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You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > FAQs > Acid Dyes FAQs > Food Dyes


Twist Blue Mountain Berry drink mix

Which synthetic food dyes in the US are pure, rather than mixtures?

See also "Dyes for Protein Fibers," "How can I tie dye with Kool-aid or food coloring?," and "Using Food Coloring as a Textile Dye for Protein Fibers.."

Food colorings can be used as acid dyes, on wool, silk, and other animal fibers. It cannot be used to dye cotton or other cellulose fibers!

actual dyes used in food coloring

Many colorings that are legal for use in foods in one country are banned in another; conversely, those dyes allowed in the latter country may be banned in the former. In the US, the list of legal synthetic food dyes is short:

dye nameF D & C food
dye number
Colour Index NameColour
chemical class
allura red red dye #40food red 1716035E129monoazo
brilliant blue FCF blue #1acid blue 9;
food blue 2
sunset yellow FCF  yellow #6acid yellow 6;
food yellow 3
indigotine or
indigo carmine
blue #2food blue 173015E132
fast green FCF green#3food green 342053INS 143 triarylmethane
erythrosine red #3acid red 51;
food red 14
tartrazine yellow #5acid yellow 23;
food yellow 4

All other food colorings in the US, aside from a few natural dyes such as annatto, turmeric (spice), beet extract, and carmine (red insects, used to color yogurt and other foods), are composed of different combinations of the above.

brands of food dyes

Food dye may be purchased in several forms. Many grocery stores in the US sell little sets of four bottles of food coloring; these are not ideal for color mixing, as the blue is too greenish and the red too orangish for it to be possible to mix a good purple. However, they are very readily available.

More colors may be obtained in the form of cake coloring, such as in Wilton cake decorating colors.

KoolAid and similar drink mix products are also good sources of some of the artificial food colors, complete with citric acid to serve as the acid (be sure not to get the kind with sugar added!); see How can I tie dye with Kool-aid or food coloring?

The best all-around source I've seen for food dyes may be The Coloration Station. In addition to the food colorings, the Coloration Station also sells dyes that are safe for use on the skin - D&C colors - so they must be safe for use in dyeing, although they are not considered safe to eat. Note that the "lake" colors are insoluble; you want the non-lake colors, for most dyeing purposes.

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Page created: April 3, 2003
Last updated: April 24, 2007
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