Category Archives: dyeing wool

Why won’t my wool take up dye?

Hi, I have a question for you. I’ve been a dyer for many years. I dye all sorts of fibers and use synthetic dyes and natural dyes, ecoprinting etc my question is this: why won’t my wool take up dye? I have had this happen one other time in the past with a batch of wool top that I purchased and it has now happened again. I was trying to dye this wool with coreopsis. I washed the wool with a textile detergent and rinsed. Then I mordanted with alum and cream of tartar. i then put it in my dyebath and even adjusted the ph to an alkaline solution. the dye bath was a deep brown red as it should have been but after simmering, stopping the wool had only a tiny shift of color change to offwhite. I repeated the process and nothing. Could this wool have been processed with a chemical that i was unable to remove in the washing stage? I’m totally confused here. thanks for any feedback, Juli

So far, every time, the answer to this question has always been that the fiber was mislabeled as wool, when it was actually a synthetic fiber, such as acrylic. Have you used this exact same dyeing procedure in the past with success?

If you take a little bit of the fiber and burn it, does the burned fiber char, or does it melt? I like this Fiber Identification Burn Chart at Ditzy Prints:
Ditzy Prints Burn Chart for Fiber Identification
If you still have your dyebath, please try some samples of other wool that you may have to see if it takes up more color.

It is surprising how processed wool can be, and yet continue to dye very well. For example, Superwash wool is processed by being chlorinated and then treated with a sort of plastic, a polymer resin called Hercosett 125, that glues down the scales that are found on the surface of mammalian hairs (like the scales on our own hair); this enables the wool fibers to be treated roughly without interlocking, shrinking, and felting.

You would imagine that such dramatic treatment would interfere with dyeability, wouldn’t you? And yet Superwash wool is excellent for hand dyeing, no problem at all. In fact the processing has obvious benefits in preventing felting or shrinkage, when that’s important.

Please let me know if this makes sense, from your observations.

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Are Lanasyn dyes the same as Lanaset/Sabraset dyes?

Hi. I have been experimenting with Lanasyn acid dyes from Archroma on wool yarn, but I can’t seem to find much information on them online, and none on your web page either. Is there somewhere I can get information on washfastness, full range of shades, etc.? Are they actually the same as Lanaset/Sabraset, or something else altogether? It seems like some of the colours, like the blues, are the same names, but not the reds. Any information on their properties would be appreciated. Thanks!

Archroma (which used to be Clariant) applies the name Lanasyn to two entirely different ranges of acid dyes. Their Lanasyn M dyes are 1:2 metal complex dyes (aka premetalized dyes), while their Lanasyn F dyes are acid milling dyes.

I don’t believe that there is any overlap between the Lanasyn dyes and the acid milling dyes or metal complex dyes in the Lanaset dye range. The Lanaset dyes are made by a different dye company, Huntsman Textile Effects. I think the only thing that the Lanasyn dyes have in common with the Lanaset dyes is that they are made for use on wool, as the Latin word for wool is Lana.

(Some of the dyes in the Lanaset dye range do contain acid milling dyes, including Lanaset Yellow 4G, Lanaset Yellow 2R, and Lanaset Blue 2R, while some of them contain metal complex dyes, including Lanaset Red 2B, Lanaset Brown B, and Lanaset Grey G. Some appear to contain both acid milling dyes and metal complex dyes mixed together, including Lanaset Bordeaux B, Lanaset Navy R, and Lanaset Black B. Some of the Lanaset dyes are reactive dyes, which cannot be part of either Lanasyn dye line, as are the Lanasol dyes, which also belong to Huntsman.)

In general, the 1:2 metal complex dyes are relatively dull in color, including mostly blacks, greys, navies, and dark reds, while the acid milling dyes are brilliant in color, including brights such as turquoise, violet, and bright yellow.

Archroma claims that washfastness and lightfastness are very high for their Lanasyn M dyes, and that washfastness is good for their Lanasyn F dyes, but lightfastness is not as good. They mention that the Lanasyn F dyes are not so good for color mixing.

I have not been able to find further information on the dyes in the Lanasyn F and Lanasyn M dyes ranges, aside from finding a couple of lists online of the names of the dyes in each range, and tentatively identifying the Colour Index names of a few of them. What you will need to do is contact Archroma and ask them for more information about their dyes, including specific washfastness and lightfastness information.

Some dye retailers supply a range of dyes that includes a few of the Lanasyn dyes, along with other brands of dye that act similarly and can be used with them. Kraftkolour, in Australia, sells a collection of acid milling dyes that includes both Lanasyn F dyes and dyes of the brand names Acidol, Nylosan, and Irganol, describing them as “Acid Milling dyes selected for their similar dyeing properties to the Premetallised dyes”, adding, “This range of bright, strong colours are dyed in a weakly acid dyebath and have good fastness.” Depending on your suppliers, you might also want to look into one of these brands. The Irgalan dyes are 1:2 metal complex dyes which a Dye Forum member in Denmark asked me about almost a decade ago.

Interestingly, there are dyes with the Lanasyn brand name that have also been sold under the Irgalan brand name; for example, Lanasyn Grey BLR is also listed as Irgalan Grel BRL; its Colour Index name is Acid Black 60. Other Lanasyn dyes whose Colour Index names I tentatively identified are these:

Lanasyn Scarlet F-3GL 130 C.I. acid red 111
Lanasyn Red F-5B 150 C.I. acid red 143
Lanasyn Violet F-BL 180 C.I. acid violet 48
Lanasyn Navy M-DNL C.I. acid blue 56
Lanasyn Black M-DL 170 C.I. acid black 194

Acid Black 60 is one of the dyes sold for research purposes by the Sigma Aldrich chemical company, which provides the following nicely symmetrical molecular structure:

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At what point should I add the dye: to the cold water, or after the water is hot?

Name: Ann
Country or region: US
Message: Thank you for your wonderful website. I am going to attempt to dye a piece of beige wool fabric to black. I understand that I need to put the wool in cold water and gradually heat to a simmer. At what point should I add the dye- to the cold water, or after the water is hot.

As a general rule, you should dissolve wool dyes in a small amount of boiling water, then, after they are completely dissolved, add them to the dyebath before heating it. Dye dissolves more easily in hot water than in cold water, and with acid dye you don’t have to worry that heat may inactivate the dye (as can happen with many fiber reactive dyes). You will want to add the wool to the dyebath while it is still at room temperature, and the dye must be mixed into the dyebath before the wool is added.

What kind of dye are you using? You should find a recipe that is specifically intended for that particular dye, and follow it closely.

Maybe you haven’t chosen your dye yet. If not, then now’s an opportunity for me to encourage you to choose a high quality dye. Better dyes give longer-lasting results, which are much less likely to ruin other garments if they accidentally get wet, and which do not require as much care in cleaning.

Lanaset Jet Black is felt by many to be the very best black dye for hand dyeing wool. It is a good rich black color, produces very smooth even colors when used with the recommended auxiliary chemicals, and is extraordinarily washfast. Most dyes require that wool dyed with them must be washed only in cool water, or dry-cleaned, because they tend to wash out in warm water, but Lanaset Jet Black is so resistant to bleeding that you can wash it even in hot water, at 140 degrees F, without fading the dye. You can order Lanaset dye from several good dye suppliers, including PRO Chemical & Dye, Earth Guild, and (in Canada) Maiwa Handprints. Earth Guild has a smaller minimum package size than ProChem does, while ProChem has lower prices for larger quantities.

ProChem’s recipe for using Lanaset dyes [the link is to a PDF] says to dissolve the dye powder in two cups of boiling water, then add that to 3.5 gallons of room temperature water, along with citric acid, sodium acetate, salt, and Albegal SET (which is for Lanaset dyes only). You add the wool to the room-temperature dyebath, then gradually increase the temperature to a boil. Earth Guild’s recipe [PDF] advises you to mix the dye powder with a tablespoon of hot water first, before dissolving it in a cup of hot water; this “pasting up” step is helpful for avoiding lumps.

For half the price of Lanaset dye, you can buy a black acid dye called Colour Index acid black 172, which is actually one of the two dyes that make up the formula for Lanaset Jet Black. Obviously, it, too, is extremely washfast. It can be purchased from Pro Chemical & Dye as their Washfast Acid Jet Black WF672. The same method of dissolving in a small amount of hot water before adding to a room temperature dyebath is recommended in ProChem’s instructions for WashFast Acid Dyes [PDF].

Even Rit Dye, which unfortunately is a rather low-quality dye, so that materials dyed with it are prone to bleeding badly when wet, is supposed to be dissolved in very hot water. I imagine they specify hot water, rather than boiling water, for the sake of convenience. The Rit Dye instructions do not specify whether you should start your dyebath with cool or hot water. Surprisingly, Rit dye is significantly more expensive, per pound of fabric dyed, than higher quality dyes. The amount of Lanaset dye needed for dyeing each pound of fiber costs less than one dollar, if you buy a half-pound at a time from ProChem, while the amount of Rit dye needed for the same weight of fiber costs over two dollars. The only advantages of Rit dye are that it is more likely to be available locally, instead of having to be bought online, and it comes in single-use packages, so your initial investment may be lower.

For dyeing solid colors with any dye, always add the dye to the dyebath and make sure that it is thoroughly mixed in, before adding the fiber you want to dye. The only time you should add the dye after the fiber (yarn, fabric, roving, or whatever you are dyeing) is when you are trying to get uneven, variegated colors. In that case, you would use a much smaller amount of water.

Be sure to use a lot of dye, when you are trying to get black. Using less dye will often result in surprising colors instead of black. I have many times seen complaints about Rit black dye producing brown wool or purple cotton, but most black dyes can produce off colors if you do use too little dye. As a general rule, it takes twice as much black dye as one would use of a lighter dye color. Follow the upper limit of the recommended amount of dye in whatever recipe you use, for black.

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