safety of reusing dye pots for food

Name: Anne


Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Procion MX Dye

ideal for cotton, rayon, and silk

Procion MX dyes can be used at room temperature, so they do not require the use of an expensive cooking pot.

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Stainless Steel 10 Gallon Stock Pot with Lid

NSF Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Lid 40 qt Use stainless steel or enamel pots for hot water dyeing; do not reuse them in your kitchen for preparing food.

Message: While your web site says it's not safe to use a pot for dying with Rit dye and then use it for cooking again, Rit says this is OK and safe to do.  A friend and I tie-dyed this weekend using Rit dye using my nice stainless steel cooking pots, and now I'm concerned that I need to throw them out based on what I read on your site.  (She brought over the materials, and I had not researched tie-dying before we did a couple of test shirts.  We have to tie-dye 24 shirts for my kindergarten son's class at school, so now that I have read more on your site, I'm going to buy some fabric reactive dyes and we'll try again next weekend.)  But can you tell me why your advice differs from Rit's advice on safety?  The MSDS on the Rit website seems to suggest that ingesting Rit dye would only cause minor stomach irritation.  Thanks!


Rit Dye Powder - Many Colors

Rit All Purpose Dye

Rit Dye is not certified non-toxic by the ACMI and should not be used in your good cooking pots.

Rit does not specifically say that it is okay to reuse dyeing pots for food, but they do imply it by not indicating otherwise. I believe that they are wrong to do so. They should be clear about whether or not it is safe, in writing. [A Rit representative told Anne on the phone that it's safe to reuse dyepots for food, because, she said, their dyes are non-toxic; however, their failure to say this in their instructions or on their web site makes it deniable, and there is no certification showing that Rit dyes actually are non-toxic.]

I do not trust Rit dye for safety, although I know that it is much safer than it used to be, because it used to include known hazardous dyes based on benzidine. These dangerous carcinogenic dyes were sold in all-purpose dye mixtures through the 1970s. (See the government document "Benzidine and Dyes Metabolized to Benzidine" [PDF].) Benzidine-based dyes have been mostly phased out in the US since then; however, Rit all-purpose dye contains some acid dyes which are not claimed to be non-toxic. Some acid dyes which are in common use are suspected of being carcinogenic; Rit dye does not anywhere tell us whether they use any of these, among the acid dyes that they use in their all-purpose dye mixtures.  In contrast, they do claim that their Proline direct dyes, which, unlike their all-purpose dyes, do not contain acid dyes, are not toxic.

Even non-toxic substances are not considered safe for using in cooking utensils, however, if they have not been tested and found to be safe in food. Whenever you see a claim that a substance is non-toxic, find the specific details of which outside organization certified the product as non-toxic, and find out just what the certification claims. If there is no outside certification by a company other than the manufacturer, then the claim of "non-toxic" is fairly meaningless. It's important to research the meaning of the safety labels on a product. If the product label specifically includes the AP label of the ACMI, then it is safe enough for use with children; however, a claim that a product "conforms to D-4236" is used on materials known to be somewhat toxic, as long as they are safe when used as directed; it does not mean the product is non-toxic and safe to use on food preparation utensils. (See Without an ACMI label, "non toxic" does not mean very much.

In your case, I would not throw away the stainless steel cooking pots, as long as they are free of deep scratches that could retain dye, but I would subject them to far more than the usual cleaning. Long ago I made the mistake once of dyeing with Rit dye in my stainless steel brewing kettle, before I found out that this is not a recommended practice. The pot had been washed many times in the several years that passed before I learned better (and before I learned that fiber reactive dyes would have worked much better). By the time I knew that a dyeing pot should never be reused for food purposes, unless only food-safe dyes have been used in it, the pot had been used for food so many times that there was no point in worrying about it any longer.

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Posted: Tuesday - October 07, 2008 at 08:51 AM          

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