what kind of vinegar should I soak my tie-dyed shirts in?

Name: Dawn


Soda Ash
Dye Fixer

Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Soda ash is a mild alkali that promotes the chemical reaction between fiber reactive dye and cellulose fiber. One pound of soda ash is required to activate and "set" Procion dye for approximately 15 T-shirts. Not for use with "all-purpose" dye.

Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Procion MX Dye

ideal for cotton, rayon, and silk

Procion dye works a hundred times better for tie-dye than all-purpose dye does.

Message: I did a tie dye project at camp.  I can't find the follow-up instructions.  It said something about soaking the t=shirts in Vinegar for 30 minutes. I don't know the type of dye we used.  We soaked tied fabric in water for 10 minutes before we squeezed different color dyes on the shirt.  then squeezed the excess dye out and placed in plastic bag for min. of 24 hours.  After that, we were to do something with vinegar for 30 minutes and then wash separately. Any clues for whether it is pure vinegar or a diluted vinegar from what I described or what you know??

It really doesn't matter what kind of vinegar they told you to use, because they were wrong. Vinegar will do nothing to set tie-dye on cotton! At worst, it can actively prevent the dye from binding to the cotton. You will do better to skip this step altogether. It's a shame when people are allowed to teach about subjects they do not understand; it is clear that your teachers were completely ignorant about tie-dyeing.

The best dyes to use for tie-dye are the fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion MX dyes. These dyes are set at a high pH, by pre-soaking in soda ash mixed with water. Vinegar has a low pH and will neutralize the soda ash, preventing the dye from setting. If the dye reaction has been given enough time to complete before the vinegar is added, then the vinegar will usually do nothing, which is the best you can hope from using vinegar to set dye on cotton. In some cases it may strip out the dye. I am assuming that you were dyeing cotton shirts, and not silk or nylon shirts; vinegar can be used instead of soda ash on silk or nylon, but never on cotton.

A poor alternative to Procion MX dyes for tie-dyeing is all-purpose dye, such as Rit brand dye. These dyes work best when applied in boiling hot water, but even then they will fade quickly and bleed in the laundry every time they are washed. Vinegar will not harm all-purpose dye, but it will not help a bit, either, if you are dyeing cotton. (All-purpose dye does work better on wool or nylon when some vinegar is added during the boiling step, but vinegar does not help Rit to last longer on cotton.) The only way to keep all-purpose dye from running badly, fading quickly, and bleeding in the laundry and ruining other clothes, is to treat it with a commercial dye fixative called Retayne.

In the future, I recommend that you buy a good tie dye kit for tie-dyeing. Go to a crafts store and look for a kit made by Jacquard, Dylon, Rainbow Rock, or Tulip, or buy dye from a good art supplier online. Do not use Rit dye for tie-dyeing cotton. If you want to get more into tie-dyeing or other forms of dyeing, there is a wealth of further information available on this site.

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Posted: Friday - August 01, 2008 at 09:03 AM          

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