How can we dye nylon 6,6 balls red without affecting their impact properties?

Name: Maurice


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Message: We are trying to dye 3/4-inch diameter 6/6 nylon balls to a bright red color. The outcome must be such that impact properties of the nylon are not adversely affected. We have tried RIT dye, 100%, immersion for 4 days, only for the dye to rinse off, leaving the balls a tan color. What would you recommend? Thank you for your help on this matter.

It's possible that your nylon balls have some sort of surface finish that is preventing the dye from bonding to the nylon. The finish might have been applied for some other purpose in manufacturing and only inadvertently prevent dyeing, or it might be a water-repellent or stain-resistant finish of some sort. Some difficult surface finishes can be removed by a dip in strong acid, but many are impossible to remove. (Always prewash anything you want to dye, as thoroughly as possible, using detergent and very hot water, to remove those finishes that can be removed.)

Although the acid dye in Rit all-purpose dye is not of the highest quality, I would expect it to work on any dyeable nylon, to at least some extent, when applied to under the right circumstances, which means in the presence of both heat and a mild acid. Perhaps the Rit dye would not produce the very best red, but I would expect at least a light pink, indicating that the material is what it's supposed to be. In a very small-scale test, I myself have obtained a rather intense reddish color on nylon 6,6 by simmering it for half an hour at 85°C with fuchsia Rit dye (new formula), even without any added acid.

Did you use any acid in your dyebath, such as vinegar? The right pH is helpful in getting dyes to work well on nylon. The makers of Rit dye recommend adding one cup of vinegar for three gallons of water, when dyeing nylon, or about 2% by volume.

The right temperature is an even more important requirement for dyeing nylon. Did you heat your dyebath? I would not expect any dye to take well on nylon when applied at room temperature. Have you tested your nylon 6,6 balls to determine whether heating them in a dyebath interferes with their impact properties? The melting point of nylon 6,6 is supposed to be 509°F (265°C), which is safely far above the temperature required for a nylon dyebath. Different recipes for dyeing nylon with acid dyes call for temperatures anywhere from the 140°F (60°C) called for by Rit to almost boiling at 205°F (96°C). I usually aim for 185°F (85°C).

Try your all-purpose dye again, using some vinegar and heating the bath to at least 140°F; if the balls do not turn pink at all, then either they are made of a different fiber than nylon, or they are coated with an undyeable surface finish. If they do turn pink, then you may want to look into getting a better acid dye. Getting a true red often requires using much more dye than most other colors do, because bright red is a very intense dye color; you may want to double the amount of dye powder you use.

While there are many different kinds of acid dyes that should work on nylon, a particularly good choice would be one of the Nylomine dyes, sold by PRO Chemical & Dye under the name Washfast Acid dyes. They have many different color choices. Do not rely on the color chips that they publish for the dye; the color chips are intended for use only as an indication of likely color, but, like all dyes, must always be confirmed with a test dyeing. Since they do differ chemically, one of the colors might work better for you than another similar color. When applying the dye, it is important to follow the manufacturers' instructions as closely as possible. PRO Chemical & Dye's instructions [PDF] for using their dyes are available online for dyeing nylon using Washfast Acid dyes.

The Washfast Acid dyes should work well if your nylon is free of surface finishes and if you follow the recipe; however, no dye will work if the balls are coated with a surface finish that keeps the dye from penetrating into the surface fiber. If that's the case, it's likely that the only solution will be to try a different ball supplier.

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Posted: Tuesday - September 04, 2012 at 07:17 AM          

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