3%.  Understanding these ratios can help you determine how to dilute developer from a higher volume to a lower volume.

However, don’t stress yourself with the math; we’ve laid everything out for you below.

How to Dilute 20 Volume Developer to 5

If you need a 5 volume developer, but only have a 20 volume developer you may be at a loss for what to do.  However, the steps are actually quite easy.

To dilute 20 volume developer to 5 volume developer, you simply need to mix one part 20 volume developer with three parts distilled water.  So, however much 20 volume developer you start with, you’ll need to use three times that amount in distilled water.

For example, if you start with 50 mL of 20 volume developer, you should mix in 150 mL of distilled water.

Wella Color Charm Creme Hair Developer 20 Volume, 32 oz
Buy on Amazon

How to Dilute 20 Volume Developer to 10 with Conditioner

To dilute 20 volume developer to 10 volume developer using distilled water, mix equal parts developer and water. This is known as a 1:1 ratio. The same ratio will apply if you’re trying to dilute the 20 volume developer using conditioner instead of water. Just confirm the water content of your conditioner, and mix equal parts conditioner and 20 volume developer together to arrive at a 10 volume developer.

What Happens When You Mix 20 and 10 Developer?

If you mix 20 volume developer with 10 volume developer, you’ll end up with 15 volume developer.  To understand why this is the case, you simply need to do a little basic math.  20 + 10 = 30, and 30 ÷ 2 = 15.  Keep in mind that for this formula to apply, you will need to use equal parts of each developer volume.

Sensitive Scalp 10 Volume Creme Developer
Buy on Amazon

How to Dilute 30 Volume Developer to 20

Wondering how to dilute 30 developer to 20 with water?  It really isn’t difficult at all.

Simply combine two parts 30 volume developer with one part distilled water.  This 2:1 ratio will yield a 20 volume developer.  Another way to look at it is that you’ll need half as much distilled water as the total amount of 30 volume developer you’re using.  So, if you start with 100 mL of 30 volume developer, add 50 mL of water.

How to Dilute 30 Developer to 10

Next, how do you dilute 30 volume developer to 10 volume developer?

Simple, follow a 1:2 ratio.  So, for each part of 30 volume developer you use, you will need to use two parts of water.  If you start with 50 mL of 30 volume developer, mix in 100 mL of distilled water.

Likewise, if you begin with 100 mL of 30 volume developer, you’ll need to add in 200 mL of distilled water.

How to Dilute 40 Developer to 30

Following a 3:1 ratio will help you dilute 40 volume developer to 30.  This means you should use three parts of 40 volume developer with just one part of distilled water.  Or, in other words, you should have three times as much 40 volume developer as you do water.

For example, if you start with 150 mL of 40 volume developer, you should mix in 50 mL of distilled water.

Marianna - Super Star Creme Developer 40 Volume
Buy on Amazon

How to Dilute Developer for Toner

If you are using a toner to modify, or tone, your hair color, you will also need a developer. The exact volume of developer you’ll need will vary depending on whether you are toning lighter or darker hair. If you plan to tone light hair, most experts typically recommend a 20 volume developer, while a 10 volume developer is better for toning dark hair.

Once you determine which developer volume you require, consult the steps above to properly dilute the developer you have, if needed.

Is It Okay to Dilute Developer?

Yes, you can dilute developer.  Many stylists will even dilute developer if they don’t have the strength they need.  If you want to use water to dilute developer, distilled water is best.

Mixing Developer

Mixing developer with distilled water, conditioner, or some other liquids is the best way to dilute it. Always pay attention to the volume of the developer and the volume you are looking to dilute it too. This will help avoid mistakes and will ensure that you are able to achieve the hair coloring results you desire.

Can You Mix Water With Developer?

Can you add water to developer is a common question.  The answer is, yes, adding water to developer is the method most hair experts recommend. You may have heard that you should use distilled water when diluting developer, but you may also be asking, “can I dilute developer with tap water?” Yes, you can use tap water to dilute developer. However, if you can get distilled water, that is better to use.

Can You Mix Developer With Conditioner?

When you mix semi-permanent hair dye with conditioner, it dilutes the strength of the dye.  The same is true when you mix developer with conditioner.

Conditioner can be used to dilute developer.  However, you will need to determine the water content of your conditioner.  Otherwise, you won’t be able to mix the conditioner and developer in the right ratio to achieve the results you’re after.

What Is the Ratio for Bleach to Developer?

When mixing bleach and developer, it is important to follow a 1:2 ratio.  This ratio means that you should mix one part bleach with two parts developer.  For example, if you have 100 mL of bleach, you will need 200 mL of developer.

How Do You Dilute Developer Bleach?

To dilute developer with bleach, mix one part bleach with two parts developer.  In other words, your mixture should contain twice as much developer as it does bleach.


Is developer bleach?

No, developer is not the same as bleach. Developer is a cream with hydrogen peroxide which is designed to open up your hair cuticles.  Once the cuticles are open, hair color or bleach can penetrate more deeply into the hair.  This means that developer will help ensure that the color in the dye you choose for your hair will last longer.
The developer itself does not lighten or darken your hair.  When you use it alongside bleach, the developer works to open the cuticle and the bleach will work to lighten the hair color.

How to dilute hair dye?

To dilute hair dye, you can mix the dye with conditioner.  Mixing hair dye with conditioner will help you stretch out the hair dye to get more use out of it.  Diluting hair dye may also be desired if you are looking for a lighter or less vibrant color than the shade shown on the box.

Can you mix water with developer?

Can you add water to developer is a common question. The answer is, yes, adding water to developer is the method most hair experts recommend.

Can you mix developer with conditioner?

Conditioner can be used to dilute developer. However, you will need to determine the water content of your conditioner.

Closing Thoughts: How to Dilute Developer the Right Way

Diluting developer may sound confusing, but once you learn the proper ratios it really isn’t too complicated.  We hope you have learned something new today and that you feel ready to dilute your developer to achieve the volume you need for your next hair coloring project!

Please share your results with us; we’d love to see them!

Learn more about coloring your hair by checking out these related posts on our blog:

By Ellis James

We design luxuriously glamorous bags, organizers and life essentials for you. At Ellis James Designs, it’s all about YOU. Your bag, Your way. Our exclusive designs are timeless, indulgent and most importantly inspired by you. What will be your first Ellis James Design?


Comments are closed.