How to dye a charcoal gray

Name: NM
Country: Canada


Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Procion MX Dye

ideal for cotton, rayon, linen, and silk

When mixed with soda ash, Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues.

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Dye up to 15 adult-size T-shirts, with vivid, electric colors that are so colorfast they can be washed with the daily laundry.

Message: Hello Ms. Burch,
I searched your unbelievably comprehensive and enormously educating site for a quite a few days now, and could not find an answer to my question, possibly because it might be too simple and obvious for anyone with any experience in this.

I want to dye a 100% white cotton Tshirt into plain, basic, non-gradated dark charcoal (not black) for an Oct 30 event. I also bought a plain black Tshirt, in case it's easier to just bleach it to get charcoal?). I bought several jars of the Jet Black Procion dye that youre site recommends, but could not quite understand how to use the colour mixing table that you listed. For charcoal, it says, use 1 part - or 24 spoons - of the dye; but how do I use it and not turn the garment into black? Does this mean I just use lower temperature, or take the garment out of the dye bath earlier, or...?

Is it possible to get additional "mileage" out of the duye bath after I'm done with the charcoal Tshirt and add more dye to dye other 100% cotton garments black?
Would very much appreciate your help, if you would.

To get charcoal gray instead of black, the usual approach is to use less dye. That color mixing chart is not helpful in this case, because it does not clearly indicate how much dye to use per unit of fiber. Charcoal gray is just a lighter shade of black. If you make a mistake, it is easier to redye a shirt that is too light in color than it is to remove some of the dye that has already been applied, so I recommend that you try to err on the side of using too little dye, rather than too much. If you find that your first try is too light in color, just dye it again to make it darker.

Using a cooler temperature or a shorter reaction time will tend to produce lighter colors, but I do not recommend either of those, because the results are unpredictable. Using less dye powder is the right method for you. If you use a dyebath to dye on e garment black, and put a second garment in after twenty or thirty minutes, the second one will come out some lighter shade of gray, but, again, the results are not predictable enough, if what you want is a particular shade of gray.

How much does your white shirt weigh? A size XL t-shirt weighs around half a pound, depending on how thick the fabric is, but it would be better to know exactly how much it weighs. Try a kitchen scale or a postal scale or one of the scales in the produce department of the grocery store. Be sure that your shirt was not marketed as being stain-resistant, because a stain-resistant finish will repel the dye and create splotchy results.

For one full pound of fabric, dyeing in a large bucket, PRO Chemical & Dye recommends that you use 1 teaspoon of dye, or 2.5 grams, for a pale shade (weighing dyes gives more accurate results than measuring them by the spoonful). For a medium shade, they recommend 3 teaspoons, or 7.5 grams; for a dark shade, 6 teaspoons, or 15 grams; and for a dark black, 12 teaspoons, or 30 grams. Charcoal gray is a dark shade, so it's likely you'd want 15 grams of dye per pound of fiber, or probably half that for your shirt, but I think it would be safest to try for a medium shade first, using 7.5 grams of black dye powder per pound of fabric, which works out to be about a teaspoon and a half for one half-pound shirt (less for a smaller size shirt).

The method you should use to obtain a single smooth solid color requires a high volume of water and an inordinate amount of stirring. If you use too small of a container or do not stir enough, you will get a tie-dyed effect, which is not what you're going for this time. I recommend that you obtain a five-gallon plastic bucket and closely follow the instructions provided by PRO Chemical & Dye in their sheet, "Immersion Dyeing using PRO MX Reactive Dyes", at , or those by Dharma Trading Company, "The Tub (Washing Machine, Vat, Bucket) Dye Method", at . Either recipe is good; pick one and follow it carefully. You will need a large quantity of ordinary table salt, which is very important in high-water-volume dyeing, and some soda ash to set the Procion MX dye in the fiber. It is a good idea to add some powdered water softener, sodium hexametaphosphate, if you have hard water.

Discharging the color in an already-dyed black shirt, using bleach or Color Remover, is a fun way to make designs, but it is an unpredictable way to obtain any particular desired color. You are more likely to get brown than gray if you try to bleach or discharge a black t-shirt. I think you should save your black t-shirt for another project. (Make some cutouts, arrange them on the shirt, and spray with dilute bleach, taking precautions not to breath it, for a very cool effect.)

You could reuse your charcoal gray dyebath by adding more dye to it, particularly if you're having a water shortage. Pre-dissolve the dye before adding it to the dyebath. You won't need to add more salt, and probably not any additional soda ash, either.

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Posted: Monday - October 26, 2009 at 06:51 AM          

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