I want to dye some tiny plastic miniatures with disperse dye...in tiny batches. What would be the best way to adjust the recipe?

Name: Noni


Graduated cylinders - set of 7: spimage-1910599-10273898

Graduated Cylinders - Set of 7

Durable polypropylene cylinders come in calibrations of 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1000 mls. Autoclavable.


Jacquard idye for polyester/nylon, turquoiseimage-1910599-11428147

Jacquard iDye for Polyester/Nylon

iDye Poly is disperse dye that can be used to immersion dye synthetics including polyester, nylon, and acrylic. (Note that regular iDye is a direct dye that can be used only on natural fibers such as cotton; it can be mixed with iDye Poly to dye polyester blends.)


Jacquard iDye Poly allows even beginners to dye polyester at home on the stovetop

Country or region: Canada

Message: Hi, I've been searching high and low and not sure how to do this. I want to dye some tiny plastic miniatures with disperse dye...in tiny batches...I've tried it following Pro Chemical instructions and they dye extremely fast....and in a crockpot...so that's not a problem....but it is such a waste to have a big pot of dye to do a few tiny things.

Ideally I have a small 2 cup crockpot that I would like to use, but I don't know how to adjust the recipe which is now

10 cups water
1 cup boiling water to dissolve 1 teaspoon dye
1 cup water to dilute dye carrier

Simple math tells me how to get it to 2 cups, but not sure how I would deal with the dye and dye carrier. Any ideas how to adjust this recipe or a technique that would make it  easier. Thank you so much for your time

Do your plastic miniatures require the dye carrier? The dye carrier chemical mixture is by far the most objectionable part of the disperse dyeing process, and it is normally needed only for polyester, not for dyeing other synthetic materials. What are your plastic miniatures made from? I don't think that they are made of polyester. I recommend that you do a test run of dyeing your miniatures without the dye carrier. If your results are as good without the carrier, than this will save you a great deal of bother (and smell!). The carrier requires much more attention to ventilation and to using a proper respirator, not merely a dust mask; if you skip the dye carrier, you need wear only gloves, and perhaps an apron, throughout your project, plus a dust mask only until you have gotten the dye dissolved, in order to avoid breathing any dye powder.

The dye recipe calls for sodium hexametaphosphate, which ProChem calls Metaphos. Without either Metaphos or the use of distilled water, the mineral ions in most water supplies can sometimes affect your dye results, especially if your water is very hard. Instead of adding a difficult-to-measure small quantity of this to your tiny dyebath recipe, either use distilled water for dissolving your dye and for making the dyebath, or pretreat a jug of water by mixing it with Metaphos. You can use a quarter teaspoon of Metaphos per gallon of water. Use this treated water instead of tap water for making your dyebath and for mixing your dyes.

The best way to deal with the disperse dye, assuming that it stays good for some time in water, as I believe it should, would be to make a stock solution by dissolving a certain amount in water, and then measure out the fraction that you need.

Scientific labware makes precise measurement of small quantities easy. It is also more reliable than kitchen measures. It's also much easier to do the arithmetic when using the metric system, instead of cups and teaspoons.

Since you mention ProChem, I'll use them as suppliers in my examples below. However, most of the products can be also found at any laboratory supply company, of which there are several in Canada, the main problem being when the minimum order is a case. Plastic lab equipment is significantly cheaper than laboratory glassware, but works fine for our needs. Maiwa, in Vancouver, sells syringes and good respirators, but I don't think they sell graduated cylinders.

For medium volumes, use graduated cylinders. ProChem sells these in 250 milliliter, 100 milliliter, and 50 milliliter sizes. The 250 ml size holds one cup. While you can measure 50 milliliters by filling the 250 ml size one-fifth full, you can be more precise by using a size that is closer to the amount you are measuring.

For small volumes, a syringe, without a needle attached, works very well and does not cost much. ProChem sells 5, 10, and 20 ml syringes. You will want several syringes.

For larger volumes, I use a graduated cylinder of a size larger than ProChem sells. They do, however, sell graduated plastic beakers. These are typically not quite as accurate in their measurement as graduated cylinders, but they are certainly as good as anything you've been using before now.

If you want to be able to reproduce exactly the same color in future years, you will need a fine scale to weigh your dye, since dye is standardized in color strength by weight, not by volume, but otherwise using measuring spoons will work fine. ProChem sells a nice though rather expensive set of very small measuring spoons, in sizes 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, 1/64 & 1/128 teaspoon. If you use the stock solution method, you will not need tiny spoons. You can find much less expensive measuring spoons of small sizes on Amazon, but their volumes are not nearly as reliable in their precision.

You can store your dye stock solution in plastic bottles or jars from ProChem, or in ordinary glass canning jars.

Converting to the metric system makes it easier to do calculations without errors. Even with such simple arithmetic as you need here, it is surprisingly easy to make mistakes when not doing it the simplest way.

First, make your dye stock solution just as in the original recipe. It is inconvenient to measure boiling water, so I would prefer to measure the water into my glass mixing container, then heat it for the appropriate number of seconds in a microwave oven, watching closely. In my microwave oven, this would be about 45 seconds for half a cup of water. (Avoid superheating the water from cooking it for an excessive period of time, which can result in what appears to be an explosion when the water suddenly bursts into boiling.)

For the same dye concentration as using one teaspoon in one cup, you can dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of dye in 125 ml boiling water, or 1/4 teaspoon of dye in 63 ml boiling water, let it cool, then strain it through a nylon knee-high stocking or similar material to remove any tiny clumps of undissolved dye. You should be able to store this solution for some time, as long as the color remains true and you do not see mold growing in it.

If you decide that you must use the dye carrier, you will need to make a stock solution of it, as well, so that you can use only a small portion of it per recipe. I do not know how well the diluted dye carrier chemical will keep, so I am not sure that you will be able to reuse this solution. Avoid the dye carrier altogether if you can do so without impairing your results, which should be possible with most plastics. ProChem's recipe calls for 30 milliliters of dye carrier per 250 ml of boiling water. You could make this stock solution in just the same way, using only part of the stock solution in your recipe, or you could cut it down in volume, since you won't be using it all. If you can use a syringe to measure out the dye carrier, you could measure 5 ml of dye carrier into a small glass jar with 42 ml of boiling water. Save this syringe to use only with dye carrier chemical. Do not reuse it to measure dyes or other chemicals.

To adapt ProChem's recipe for a disperse dyebath, which is as follows (omitting the dye carrier and the Metaphos):

2 1⁄2 gallons (10 liters) of 120°F (49°C) water
1⁄2 tsp (2.5 ml) Synthrapol
11 tsp (55 ml) white distilled vinegar
dissolved and strained PROsperse Disperse Dye

to only 500 milliliters (two cups) of distilled or Metaphos-treated water, you will need 12.5 ml of your dye stock solution, since that is one-twentieth of the amount called for in the original recipe. This amount is best measured with a 20-ml syringe.

[If you have already successfully been using 10 cups of water, instead of ten liters, then that would mean you've been  using a higher ratio of dye to water than in ProChem's recipe, and will want to use enough stock solution to get one-fifth of a teaspoon of dye powder, total, rather than one-twentieth as described here.]

If you do use the dye carrier, you'll need to use 12.5 ml of your dye carrier stock solution. (This will be the same amount as you use of your dye stock solution.) While working with the dye carrier, you (and everyone else in the room) will also need to wear a good respirator, and, unless you are working outside with a portable burner, you will need to set fans in open windows to arrange for good cross-ventilation.

The exact concentration of Synthrapol is not critical, so you can use an eyedropper with the approximation that there are about twenty drops per milliliter. The ten-liter full-size recipe calls for 2.5 ml of Synthrapol, or about 50 drops; your half-liter small batch dyebath would therefore call for about two or three drops of Synthrapol. Synthrapol is a detergent and helps to keep the dye dispersed evenly. Some people substitute a drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid for Synthrapol. If you've been doing fine without it, don't worry about using it now.

The white distilled vinegar, which helps to protect the color of the dye by keeping the pH from getting too high, would be reduced from 55 ml to 2.75 ml. Use a 5-ml syringe to measure out a little less than 3 ml into your tiny dyebath.

Please let me know how this works for you. I would love to see a picture of some of your dyed miniatures.

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Posted: Wednesday - June 18, 2014 at 12:31 PM          

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