Aqueous reactive dyeing of cotton is considered to be environmentally unfriendly owing to its high consumption of water and salt as well as large discharge of wastewater. However, the industrial applications of current alternative dyeing technologies are difficult to realize due to different problems such as poor dyeing quality, environmental pollution and high cost. Herein, we developed a hydrophobic deep eutectic solvent (HDES) dyeing approach using natural thymol-menthol to overcome the problems caused by reactive dyeing of cotton. HDES dyeing approach could achieve excellent dyeing properties of cotton by optimizing water content, pick-up and concentration of alkali solution. Dye fixation kinetics of HDES dyeing system was studied based on Lagergren pseudo-first-order and pseudo-second-order dynamics models, compared with aqueous dyeing system. The cotton fabrics dyed in Thy-Men system exhibited excellent levelness, satisfactory colorfastness and color strength without addition of salt. Furthermore, HDES can be reused for 5 cycles of dyeing and the dyed fabrics displayed consistently high color strength values. This dyeing approach provides substantial reduction in wastewater emission and consumption of freshwater and chemicals, which has considerable potential for promoting cleaner production in the textile industry.