Monthly Archives: June 2014

Is there a sure-fire recommended dye for covering red bleach spots on a black tee?

Name: Milan

Country or region: Australia

Message: My wife is a cleaner and wears black tee shirts. From time to time she gets bleach on them which leaves a red mark. I tried dyeing the tee shirts with shop-bought dye but it doesn’t work. Is there a sure-fire dye you recommend?

First, cover up the spot with a fabric marker, then use the fiber content of the shirt to choose the right kind of dye.

Since dye is transparent, after you dye the shirts, both the background and the spots will get darker at the same time, so the red spots will still be lighter in color than the rest of the shirt. The best solution for this problem, generally, is to buy a good fabric marker, specifically sold for decorating fabrics, to color over the spot. A permanent marker that is not labeled as being for fabric, such as a Sharpie pen, will work for a while, but will wash out more quickly; if you use such a marker, be sure to keep it on hand to recolor the spots when you need to. If the results are not good enough by themselves, you can combine using a marker to fill in the spot with overdyeing the entire short a darker black.

Are the shirts 100% cotton, or are they a cotton/polyester blend, or something else? If they are a polyester blend, then using a dye intended for cotton (including all-purpose dye) will not work.

Even a low-quality dye will work for a while to overdye a 100% cotton shirt a darker black, but only if you use a large amount of dye, as otherwise you will get a lighter color than black. All-purpose dye tends to produce a color other than black, such as dark green or dark purple, but if you use two or three times as much dye, the results will be blacker. One pound of t-shirts (weigh while dry) requires two boxes of all-purpose dye to get a good rich dark color. All-purpose dye tends to wash out quickly, though, so it is important to make it more permanent by treating it afterwards with Retayne or another cationic dye fixative.

For better results, when dyeing cotton, use a fiber reactive dye, such as Procion dye. This dye lasts many times longer than all-purpose dye, and is safer for other clothes in the laundry, as well. In Australia you should be able to find a product called Tintex Cold Water Dye, which contains Procion dyes and is far longer-lasting than all-purpose dye. (Tintex Hot Water Dye is an all-purpose dye, as are all of the Tintex brand dyes sold in North America.)

If the t-shirts are a cotton/polyester blend, you have an entirely different problem. Polyester cannot be dyed with any dye that works on cotton, so you will have to use two different dyes, a disperse dye for the polyester part of the blend, and another dye for the cotton part. All purpose dye, in spite of its name, does not contain any dye for polyester, so it will not work for this purpose. However, if you can find a supplier of Jacquard Products, you can combine their iDye Poly and their iDye for Natural Fibers together, to dye both fibers at once.

If you can’t find the dyes you want locally, there are several sources from which you can order your dyes online. See my page, “Sources for Dyeing Supplies Around the World“, scrolling down to the section including Australia. Kraftkolour, for example, sells Procion MX dyes which are an excellent choice for 100% natural fibers, such as cotton, as well as  iDye Poly, which is ideal for polyester blends when used with iDye for Natural fibers to dye the cotton portion of the blend.

Also see, in the Frequently Asked Questions section of my website, my page “How can I fix the bleach spots on my favorite clothing?“. Be sure to check the last section, in particular, “Damaged fiber”, explaining what to do about the fact that the bleach that created the red spots also weakened the fabric in that spot, and may continue to do so, though at a slower rate, unless the bleach is neutralized.

(Please help support this web site. Thank you.)


How can I dye a white- or clear-bristle fingernail brush so that the bristles are easier to spot when they fall out?

Name: HAL

Country or region: CALIFORNIA USA

Message: I have a black bristle fingernail brush. The bristles are beginning to come out. They are easy to spot in the sink or shower and pick up so they don’t go down the drain. How can I dye a white or clear bristle brush to be able to spot them so they don’t go down the drain? I will appreciate any suggestions you may have to solve this.

Your white or clear fingernail brush probably has bristles made of nylon. Dyeing nylon is not difficult. Nylon is best dyed by heating it in water with acid dyes. As the name of the dye class suggests, this is to be done in combination with a mild acid, such as white vinegar. (Don’t use an aluminum pot when heating vinegar or any other acid.)

Some acid dyes will last longer in the nylon than others. The acid dye in a Rit All-Purpose dye mixture will work on nylon (the cotton dye also contained in Rit dye will do nothing to nylon), though it will tend to wash out more quickly than other types of acid dye. It’s worth trying, because it will probably last well enough for your purpose, and then, if it washes out too quickly, you could look for a longer-lasting dye to try again. Rit all-purpose dye can usually be found in a local grocery store or craft or sewing store. As always with Rit all-purpose dye, the color you get may be rather different from the color predicted on the outside of the box, perhaps a dark green or purple, when you expect to get black.

If the Rit all-purpose dye works but you want a longer-lasting dye, and if you would prefer black, I would recommend you order a dye called Washfast Jet Black WF672, which is Colour Index Acid Black 172, from PRO Chemical & Dye, as it is a particularly wash-resistant acid dye. This dye produces a reliable dark black, assuming you use enough dye powder. Then again, if you are going to go to the trouble of ordering online, you could probably find and order a black-bristled fingernail brush, instead.

If Rit all-purpose dye does not color a fingernail brush’s bristles, even temporarily, that would be a sign that the bristles are made of an undyeable polymer. A few fingernail brushes are made with polypropylene bristles, which cannot be dyed at all; colored polypropylene has pigment added in the manufacturing process, while the polymer is still liquid.

Assuming that your bristles are made of nylon, my one concern is how the bristles are held in the brush. I don’t know how this is done. If they are held in with a heat-sensitive adhesive–that is, hot glue–then bristles will fall out when you heat the brush, in your mixture of water, dye, and vinegar. If they are held in another way, then there will be no problem. The nylon itself should tolerate temperatures up to a 205°F simmer, just under boiling temperature. Do not bring the dyebath to a full boil, for fear of damaging the nylon.

Some fingernail brushes are made with natural bristles, rather than nylon bristles. These are stiff hairs from hogs. Natural hair bristles will take exactly the same dyes that nylon will, using the same procedure.

Here’s a link to a PDF page with instructions for dyeing with acid dyes: “Immersion Dyeing on Nylon using WashFast Acid Dyes

(Please help support this web site. Thank you.)