Category Archives: fiber reactive dyes

Does the dye/soda ash/water mixture stay “active” indefinitely, or is there a fixed working time?

Name: Rose
Country or region: New York, USA
Message: Hi, Does the dye/water mixture and does the dye/soda ash/water
mixture stay “active” indefinitely or is there a fixed working time for
both? Thank you.

I’m assuming you are talking about Procion MX type fiber reactive dyes; answers will be completely different for other classes of dyes. There are three different questions here: soda ash, dye dissolved in water, and dye dissolved in water with soda ash added.

1. Soda ash alone, no dye mixed, in plain water, stays good indefinitely. It never spoils. Dry soda ash may absorb a little water from the air so that a given weight or volume actually contains less than you might expect. Not a big deal since we tend to use more soda ash than we really need to anyway. Cover the bucket, when you put it away for the day, to reduce evaporation and prevent rain from falling in. You can use a soda ash solution for weeks, even months, after preparing it.

2. Fiber reactive dye plus water alone (no soda ash) lasts only until the dye reacts with the water it’s dissolved in. This process is called hydrolysis. You can keep your dye stock solutions for a week or possibly more, and they’ll still be good, if not even a single drop of soda ash has gotten into them; if you refrigerate them, they will last three times as long. This is assuming you have average water, or use distilled water; alkaline or acidic water will badly shorten the lifespan of reactivity of the dye. Note that different dye colors have different hydrolysis rates, so a mixture of different dyes will shift in hue, as the fastest-reacting members of the mixture go bad!

3. The dye/soda ash/water mixture maintains its strength for only a brief
period of time; it may go bad an hour after the soda ash is added to the
dye! Be completely ready with everything else before you add soda ash to the dye. In high-water-ratio immersion dyeing, do not add soda ash until after the dye has had time to penetrate the fabric, and, for smoothest results, then add the soda ash in three or more parts, stirring for a few minutes after each addition, rather than adding all the soda ash at once. You cannot reuse a fiber reactive dye dyebath.

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

Paula

Low water immersion dyeing with Remazol (vinyl sulfone) dyes

Name: Tori

Message: I’m a new dyer … and was excited by your comment about the remazol type dyes. I’ve carefully read your ‘low immersion’ tutorial … and am wondering … are there any changes/alterations you’d suggest for using this type of dye over the procion type?

Remazol dyes work very well for low water immersion dyeing. (See my page about Remazol dyes, “About Vinyl Sulfone Fiber Reactive Dyes“.) They are among my favorites. They will work well when used exactly the same as Procion dyes. There are a couple of differences, though, that it’s handy to be aware of: give them extra warmth to react (ideally 140° F), and let them cool before rinsing out the excess dye.

Names for Remazol dyes. These dyes, chemically known as vinyl sulfone dyes, were originally sold under the brand name Remazol, so this is one of the names they are commonly known by. PRO Chemical & Dye sells them as PRO Liquid Reactive Dyes. Dharma Trading Company and other retailers for Jacquard Products sell a slightly different selection of the same type of dye as Jacquard’s Vinyl Sulphon Liquid Reactive Dyes, “Vinyl Sulphon” being a brand name derived by two changes in spelling from the generic name. The same class of dyes is also found in Jacquard Red Label dyes and Jacquard Green Label dyes, but there is no reason to seek out those older brands of dyes.

Warmer reaction temperature. The Remazol dyes are similar to the Procion dyes, but they do like a warmer reaction temperature, so I either place the buckets I’m using to dye in into a sink of hot water, after I’ve added everything, or I use a glass container or unsealed ziplock bag and heat for a minute or two in the microwave–not enough to make the dye mixture boil, but enough to make it hot to the touch (on the outside of the container). This is not strictly necessary, unless your dyeing room is cold, but you will get a better color yield with added heat, as the ideal reaction temperature of Remazol dyes is around 140°F (60°C). If you use the sink full of hot water method, be careful not to fill the sink deeper than the liquid level inside the buckets, because if they float they can tip over.

Possible alternatives to soda ash. Like the Procion dyes, Remazol dyes require a high pH in order to react with the cellulose in cotton and other plant fibers. One of the ProChem recipes calls for potassium carbonate as the dye fixative for the Remazol dyes, rather than the usual sodium carbonate (soda ash), but I don’t see any difference between the two. In my measurements, the pH is the same, and my experience is that the effectiveness is the same. Remazol dyes have an ideal reaction pH that is a little higher than that of the Procion dyes, around a pH of 11.5 instead of 10.5 to 11.0. When I have trisodium phosphate handy, I use it instead of soda ash, for Remazol dyes, but soda ash will work fine, especially if you are careful to add warmth. Trisodium phosphate is sold in a small box labeled “TSP” in the paint section of many hardware stores, for use in washing walls before painting. You should wear safety glasses when working with it; it is more caustic than soda ash.

Cool before initial rinsing. Remazol dyes should not be washed out under hot alkaline conditions, alkaline conditions being at a high pH, which is when they are in the presence of soda ash or TSP. Because their dye-fiber bond is different from that of the Procion dyes, they can be vulnerable to becoming detached from the fabric at a high pH, even after they have bonded properly to the cellulose or silk fiber. This means that it is important to rinse the excess dye out, after dyeing, with cool water. It is best to allow the dyeing containers to cool to room temperature before you rinse them out. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry I dump in ice cubes, directly into the dyebath, so that I can be sure the first rinse is not hot. Do not use hot water for washing until after the soda ash or TSP has been removed with cool water. After the high-pH dyebath water has been rinsed out, it is then safe to wash out the unattached excess dye with hot water. With all of the fiber reactive dyes, including both Procion and Remazol dyes, it is necessary to use very hot water if you want to be as thorough as possible in washing out the excess dye.

Here are some examples of pieces I’ve dyed with Remazol dyes, using LWI techniques (which I am quoting from the old Dye Forum)….

1. LWI with Jacquard Red Label yellow and orange on cotton

Here’s a cotton shirt dyed with Jacquard Red Label dyes, yellow and apricot, by low water immersion. First a detail:

For a total of one liter of hot tap water, I used 1/3 cup soda ash (80 ml) and 1/2 cup salt (120 ml), each dissolved separately first. (Both are probably excessive.) I used 45 ml of Red Label Yellow (possibly only 30, as I lost track) and 15 ml of Red Label Apricot.

As you can see, after folding it in half vertically (which is why half of the shirt is sharper in detail than the other half), I loosely pleated the shirt horizontally before placing it in the glass container I used for the LWI. I pressed it quite a bit with a spoon after adding the yellow, before adding the apricot, since I wanted a yellow background, not a white one, but the tight confining of the cotton in the glass container caused the background to be quite a pale yellow, anyway.

(posted by pburch on the Dye Forum on 2007-03-02)

2. Purple/black/blue remazol LWI dress

Here’s another piece I dyed with remazol (vinyl sulfone) dyes, a long rayon dress.

I crumpled the dress tightly, making very rough horizontal pleats, and fitted it tightly into a glass container. Then I poured three cups of dye over different parts of the dress: 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of PRO Black 50% LR604 Liquid Reactive Dye in one cup (250 ml) of water; 1 teaspoon of PRO Intense Blue 50% LR406 Liquid Reactive Dye in one cup of water; and 1 teaspoon of PRO Fuchsia 50% LR308 Liquid Reactive Dye in one cup of water. Finally, I added 5 teaspoons (25 ml) of soda ash, dissolved in yet another cup of water, and microwaved to set the dye rapidly.

(posted by pburch on the Dye Forum on 2006-08-03 10:32)

3. Remazol dyes are so much less trouble to use!

Just lately I’ve been experimenting with remazol dyes, which are a kind of fiber reactive dye known as vinyl sulfone dye. After using Procion MX dyes, these are so easy to use! Not that Procion MX dyes are at all difficult, it’s just that measuring out the dye powders can be a bit of a pain. Since I am buying the remazol dyes in liquid form, I don’t have to mess with the inconvenience of dye powder. No need to turn off the A/C and fans and wear a dust mask to measure them out. Since I’m dyeing in my kitchen, this is a huge convenience….

When measuring out the remazol dye, all I have to do is wear gloves. I measure out a teaspoon of dye into a cup, add water, give a single quick stir, and it’s ready to use. There is no need to expend any effort on dissolving! The liquid concentrate stays good for at least a year. The dyes I’m using right now are PRO Chemical & Dye’s Liquid Fiber Reactive Dyes.

When measuring out dye powder, such as my original favorite, Procion MX dye, I have to remove every food item, every cutting board, the garlic press, anything that could have an errant particle of dye powder land upon it, from the entire room. Even though most of the dyes we use are reasonably non-toxic, it is important to act as though they are dangerous, just in case we someday discover that one of them is. And, a few of our acid dyes are somewhat toxic.

The drawback of Remazol dye is that it is a little pickier about reaction temperature than even the pickiest of the Procion MX dyes, which is turquoise MX-G. (Turquoise MX-G likes its batching temperature to be 95°F (35°C), though it can work at lower temperatures. A cool 70° studio may not be enough, which makes it important to find sources of additional heat, such as putting items to be batch-cured outside the door during an air-conditioned summer, or on top of the water heater for a little warmth during cooler weather, or on top of an electric blanket which has been protected by a sheet of plastic.)

I’ve been in a hurry, and I’ve been using LWI techniques, so I’ve been heating in the microwave for a minute or two, instead of batch-curing overnight. Here is the recipe I used to make the blue/turquoise LWI shirt shown above….

• Crumple one PFD rayon blouse, prewashed, pleating loosely.
• Place crumpled blouse into glass container that is small enough to hold it tightly, with all fabric below the top of the container (I used a 7 cup (1.75 L) Pyrex bowl.
• Stir into two cups (500 ml) of water:
2 teaspoons (10 ml) PRO Intense Blue 50% LR406 Liquid Reactive Dye
• Pour blue dye mixture over blouse in container.
• Stir into one cup (250 ml) of water:
1 teaspoon (5 ml) PRO Turquoise LR410 Liquid Reactive Dye
• Pour turquoise dye mixture over blouse, being sure to cover any areas left white by the blue dye in the previous step.
• Let rest twenty minutes for colors to blend and move on the fabric.
• Dissolve 4 teaspoons (20 ml) soda ash in one cup of warm (not hot) water and pour evenly over blouse.
Since I was in a hurry, I proceeded to microwave the project, instead of leaving it outside in the summer heat overnight:
• Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for two to three minutes, until water is very hot but plastic wrap is not bulging upwards very far.
• Allow to cool until merely warm to the touch.
• Wash at least twice in hot water, with detergent, until color no longer bleeds into the rinse water.

(posted by pburch on the Dye Forum on 2006-08-02)

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

-Paula

Is there a way to dye a white rayon dress different colors without having them bleed into each other too much?

Name: Raileena

Country or region: USA

Message: I bought this white rayon dress that I thought might look really cool if it was all different colors. It also has small flowers that can be colored in, so I was just wondering if there is a way for me to dye it without having colors bleed into each other too much how would I do that? Would I add the sodium acetate to make the dye paint-like and apply it? Also would I have to add one color at a time, and wash it and everything before adding another color to avoid too much bleeding? Thank you!

You can easily dye a washable rayon dress many different colors, without the colors bleeding together, if you use the right kind of dye. If you use a good tie-dye type of dye, which is called fiber reactive dye, you can apply many colors at once. The key is to avoid all-purpose dyes. Don’t use Rit dye! All-purpose dyes, such as Rit, always bleed together every time the garment gets wet, for the life of the garment. Better quality dyes avoid this problem altogether by bonding tightly to the fabric where you put it.

Rayon is a reprocessed cellulose fiber. It can be dyed like any other cellulose fiber, such as cotton, as long as you are careful not to damage it. The one problem with rayon is that it is fragile when wet, so don’t let it get into a washload with something heavy like jeans, and do consider hand-washing or putting it in a mesh lingerie bag for washing. (The question of washing is relevant to your question because you will have to do a lot of washing after you dye the dress, to remove all of the unattached dye.)

What you need to do is get some good fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye. You can find these dyes in any good tie-dye kit, such as the Jacquard tie dye kits, which are often available at local crafts stores and fabric stores. Avoid hot water dyes. If you want a wide choice of dye colors, and access to more helpful products, order online from a dye supply house such as Dharma Trading Company, Colorado Wholesale Dyes, or PRO Chemical & Dye. Dharma is also a good source for additional dyeable rayon dresses.

You will not need to use sodium acetate in dyeing your rayon dress. Sodium acetate is used when dyeing protein fibers, not when dyeing cellulose fibers like cotton and rayon. But I think actually you may be thinking of sodium alginate, which is a thickener. (See “Sodium alginate, Superclear, and other dye thickeners”.) Its use is completely optional, but it can be helpful depending on your style of dye painting. You can use a dye thickener if you want your dyes to have a more paint-like consistency and apply it with a brush or sponge, or you can use your dyes unthickened in a watercolor style and apply it directly from a squirt bottle; even unthickened colors will creep only a short distance along the fabric. Order alginate from a dye supplier such as Dharma Trading Company or PRO Chemical & Dye. (See “Sources for Dyeing Supplies Around the World”.)

Once you have your good Procion dyes, mix a cup of sodium carbonate (soda ash or washing soda) with a gallon of water and soak your rayon dress in it. After fifteen minutes to let the sodium carbonate soak into the fibers, remove the dress from the mix and squeeze out extra water. You can apply dye directly to the wet dress, or you can line-dry the dress, which will leave the dry soda ash in the fibers, ready to react with the dye.

DIssolve the dye in water, either following the directions on the package (for a tie-dye kit) or following instructions for how to tie dye (see “How to Tie Dye” and “Hand Dyeing – basic recipe for Procion MX dyes on cellulose or silk”). Put the dyes into the pointy-tipped squeeze bottles sold for use in tie-dyeing. Lay the dress out flat on a surface that won’t be damaged by the dyes (such as a plastic table protected by a plastic tablecloth with some old towels or paper towels on top), and dribble the different colors of dyes where you want them. If you only want bright colors, avoid placing opposite colors immediately adjacent to each other, such as purple next to yellow, red next to green, or blue next to orange, as these color combinations combine to make muddy browns.The wet dye on the dress should be darker in color than you want, because not all of the dye will attach; some will be washed away, which results in a lighter color than you see during dye application.

After you have thoroughly covered your rayon dress with as many colors as you want, cover it with plastic and leave it alone in a warm place (70 degrees F or above) at least overnight, for the dyes to react with the rayon in the presence of the soda ash. Covering it with plastic is to help keep it moist, since the dye reaction stops once all moisture has dried up. It is better to leave the dress to react longer than necessary, rather than less time than necessary, because the extra time makes sure that all of the dye molecules have reacted, either with the fabric or with the water. The means there will no longer be any active dye present to cause staining with colors in the wrong places, when you wash out the excess dye.

The next day, wash the dress once in cool water, to remove the soda ash and some of the dye, then wash two or three times in the hottest water available. To avoid unnecessarily abrading the rayon fiber, which is very weak when it is wet, you can soak the dress for a while in extremely hot water (even boiling water is okay for washing out Procion dyes), then wash out by hand and then repeat.

If you prefer, you could dye the entire dress in multiple colors for the background, wash it afterwards, and then start all over again, line-drying the dress after soaking it in soda ash again, applying just the colors inside the flower patterns. This will reduce the amount the colors small patterns blend with the background color, and is a particularly good idea if the background color you apply contrasts strongly with the colors you apply inside the flower patterns. If the dye seems inclined to spread much more than you like, either apply less dye, or thicken this dye with sodium alginate.

You can produce a really fantastic dress in a unique color pattern. Note that synthetic trim, such as the white stitching that holds the seams together, and any edging or lace, will almost always stay white, after washing out the excess dye, though sometimes a turquoise dye will stain it.

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