How do I fix a dye job that has gone bad?

Name: Alice
Message: How do I fix a dye job that has gone bad.  I dyed a 100% cotton garment with Rit and got the color I wanted, but after washing the garment once the color changed.  Can I redye this garment and if so, what steps should I follow and what products should I use?


Rit Color Remover
Rit Color Remover Removes Dyes
Rit  Powder - Color Remover

Rit Color Remover

Rit Color Remover removes or reduces fabric color before dyeing. It will also safely remove dye stains on solid white items washed by mistake with colored items.

Rit Color Remover works more gently than chlorine bleach, but it must be applied in hot water.

Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Procion MX Dye

the best and easiest-to-use dye for cotton

When mixed with soda ash, Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable.

Unfortunately, I get a lot of emails from people who have had bad experiences in dyeing with all-purpose dyes, such as Rit dye. The color often comes out to be different than expected, and the dye is not very wash-resistant at all.

First try washing the garment in the hottest water it can stand, and leave it soaking in the hot water for a while. This will remove a lot of your dye, because the dye molecules in all-purpose dye bind only very loosely to the fiber.

If soaking and washing in hot water are not adequate in removing your all-purpose dye, then you will want to try to remove the remaining dye chemically. See "What chemicals can be used to remove dye?". There are two main approaches you can take on 100% cotton fabric. One is to use chlorine bleach in the washing machine, always being sure to add the water to the machine first, and diluting the bleach before it touches your clothing. Try one to two cups of household bleach (which contains hypochlorite) per top-loading washing machine load (use less for a front-loader). Bleach will be more effective, and more corrosive, in warm water than in cold water. Of course, when removing dyes, the last thing you want is "color safe" oxygen bleach, which will not work.

If you want to be kinder to your clothing, you will want to avoid the use of chlorine bleach, which can be damaging. The easiest alternative to find is Rit Color Remover, which you should be able to buy in the same place that you bought your Rit Dye. Although I do not recommend the use of Rit all-purpose dye on cotton, I do strongly recommend the use of Rit Color Remover, which is an excellent product. Although it works best when heated on the stovetop, Rit Color Remover is much easier to use in the washing machine, so I would encourage you to try that, instead. Use the hottest water possible, for maximum effectiveness, and use several packages per washing machine load. If you have asthma, take care to avoid breathing any fumes from Rit Color Remover and similar products.

Once you have removed the all-purpose dye to your satisfaction, you will want to get a higher-quality dye to repeat your dyeing the right way. I do not advise the use of all-purpose dye on cotton. You will get much better results using fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye. You will not be able to buy this dye in the grocery store, but you can find it at a good crafts store, and often in sewing stores, as well. Look for Dylon Permanent Dye, Tulip One Step Fashion Dye, or, if you're in Europe or Australia, Dylon Machine Dye. You can get much better prices and a vastly wider choice of colors if you mail-order your dye, instead, from dye suppliers such as PRO Chemical & Dye, Dharma Trading Company, or Aljo Mfg. See "Sources for Dyeing Supplies Around the World".

Fiber reactive dyes are better for cotton in every way. They will last a hundred times longer, in spite of frequent laundering, and they are much easier to apply, too. Unlike all-purpose dye, fiber reactive dyes can be used at room temperature, 70°F and above, so you don't have to boil your garment in the dye (which is how to get the best results possible with Rit dye). If you want a single solid color, you can dye your garment in the washing machine with salt and soda ash, or you can use a five-gallon bucket and stir the garment in the dyebath (the washing machine is easier, though it requires more dye powder). See "How can I dye clothing or fabric in the washing machine?".

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Posted: Tuesday - February 10, 2009 at 08:36 AM          

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