Monthly Archives: September 2014

Can I use vinyl sulphone as an acid dye on silk with citric acid for immersion dyeing?

Name: Nancy
Country or region: northeastern USA
Message: Can I use vinyl sulphone as an acid dye on silk using 1 TBL citric acid when immersion dyeing in 3.5 gallons of water? Slowly heating to 185°F and holding for 60 minutes, then slowly cooling.

Yes, this looks like a recipe that should work. You might want to use more citric acid, though.

Oddly, in this recipe, a vinyl sulfone dye may act as a true fiber reactive dye on silk, unlike other types of fiber reactive dyes, which act only as acid dyes when applied at acid pHs. You might get a combination of acid-dye-type bonding and fiber-reactive-type bonding.

PRO Chemical and Dye provides a similar recipe for immersion dyeing wool with vinyl sulfone dyes, combining 2.5 gallons of water with two tablespoons (or 35 grams) of citric acid, and simmering (about 185 degrees F, or 85 degrees C) for between 30 and 60 minutes. You’re using more water and less citric acid than their recipe. Their recipes for immersion dyeing silk with these same dyes calls for a high pH, instead, with sodium carbonate or potassium carbonate instead of the acid, but, since it is a protein fiber, silk can also accept dye using recipes intended for wool. Dyeing silk at a low (acidic) pH will tend to preserve its luster and stiffness better than dyeing it at a high (basic) pH.

The difference between acting as an acid dye and acting as a fiber reactive dye lies in how the dye becomes attaches to the fiber. An acid dye is attached to a protein fiber by means of a combination of hydrogen bonding and salt linkages. A fiber reactive dye, in contrast, is attached by a true covalent chemical bond, making the dye and fiber molecules into a single molecule, firmly bound together. The advantage of the fiber reactive type of bond is that is it much more permanent, and cannot be washed out with hot water, unlike acid dyes. See “What kinds of chemical bonds attach dyes to fibers?”.

The vinyl sulfone dyes, also known as Remazol dyes after the brand name under which they were first introduced, contain a masking group of atoms in the dye molecule; this masking group prevents the dye from reacting with the dye water, thus giving the dyes a longer life when dissolved in water, and its slow removal in a hot dyebath helps wool to dye more levelly (producing a more perfectly solid color) than it would if all of the dye were immediately able to react with the wool. There are two different ways to remove the masking group: one, which works very quickly and without high heat, is to produce a high pH with a chemical such as sodium carbonate (soda ash). Surprisingly, the other is to heat the dye in the presence of a mild acid, such as citric acid. The ideal pH for the removal of the masking group is between 5 and 6, which is only mildly acid. This takes some time, but an hour should be plenty of time for it.

Typical hand-dyeing recipes for using fiber reactive dyes as acid dyes call for producing a somewhat lower pH than is required for milling acid dyes or fast acid dyes. ProChem’s recipe’s 35 grams of citric acid in 2.5 gallons of water, or 10 liters, works out to 0.35%, while your recipe of approximately 17.5 grams of citric acid in 3.5 gallons of water, or 14 liters, is 0.125%. It would be good to check the pH of this amount of citric acid in the amount of the water you are using, and keep a record of it. (See “How do you use citric acid as an auxiliary chemical for dyeing?”.)

A note on spelling, for anyone curious as to why sometimes “sulfone” appears spelled with a “ph”, and sometimes with an “f”….The main reason why we see the spelling “vinyl sulphone” is that Jacquard Products sells a brand of vinyl sulfone dyes which they name “Vinyl Sulphon”, the intentionally odd spelling, along with the capital letters, serving to distinguish it from the generic name for the vinyl sulfone dyes. The generic name is sulfone, rather than sulphone, as decreed by IUPAC, the international federation of chemists which sets standards in chemistry nomenclature; a sulfone is a chemical compound containing a sulfonyl functional group (a sulfur attached with double bonds to two oxygen atoms), in which the sulfur is also attached to two carbon atoms. The element sulfur was often spelled “sulphur” in British writings starting in the eighteenth century and continuing until 2000, when the Royal Society of Chemists in Britain agreed to standardize to the IUPAC spelling; interestingly, sulfur had been the original spelling even in British usage. The letter combination “ph” typically indicates that a word was originally sourced from Greek, but the origin of the word “sulfur” is Arabic, not Greek.

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Dye or paint to cover a grease spot on a formal dress?

Name: Raquel
Country or region: Illinois
Message: Hello Paula,
As I was reading through your website, I believe the answer is fabric paint; however, I am still unsure. I have a beautiful dress I wore as a wedding guest and somehow grease from a chair got on the back of my dress. The dry cleaner did all that they could to get it out but it left a grey mark on the back of my very light pink dress. The fabric shell is 54% polyester, 38% viscose, and 8% elastane. The liner is 97% polyester and 3% spandex. Should I use polyester dye or fabric paint?

Polyester dye is not an option with spandex-blend fabrics. To dye polyester with polyester dye (also known as disperse dye), you must boil the fabric in the dye for a minimum of half an hour at a hard boil. Spandex (also known as elastane or Lycra) must never be exposed to high heat, over 140° F. The heat required to dye the polyester would ruin the spandex. The viscose rayon is a form of cellulose, which must be dyed with an entirely different type of dye that is easier to use, but it’s not enough to dye just the viscose.

Fabric paint will be great if you try to produce an entirely different look. For example, you could sponge an irregular design of pearlescent colors onto your dress, or block-print butterflies in metallic colors, or brush on swirls in a darker shade of opaque pink fabric paint—just to give you some ideas. However, there is no possibility of simply restoring the gray mark to blend in with the pale pink of the rest of the dress. Even if you happen to find an exact match for the pale pink, or manage to expertly mix opaque white fabric paint with pink to get an exact color match, the painted spot will always be perceptibly different in reflectiveness and opacity. Make this look intentional by creating a design, whether it is striking in contrast or very subtle, that covers the entire garment.

It is important to use an opaque paint, not a transparent paint, because transparent paint will not cover anything up, as the problem will show right through it; metallic and pearlescent fabric paints are opaque, so they are fine for covering. One brand of good metallic and pearlescent fabric paints is Jacquard Products’ Lumiere fabric paint, which comes in a wide range of very sparkly colors that leave only a very slight feeling on the fabric; they are not thick and rough like some types of fabric paint.

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Is it okay to soak the scarves in soda ash first, before adding any dye?

Name: Robin
Country or region: Pennsylvania
Message: I am doing ice dyeing, where I soak the scarves for the soda ash, and then proceed with the dyeing. My question is…I also want to do some cram jar dyeing…is it okay if the scarves have been soaked in the soda ash first, before any dye is added? I notice that all instructions seem to soak it in the sodium carbonate after the item has been in the dye bath for a while. I am new to dyeing so I’m trying to keep all the various techniques straight. Thank you so much for your help.

You can add the soda ash at any point in the process—before the dye, with the dye, or after the dye. The effects are a little different when the soda ash is added first, rather than last.

The difference is in how quickly the dye reacts with the fabric, and thus how far the dye migrates across the fabric. If you add the soda ash first, then add a fast-reacting dye such as fuchsia (Procion Red MX-8B), then the dye will react with the fabric immediately, wherever it first hits the fabric. If you let the dye soak in for an hour before you add the soda ash, then it will creep along the fabric, and different colors that have been mixed together will separate out. The differences are less obvious with Procion dyes that are slower to react, such as turquoise (Procion Turquoise MX-G).

Whether you add the soda ash first or last is a matter of personal preference. Just don’t forget to add it at all!

Instead of piling ice on top before adding the dye, some dyers like to soak the fabric in soda ash, then wring it out and freeze it, before adding the dye. This can work extremely well. You should try it each way and see which method you prefer.

Other variables in low water immersion (LWI) dyeing, which includes ice dyeing, that affect your outcome include how tightly you cram the fabric into the container. If you want a lot of variegation, and perhaps some white, then you should make sure that the crumpled fabric fits very tightly into your container. For more subtle effects, use a larger container that allows the fabric to remain loose. For a cross between LWI and dye painting, arrange the fabric in a tray. You can use salt in your LWI dyebath, or omit it entirely. To increase the sharpness of the patterns you produce, try adding salt after adding the dye, mixed with the soda ash if you prefer.

It is important to allow the dye time to soak into the fibers of your fabric, whether you add the soda ash early or late in the process. If you do not allow enough time for the dye to soak in, then each fiber will be dyed only on the outside margin. This is a fault known as “ring dyeing”. The problem is that, while the dyed fabric looks good at first, even a slight amount of wear will remove the outer thin layer of dyed fiber, exposing the undyed white fiber inside, and making it seem as though the dye is not permanent. (This effect is purposefully employed in the clothing industry to make the denim used in blue jeans appear to wear very quickly.) Dye will soak into thin silks much more quickly than into sturdy twills. For a thicker material such as t-shirt-weight cotton jersey, it’s a good idea to allow a full hour to be sure that the dye has had enough time to really soak in, after the ice has melted. Fifteen minutes should be plenty of time for the soda ash to soak in. You don’t have to worry about this if you are leaving your dye to react with the fabric overnight, but it is important if you are washing out immediately after dyeing.

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