low residue dyes for the environmentally concerned?

Name: Donna


Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Procion MX Dye

very popular fiber reactive dye for hand-dyeing


Dylon Permanent Fabric Dye 1.75 oz Black/Velvet Black

Dylon Permanent Black Fabric Dye

Dylon Permanent Fabric Dye is a permanent dye that gives vibrant colors that won't run or wash out. Specially designed for use by hand in warm water. 1 pack dyes 1/2 lb dry weight fabric. Dyeing larger amounts will give a lighter color. Do not dye 100% polyester, acrylic or nylon.

Message: I have done a little dying--mostly wool yarn or fleece.  I would like to do more, but wince everytime I put dye residue down the drain--I know the sewage treatment plant processes much worse chemicals, but I am kind of an ecofreak. And natural dyes and mordants are not a solution.  I have read of "low residue" dyes in advertisements for clothing, but do not see them for sale.  Do you know what that means, and if they really exist, and are not hype--where could I buy them?  Certainly for wool using koolaid is pretty low residue--almost all of the dye enters the wool, and I assume the commercial acid dyes would be similar (yes?) but for cotton or linen....Great website--very clear, and a good emphasis on safety.  Thank you.

Cotton and linen are a different problem than wool. As you've observed, you can use up all of the dye in your dyebath when dyeing wool. All of the dye leaves the solution  and goes into the wool. It looks miraculous, and it obviously means that you dispose of little or no dye afterwards. It's the same for commercial textile dyes as for Kool-Aid, but the results with the commercial dyes are likely to last longer and resist washing better. Lanaset dyes, in particular, will resist fading even when washed in hot water.

Unfortunately, with cotton and linen, and other cellulose fibers, there is always dye remaining in the water after you have completed dyeing. There is no alternative. Procion MX dyes, and similar dyes, are harmless to a septic tank when disposed of in single-user quantities, but there's no denying the fact that there is dye in the effluent.

Well, there is one alternative, which is the use of cottons which are grown to have color in them. Unfortunately, there are few naturally-colored cottons available, and they are not yet available in the wide range of colors that evidently were grown in the Americas before Columbus. Textile industry forces have tended to suppress the production and sale of naturally colorful undyed cotton. To see what is currently available in this line, see Sally Vreseis Fox's site.

You can print cotton with pigments, bound to the fabric with acrylic fabric paint binders, but the results are not as long-lasting as what you can get by dyeing with fiber reactive dyes. When ecological concerns are primary, the most important factor is anything that extends the lifetime of clothing. Any dye or print that wears off encourages us to disposes of clothing that still has some wear left in it; the complete series of steps of processing of cotton, from seed to plant to fiber to fabric, must be more hazardous to the environment overall than the dyes themselves are.

This takes us back to the fiber reactive dyes: Procion MX dye, Cibracron F dye, Drimarene K dye, Remazol dye. Procion MX dyes are the least expensive of all fiber reactive dyes (if you order jars of two ounces or larger from a dye suppliers such as PRO Chemical & Dye, Dharma Trading Company, Aljo Mfg, or Colorado Wholesale Dyes); see "comparison of dye costs". To reduce the amount of water required to remove excess unattached dyes, be sure to use fresh dyes, and readily dyeable fabric, and warm enough reaction temperatures. After dyeing, wash out by rinsing in cool water first to remove soda ash and any salts, then wash in the hottest water available. If you use very hot water, then less water will be required. Soaking in hot water is most efficient. In the textile industry, boiling water may be used; at home, we are limited by the temperatures our washing machines can tolerate, typically up to 140°F (60°C). Be sure to use sodium hexametaphosphate, or distilled water, if your water supply is very hard, because the hard water minerals can make washing-out considerably more difficult.

Procion MX dyes require more water for washing out than other dyes, because they have a high degree of affinity toward the fabric than other fiber reactive dyes, even when they are not bound. Other fiber reactive dyes require less water, though they do still require a significant amount of washing out. Consider using Drimarene K dyes or Remazol dyes in order to conserve water somewhat. These are most likely what are referred to commercially as "low residue" dyes. They are no panacea, however; I still use a fair amount of water in washing out after using these other dyes, and I have never found any source of small quantities of these dyes that is not considerably more expensive than Procion MX dyes.

Some dyers substitute the use of a cationic dye fixative, such as Retayne, for proper washing-out procedure, in order to save water, or when they use inferior dyes such as all-purpose dyes. These are effective, but they often contain undesirable chemicals such as formaldehyde, and they reduce the lightfastness of dyes so that they fade more rapidly in the light. I personally try to avoid them, except on commercially-dyed fibers whose dye bleeds without the treatment.

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Posted: Thursday - May 21, 2009 at 06:19 AM          

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