Category Archives: fiber reactive dyes

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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I want to dye sheets in a front loader with Dylon Permanent Dye

Name: Barbara

Country or region: Australia

Message: I want to dye sheets in a front loader. the colour I love is your china blue. just called permanent dye on packet. as I want the result to look patchy..would this be ok. my question is really I suppose. ..Will the dye wreck my washer as it not the machine dye variety. I am not at all fussy on the end color. thanks Barbara

The “China Blue” dye you’re talking about, Dylon Permanent dye, would not wreck your machine, but using the machine would be a mistake for your project.

In order to get the patchy appearance you’re looking for, you should use a small amount of water without stirring, in a plastic bucket, not the large amount of water and agitation involved in washing machine dyeing. Dyeing in the washing machine is only for when you want a single smooth solid color. The method you want is called Low Water Immersion Dyeing, which uses no stirring at all.

Dylon Permanent fabric dye comes in small packets suitable for dyeing a single garment in a small bucket. A single packet would not work at all in the large amount of water in a washing machine load. Diluting that quantity of dye with so much water would result in very pale colors. In addition, since the dye fixative is already mixed in with the dye, the fixative would be far too dilute to produce the high pH needed to work to fix the dye. Dylon Machine Dye, which is sold mainly in Europe, contains the same type of dye that is in Dylon Permanent Dye, but packaged with the dye fixative chemicals in quantities more suitable for use in a front-loading washing machine.

You can use the instructions on the package of Dylon Permanent dye, with some alterations so that the color will be patchy rather than smooth. The biggest change is that you will not want to stir your fabric in the dye bath. Instead, you should put the sheets in a bucket (wet them first with water, and wring out any excess), mix the dye with the right amount of water, and pour it over the sheets.

I think it would make more sense to order some Procion MX dye and soda ash (Australian suppliers include Kraftkolour, Batik Oetoro, Silksational, and The Thread Studio), but if you find it easier to access Dylon Machine Dye, you can alter their recipe to work. Dylon Permanent Dye contains mostly Drimarene K type dyes, which are good permanent fiber reactive dyes, very similar to Procion MX dyes except for requiring more warmth during dyeing.

Before you buy your dye, first weigh your sheets, while they are dry, so that you can decide how much dye you need to buy. Be sure to use only sheets which are 100% cotton (or another 100% cellulose fiber, such as linen or viscose rayon, but no polyester or nylon), and do not use stain-resistant or wrinkle-resistant sheets, as these treatments will tend to repel the dye. Prewash the sheets in extremely hot water to remove as much as possible of the sizing and other finishes. Almost all sheets are sold with surface finishes that can interfere with dyeing, but pre-washing helps.

One packet of Dylon Permanent Dye will permanently color up to one-half pound (or about 500 grams) of fabric. This means that, for example, if you are going to dye six pounds of sheets, you will need twelve packets of dye. You will also need a sturdy plastic bucket or heavyweight plastic bin large enough to hold your sheets. The bucket does not need to be nearly as large, for the variegated results of low water immersion, as it does for dyeing a single smooth solid color, since far less water will be used, and you will not be stirring the sheets during the dyeing process, as you would need to do continuously for a solid color.

The instructions for using Dylon Permanent Dye to produce a solid color are as follows (please check the label for whichever dye you have purchased):

“1. Weigh dry fabric. Wash thoroughly – leave damp.
2. Using rubber gloves – dissolve dye in 4 cups warm water – stirring thoroughly.
3. Fill bowl/stainless steel sink with enough warm water for fabric to move freely. [Fabric does not need to move freely for LWI.]
4. Stir in 4 Tbsp salt. Add dye and stir well.
5. Submerge fabric in water.
6. Stir for 15 mins – then stir regularly for 45 mins. [Omit the stirring for Low Water Immersion dyeing.]
7. Rinse fabric in cold water. Wash in warm water and dry away from direct heat and sunlight. ”

For Low Water Immersion dyeing with Dylon Permanent Dye, dissolve each packet in about half a liter of warm or hot water, using enough packets for the dry weight of your sheets. Wet the sheets by washing them and letting them spin in the machine to remove excess water. Crumple the wet sheets evenly and place them inside a large plastic bucket. The tighter the fit of the fabric in the bucket, the greater the resulting degree of variegation. Dissolve the salt in hot water and pour it evenly over the sheets. Pour the dissolved dye over the sheets so that the level of the dye just barely covers the sheets, adding extra water as needed. Do not stir at all. Leave the bucket in the warmest place available for at least an hour; for the maximum use of the dye you have added, leave it overnight so that the dye reaction has time to go fully to completion. The dye-fiber reaction requires warmth, so do not leave the bucket in a cold room to react.

After you have allowed enough time in a warm place for the dye reaction, pour the dye out (it is safe to dispose of in septic systems or sewer systems) and wash the fabric first in cool water and then two or three times in the hottest water available. It is most effective to wash out the unattached excess dye in extremely hot water, preferable over 60 degrees C (140 degrees F). Permanent fiber reactive dyes such as Dylon Permanent or Procion MX dye are not affected by hot water, even by boiling water, and hot water is best for removing the excess dye that has not bonded to the fabric.

You can use different colors of dye in Low Water Immersion dyeing. You can mix them all together and allow them to separate in the fiber, or you can pour the different colors over different parts of the sheets. The colors will both mix and separate in an unpredictable manner. Mixing two colors that go well together, such as a clear lemon yellow with a medium blue color, will produce a many-colored result; for example, using a clear lemony yellow with a medium blue will produce some areas that are yellow, some blue, and some green. If you combine opposite colors, such as red with green, you will get browns and neutrals where the colors blend.

For more information see my page “How to Do Low Water Immersion Dyeing”. For more ideas on how to warm a dye reaction in a bucket, see “What is the effect of temperature on fiber reactive dyes?”.

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Will Procion MX dyes work at higher temperatures?

Hi there, I was wondering if fibre reactive dyes will work at higher temperatures? I have trying to dye a rayon blend fabric black without success with procion MX dyes. I even used so much dye and salt that I was having difficulty dissolving it! Anyway I found an alternative dye that works really well but it requires setting at 60 degrees and was wondering what the effect of a high temperature would be on the procion dyes. I would like to use the new black to mix with with procion dyes if possible.

What fiber is the rayon blended with? And what dye are you using, that is working better than Procion dye on rayon? Is it working better just because it is a more intense color, or does it somehow like rayon especially well, or is it also dyeing the other fiber that your rayon is blended with?

60°C, which is 140° Fahrenheit, is a good temperature for a lot of fiber reactive dyes. It’s the ideal temperature for Remazol type fiber reactive dyes. It’s not a bad temperature for Procion MX dyes, though it is warmer than they need.

The effect of warmer temperatures on the Procion MX dyes will be to make them react more quickly—with whatever they are right next to. If you wait until the Procion dyes have soaked well into the fiber you want to dye, this is no problem at all. In fact, extra warmth can be helpful in getting the best possible color intensity from your Procion dyes, if your studio temperature tends to be a little cold, or if you don’t want to wait as long for the dye reaction to take place.

If you apply too much heat immediately after adding the dyes to the fiber (or the fiber to the dyebath), it can speed of the dye-fiber reaction enough to encourage ring dyeing, in which only the very outermost layer of each fiber gets dyed. What happens as a result is that even the slightest amount of wear can degrade the color, as the dyed layer wears off. Ring dyeing is a fault that you want to avoid.

If you apply a lot of heat when the dye is still mostly in the water, most especially if you’ve already added the soda ash or whatever other chemical you’re using to raise the pH, the dye immediately reacts with the water, so then little dye is left to react with the fiber.

Letting the Procion MX dye soak in well before you heat it up will make sure that everything is fine. How much time you should allow depends on how thick the material is. Fifteen minutes is fine if it’s thin and the dye is circulating freely; if the material is thick, or if you have the material tightly crammed into a small container for low water immersion dyeing, you’d do better to allow an hour. See my page, “What is the effect of temperature on fiber reactive dyes?“. Depending on how much heat you need, there are many different ways to supply it.

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