We performed staining experiments on cells using natural dyes and different mordants using techniques that are used for wool and silk dyeing. The natural dye sources were madder root, daisy, corn cockle and yellow weed. Ferrous sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium tartrate, urea, potassium aluminum sulfate and potassium dichromate were used as mordants. Distilled water, distilled water plus ethanol, heptane, and distilled water plus methanol were used as solvents. All dye-mordant-solvent combinations were studied at pH 2.4, 3.2 and 4.2. The generic staining procedure was to boil 5–10 onion roots or stimulated human lymphocyte (SHL) preparations in a dye bath on a hot plate. Cells were examined at every half hour. For multicolor staining, madder-dyed lymphocytes were decolorized, then stained with Giemsa. The AgNOR technique was performed following the decolorization of Giemsa stained lymphocytes. Good results were obtained for both onion root cells and lymphocytes that were boiled for 3 h in a dye bath that included 4 g madder root, 4 g ferrous sulfate as mordant in 50 ml of 1:1 (v/v) methanol:distilled water. The pH was adjusted to 4.2 with 6 ml acetic acid. We conclude that madder root has potential as an alternative dye for staining biological materials.