Dyeing bamboo sheets with Procion Mx dyes: is bamboo fabric sturdy enough to use soda ash on?

Name: Britta

Message: My mom bought a set of bamboo sheets. I have not seen them yet, it does not matter to me whether the threads are natural or synthetic (dyed or white), but I do want the end color to set. I prefer to use procion mx dyes, and have been doing so successfully on cotton (and some silk) for years. I trust that these dyes will work with bamboo, as it is a natural fiber. But, I do not trust that the bamboo is as sturdy as cotton, and I am hesitant to use soda ash fixer. Do you have a different idea? Should I heat-set it or would soda ash be okay?

Heat setting is not very useful on cellulose fibers illustration of giant timber bamboo such as bamboo. Most bamboo fiber is regenerated cellulose, just like rayon. Rayon is easy to dye with soda ash and fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion MX dyes. The soda ash is required. 


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I recommend that you treat bamboo fabric very gently when it is wet, because it is probably like rayon, which is much weaker and more susceptible to damage when wet than it is when dry. What you have to worry about is physical abrasion, and tears, not the high pH of soda ash. I've had no trouble in using soda ash and Procion MX dyes to dye fragile rayon in my home washing machine, which has good delicate settings, but I have shredded rayon (just in a small section, but enough to ruin the dress) when washing it in another machine that did not have a reliable delicate setting. If your washing machine is not gentle enough, you will have to dye and wash by hand.

A different kind of bamboo fiber, which is prepared enzymatically, retaining the original fiber length, without digesting and regenerating the cellulose, is a strong fiber, stronger than rayon, but I don't believe I have heard of this form of bamboo being used in sheets. It's relatively rare. You had better assume that your bamboo sheets are as fragile as any rayon.

Are you aiming for a solid color, example of low water immersion dyeing or a more interesting multicolor effect? For a solid color, dyeing in the washing machine is by far the easiest method. Otherwise, low water immersion (LWI) dyeing is the easiest. Low water immersion dyeing is the least likely to damage the sheets, since it does not require constant agitation or stirring of the wet fabric. Then you have only the washing itself to be careful about. You can choose dramatic or very subtle effects, when using the low water immersion technique, depending on what colors you choose, and how much dye you use overall. A neutral pre-mixed color will separate out wonderfully into surprising multi-colored effects, in LWI.

Note that the thread used to hem the edges of your bamboo sheets is likely to be made of polyester, which will not take the dye. This will probably not be a problem.

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Posted: Thursday - November 15, 2007 at 08:31 AM          

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