About the Dyes
choosing the right dye for your fiber
Your choice of dye depends directly on what kind of fabric you are
using. You'll get bad results if you use a wool dye on cotton, or
a cotton dye recipe on wool, or either on polyester.
Dyes for Cellulose Fibers
These are your choices if you want to dye a t-shirt. Cellulose fibers
include cotton, linen, rayon, hemp, ramie, lyocell (Tencel), bamboo, and pineapple plant fiber.
Dyes for Protein Fibers
Protein fibers include all fibers made by animals: wool, angora, mohair, cashmere, as well as silk. Silk is the only non-hair animal fiber, and can be dyed like wool or like cellulose fibers, above. The high-pH recipes used for most cellulose dyes will ruin animal hair fibers.
Dyes that can be used for protein fibers include the following:
Also see Dyes for Protein Fibers
'Soy Silk' is a new plant fiber, but, because it is made from soybean protein, it should be dyed like animal fibers, instead. Like real silk, it can also be dyed with fiber reactive dyes.
Dyes for Synthetic Fibers
Polyester requires the use of disperse dyes
See Disperse Dye
Surprisingly, nylon, which is a truly synthetic fiber, happens to
dye quite well with the same acid dyes that work on wool and
other animal fibers, in addition to dyes that work on
polyester. Acid dyes are more washfast on nylon than disperse dyes are. For more information on dyes for nylon, see Dyes for Protein Fibers
want to test a swatch before committing yourself to the
project, as nylons vary.
Spandex can be dyed with metal complex acid dyes
, but it is much more common for hand-dyers to dye only the cotton portion of a cotton/spandex blend. Polyester/spandex blends cannot be dyed.
See How to dye spandex
Acetate, also known as rayon acetate, requires the use of disperse dye
. (The other type of rayon, which is a cellulose fiber, is also known as viscose rayon.)
Acrylic fiber can be dyed with disperse dyes or with basic
. See About Basic Dye
and How to Dye Acrylic Yarn and Fabric
Ingeo is the trademark for a new synthetic fiber, polylactic acid (PLA), made from corn. It is dyed like polyester
, using disperse dyes, though it is evidently somewhat less washfast.
Polypropylene (Herculon, Olefin) is dyed while still in liquid form, before it is extruded into a fiber. It cannot be dyed at home.
Most cotton/polyester blends are best dyed as for cotton, using fiber reactive dyes, leaving the polyester undyed. Cotton/nylon blends may be dyed with all-purpose dye, or by successive dyeing with a fiber reactive dye such as Procion MX, first with soda ash at room temperature to dye the cotton, then in hot water with vinegar to dye the nylon.
Pigments that are not naturally attracted to fibers may be mixed with a gluelike binder to attach them to the fiber. "Pigment dyes" are not dyes at all, but a type of fabric paint. See the Fabric Paints