dyeing a cotton slipcover in a front-loading washing machine
I am considering dying a sofa cover (along with the cushion covers) and have a few questions. The cover is 100% cotton, made my Mitchell Gold and sold through Restoration Hardware a few years back. The color is a light, neutralized gold-yellow. I would like to change it to a light brown. I have a front-loading washer. I've read your information about dying with Dylon dyes and have found this brand of dye on the Dick Blick website. My questions are:
1. What do you think of this idea? Is it possible to get good results on something this large using this method? I don't have much experience with dye (just a bit of shibori).
2. Would I need to fit all of the covers in the same load in the washer? How much variability would there be if I needed to divide things up because of space limitations of the washing machine?
3. With the Dylon dyes, would I need to use the technique you mention, of delaying the end of the washing cycle so that more dye saturates the fabric before the spin cycle comes on?
4. Would I weigh the cover and cushion covers to determine the amount of dye to use, based on weight?
5. Would this process require the Dylon Cold Dye Fix that is also available on the Dick Blick website?
Dylon Washing Machine dye is a line of fiber reactive dye that is not available at all in the United States. Dick Blick does not sell Dylon Washing Machine dye. Dylon Cold Dye is a completely different kind of fiber reactive dye. Other fiber reactive dyes, including Dylon Cold Dye which is actually mostly Procion MX dye, can be used in a front-loading washing machine, if you are able to add the soda ash solution via a bleach or detergent dispenser. It depends on the settings that are available on your own particular model of front-loading machine. If everything must be added to the washer at once before starting the wash cycle, then there is a risk of uneven color, due to adding the soda ash too soon, before the dye has had a chance to penetrate the fabric. I have, however, seen instructions to put dye, salt, soda ash, and fabric into the drum of the washing machine at once, so it's not impossible to get good results that way.
It is possible to dye a 100% cotton slipcover satisfactorily with a cool water dye such as Procion MX dye, whether it's the Dylon brand or another one. People have done so and told me about it, though only in top-loading washing machines, not front-loaders. However, I am, like you, concerned about slight color variations between loads, if you have to split up the parts of the slipcover into two loads. You will probably be able to get a good enough match if you are meticulous in weighing out your dye and auxiliary chemicals (soda ash and salt), so that the exact same amount of dye per pound of fabric is used. It would be best if you can include the same weight of fabric in each load. How much does your slipcover weigh? You can dye up to eight pounds of cotton fabric in one top-loading washing machine load; consult the manual for your front-loading washing machine to find out its limits.
Using a cool water dye, such as Procion MX dye, is important if you need to be careful not to shrink the slipcovers. Slipcovers that have shrunk are practically useless. Do not use a hot water dye, such as Rit All-purpose dye, if your slipcover can be washed only in cool water.
Dylon Cold dye is mostly Procion MX dye. (Only a few of the colors contain one or two other dyes which are not Procion MX dyes.) It's good dye, but the tiny tins are expensive. Each 5-gram tin will dye only half a pound of material, and costs over $2. Compare this to the Procion MX dye sold by PRO Chemical & Dye (look under "MX Reactive Dyes"): a 56-gram jar costs from $2 to $6, depending on color, but contains over ten times as much dye. The MX dye from PRO Chemical & Dye is certainly not inferior to the Dylon Cold Dye; it might be superior due to greater freshness.
Dylon Cold Dye must be used with Dylon Cold Fix, or the same chemical, soda ash, under another name. One 15-gram packet of Dylon Cold Fix costs 89 cents, but one pound of soda ash from PRO Chemical, which is 454 grams, costs $1.75. Thirty times as much soda ash costs only twice as much. It is the same substance. Alternatively, yo can buy sodium carbonate at a pool supply store (do NOT get sodium bicarbonate instead). You will also need a pound or more of non-iodized salt. Look for ice cream salt or pickling salt at your grocery store. Any non-iodized salt will do; iodized salt is probably okay, but you probably don't want to take the chance.
Dharma Trading Company, another good source for two-ounce and eight-ounce jars of Procion MX dye, recommends adding Calsolene oil for washing machine dyeing. It might help to get the color a little more even on your fabric.
You must thoroughly prewash the covers so that no invisible stains remain to repel dye. It is amazing how a stain can be quite invisible before dyeing and very highly visible after dyeing. Prewash in the hottest water the covers can tolerate, with detergent and extra soda ash (to boost the cleaning power of the laundry detergent).
It is important that the slipcovers not have any finishes that will prevent dye from reaching the fabric, such as stain-resistance or permanent press finishes. Sometimes, rarely, you will find that different panels of fabric that match in color before dyeing end up taking the dye darker or lighter than each other, due to having come from different bolts of fabric. There is nothing to be done about this problem.
Regardless of dye type, you will get best results if you allow an hour for the dye to react with the cotton fabric, after you add the soda ash. This will require resetting the washing machine repeatedly, so the dye, salt, and soda ash do not drain away prematurely. I do not know whether or not your particular model of front-loading washer will allow this.
If you are in doubt about the amount of dye to use to get the light brown that you want, I recommend that you err on the lighter side, because it is much easier to dye again to get a darker color than it is to remove dye after you have used it. ProChem recommends that you use 13 grams of dye powder to dye five pounds of fabric a pale color.
Mixed dye colors, such as brown, should be dissolved in water and filtered through a coffee filter or piece of nylon stocking in a strainer before use, as tiny dye particles can make red dots on your fabric.
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Posted: Wednesday - July 18, 2007 at 07:01 AM