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Saturday, April 30, 2005
bleaching natural wool
Name: Kathy Hinckley
Message: Hi, Paula. Thanks for your incredible site! I'm a spinner, mainly interested in wool (and other animal fibers, e.g. mohair, alpaca), and I'd like to know how to bleach wool to pure white, or close to it. Obviously, not with chlorine bleach. ProChem has a recipe with hydrogen peroxide, but it didn't work too well (though it works great on natural ecru cotton). I've also see some references to bleaching wool with sodium hydrosulfite (Rit Color Remover; didn't work either) or thiourea dioxide. Clearly, it's possible since pure white yarns are commercially available. Do you know anything about bleaching animal fibers from natural off-white to white-white?
The fact that pure white yarns exist imply that it is possible for *some* wool to be bleached to white, but not necessarily your wool! Surely that the wool from some breeds of sheep bleaches more easily than that from others. However, I have never heard of a person whose hair could not be bleached, and so I am sure that any wool can be lightened also, though perhaps not without undesirable consequences to its texture.
It could be that your wool is protected by the natural lanolin, preventing the discharge agents from reaching the actual protein fibers. If that is the case, you need to use a detergent specifically made for this purpose, at a temperature of 165 F. (74 C) - but then, as a wool spinner. you undoubtedly know much more about that than I do. I've never tried to bleach wool, and can just share some general observations.
I believe that all methods of bleaching wool will damage the wool if used for too long a time or in too high of a concentration, so it may take you trial and error to determine how much of any whitening treatment will have the desired effect without damaging the wool too much. Have you tried a higher concentration, or longer time, or warmer room temperature, for either the hydrosulfite (Rit Color Remover) or the peroxide? You already know that chlorine bleach will just destroy wool. Two other discharge agents are thiourea dioxide, or thiox, and sodium formaldehyde sulfonxylate, also known as formusol or rongalite, but they should be similar in results to the hydrosulfite.
There is one exception to the rule of whitening correlating with potential for damage, in the form of optical whiteners. These are colorless dyes which absorb light in the ultraviolet range, and emit it as visible light, thus making fiber appear to be whiter. These are good to use on white materials, but of course should not be used before dyeing with colors. One brand is Rit's "Whitener & Brightener"; another is Uvitex BNB, available from Dharma Trading Company. Also, in some cases, sunlight alone will be sufficient as a bleach.
Friday, April 29, 2005
dye for Rope Halters for Horses
Message: I Make Rope Halters for Horses. I have tried to Dye the rope with the Rit Dye.. I shrunk my rope the Heat of the water.. And then the Dye don't stay very well... I my self are looking for a dye for Nylon Rope...
Are you sure it's nylon rope? Dye will not stay long in polyester or polypropylene or polyethylene rope, no matter what you do. A lot of ropes are made of these materials, instead of dyeable materials like nylon or hemp. Here is a link to a page on "How to Identify the Synthetic Fibres Used In Rope Making". If the rope floats even without air bubbles, then it is made of polypropylene or polyethylene. If you place a tiny bit of the rope in a flame, holding it with metal tongs, and then remove it from the flame, polyester will make black smoke and leave a black bead afterwards, while nylon will make white smoke and leave a yellowish bead afterwards.
To dye nylon, you need an acid, such as vinegar, which is why we call the type of dye used for this 'acid dye'. The dye is not an acid; the acid is the vinegar that you use with it. Did you use vinegar when you were dyeing? You must carefully measure out the amount of dye and other ingredients called for by the recipe. Choose a recipe, and then buy the kind of dye called for by the recipe. You cannot dye nylon in cold water, but the water does not have to boil; you can use a thermometer to keep the temperature around 180 degrees Fahrenheit, to reduce the chance of shrinkage.
If you choose to follow the recipe for "Immersion Dyeing on Nylon using WashFast Acid Dyes", buy white vinegar at the grocery store, and buy "Washfast Acid Dye" from PRO Chemical & Dye.
Lanaset dye is more washfast than Washfast Acid dyes are, that is, it does not wash out as easily. Try ProChem's recipe for "Immersion Dyeing using Sabraset/Lanaset Dyes". If you choose to follow this recipe, you will need to buy sodium acetate and synthrapol and albegal SET and Lanaset dye from their auxiliaries page and buy Lanaset dye. This is the best type of dye for dyeing nylon black, but the other colors are good, too.
If you ever find yourself with cotton rope that will work for you, or another plant fiber such as hemp, ramie, or jute, you can dye it in room temperature water with fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye, or a "tie dye kit". This type of dye is very easy to use, since you do not have to cook the rope. However, you cannot dye nylon with no heat at all, and you cannot dye nylon with the same recipe that is used to dye plant fibers.
Is it possible to thicken dye?
Message: Hi. I just have a quick question - is it possible to thicken a dye? I'm making my own t-shirt designs with stencils and I'd like to apply the dye with a stencil brush or foam roller. I'd be stencilling onto white or light-colored 100% cotton t-shirts. I was thinking of using a Procion MX type dye and thickening it with guar gum. Would that work?
Guar gum is not ideal, because it reacts with fiber reactive dyes, reducing the amount of dye that actually reaches your fabric. Most people who thicken their Procion MX dyes use either sodium alginate or Superclear. See "Sodium alginate, Superclear, and other dye thickeners". There are two types of alginate, F and SH. Alginate F is used for silk, and alginate SH is used for cotton. (Amazon is one possible source for Jacquard brand alginate SH.) Here's a recipe for using alginate SH:
Chemical Water (Dye Mix)
2 cups water (0.5 liter)
1 tsp. of Alginate SH (5 ml)
1/8 cup Urea (2 tablespoons or 30 ml)
Mix with 2 tablespoons Procion MX dye powder (30 ml)
Either add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of soda ash to the dye mixture,
or presoak the fabric in soda ash (1 cup per gallon or
250 ml per four liters) and use while still damp or after
I have found that thickened dye may solidify if not used within a few days.
You can use guar gum for thickening acid dyes, when dyeing animal fibers (wool or silk) or nylon. Acid dyes cannot be used on cotton.
By the way, I did make one stencilled shirt with acrylic paint and fabric medium. It turned out well, but I don't like the stiffness of the paint. I'd still use paint for light colors on a dark shirt, though.
When you want to try the same technique with dilute bleach or other discharge agents, don't use alginate to thicken your bleach, because the bleach quickly breaks down the thickener. Instead use Monogum or bleach thickener, or for small designs try the thickened bleach in a Clorox Bleach Pen. Alternatively, you can use a liquid or gel formula dishwasher detergent, which has bleach and thickeners included in the formula. Both requires the same post-discharge neutralization, using either peroxide, chlorine-free oxygen 'bleach', or Anti-chlor.
Not all dark shirts will bleach well, depending on the dye used on them originally, but Dharma Trading Company sells black t-shirts which are guaranteed to discharge to white.
You can use discharge dyeing to produce white or pale designs on a dark background, or to create white spots to dye over to create bright colors on a black or dark background. The feel of the fabric is much nicer than with paint.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
removing stains from washing the wrong clothes together
My mum washed my purple jacket (which was supposed to be washed separately) with my light blue denim jeans (without turning them inside out), and now i have purple stains on my jeans, is there any way I can get rid of these stains?
Wash the jeans in hot water, and the stains may come out. Many dyes are much more easily removed from fabric at hot temperatures. In fact, if the purple jacket had been washed with your jeans in cold water only, the dye might not have transferred from it.
If this does not work, do not use Rit Color Remover. The indigo dye used in dyeing denim turns a sickly yellow color in the presence of this chemical, which is otherwise ideal for removing unwanted dye (though it sometimes removes the original dye, at well). You can use chlorine bleach on your jeans, though of course this will lighten their overall color. If you lighten them too much, you can over-dye them with fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye, or Dylon Cold Water dye. I do not recommend the use of all-purpose dye on cotton.
Your purple jacket could be made more wash-fast by the use of a special dye fixative called Retayne, which may be purchased at your local quilting supplies store, or mail-ordered from most of the dye retailers listed on my Sources for Dyeing Supplies page. After the Retayne is applied, the jacket will still need to be washed in cool water, though.
tie-dyeing a heart shape
Message: I am tiedying some prefold diapers (flat ones) and can't find how to make a heart shape fold for dying my diapes. Do you know how to or where to go?
Yes, you can either sew it, as described on "FAQ: How do you tie-dye letters of the alphabet?", reinforcing the sewing with a ruybber band on top, or you can draw the heart on your cloth with a pencil, fold it in half vertically, and pleat along the line. It's pretty easy. There are nice drawings of the latter process on the Tie-dyed.com web site; see the April 2005 Monthly Tie-up. There are even better instructions, for the sewing method, in Sulfiati Harris's $5 book, "Rainbow Tie Dye", with color photos on the cover.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Re: finding an instructional DVD on tie-dyeing and the chemistry behind it
Message: In my Organic Chemistry class, we are beginning a lab on tie-dyeing. My teacher assigned me the task of finding a DVD on intructional tie-dyeing. However, he also wanted it to include some information about the science behind tie-dye. I thought that you would know if such a product existed. If a DVD like that doesn't exist than he expressed that he would be interested in purchasing two separate videos, one on instructional technique and the other focused on the science aspect.
Thank you for any information you can give me!
There is only one DVD or videotape that I know of that gives instructions on how to tie dye, but fortunately it's a good one: Michael Fowler's The Art of Tie-Dye.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a video explaining the science of tie-dyeing. I created my web site largely because there is very little information anywhere on this subject, and knowing the chemistry behind the ways dyes function adds tremendously to the control artists have in doing their work. You will find a fair amount of information already on my web site. Be sure to read "About Dyes", and "Fiber Reactive Dyes", as well as the questions and answers in the FAQ, and the "chemistry of dyeing" section of this dyes & dyeing weblog. If you have additional scientific questions, I would be happy to try to answer them.
My doctoral thesis involved the chemical and biological properties of certain, rather toxic, types of dyes, but unfortunately for your purposes, it does not treat fiber reactive dyes, which are the type that are, deservedly, very popular for use in tie-dyeing. (A copy of it is currently available at this link, but I will be moving it soon to a location somewhere on pburch.net.)
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Do you have a list of dyers that can do this job in Australia?
Name: anna flannery
Message: I urgently need to have 2 large curtains (blockout) dyed a darker colour. They are washable. Do you have a list of dyers that can do this job in Australia? I live in Canberra.
Sorry, I don't know any commercial dyers in Australia, though Australian custom dyers are welcome to submit their names and contact info for inclusion on my Custom Dyers' Listing.
While searching for someone to dye your curtains, you will need to specify what the fiber content is. Many dyers are happy to dye natural fibers, or nylon, but almost nobody anywhere wants to dye polyester a solid color, because it requires boiling the items for an hour with a special polyester dye, often with a noxious carrier chemical. Natural fibers, and nylon, are so much easier to dye!
If your curtains are made of a natural fiber, you should not find it too difficult to dye them yourself in the washing machine. For cotton, linen, rayon, and other cellulose fibers, use fiber reactive dye; for wool and other animal fibers, as well as nylon, use acid dye. Both can be done in the washing machine. To find where to buy dyes in Australia, see my Sources for Dyeing Supplies page.
[link updated November 29, 2007]
Sunday, April 24, 2005
May i have a list of people who can dye my dress that live in San Diego California Area
Name: Melinda wrote:
Message: I have a pink polyester dress that I would like to dye red. May I have a list of people who can dye my dress that live in San Diego California Area. This would really help me out thank you.
I'm sorry, but the only listing of dyers I have is the Custom Dyers' Listing you already saw on my web site. I don't have any other lists or anything specific to different areas.
However, I can tell you that there are almost no companies, anywhere, that are willing to dye polyester. It requires a special type of dye, called disperse dye. Dyeing cotton, wool, silk, or even nylon is easy, but dyeing polyester is not. The only company I know of that specifies a willingness to dye 100% polyester dresses is in Alaska, a company called Color Creek. You could send your dress to them.
[Update November 2007: Color Creek has apparently gone out of business. Now there is no establishment I know of that will overdye 100% polyester garments.]
Saturday, April 23, 2005
true fluorescent dyes and fabric paints
Message: I do understand you must be bombarded with requests for information, mine is quite simple but if you are too busy to reply I'll understand. I want to paint fabrics in U.V active florescent paints that I can fix, although I have found UV fabric dyes in craft shops they are in tiny quantities, and I really want to but powder pigment and make my own. What can I add to powder pigment to fix the paint to cloth so that the paint can be used to paint rather than dye the material? I would really be grateful for any advice! thank you
If you're making your own paint to use on the fabric to wear, you'll want a soft fabric paint base, so that the fabric is not too stiff and scratchy to wear. The nicest, softest fabric paints tend to be expensive. If you're painting fabric for some other purpose, such as a wall hanging, this doesn't matter so much; almost any clear fabric glue should work for that. However, higher quality demands the same 'glue' that is used to create good fabric paints, such as Versatex clear extender, and colorless Jacquard Textile paint, Jacquard Neopaque Extender. Pro Chemical & Dye sells a similar product, PROfab Base Extender. All of these are available in more economical bulk quantities, quarts or even gallons, in addition to the small jars.
Before you go to the trouble of making your own fluorescent paints, do check the prices of fluorescent fabric paints at the various good mail-order dye retailers. Prices in local crafts stores tend to be amazingly high, for tiny quantities, on almost anything; purchasing dyes or fabric paints from any of the dye retailers on my Sources for Dyeing Supplies list will be much more economical, in the long run, besides affording a better range of products. There are true fluorescent paints, which glow under blacklight, among several different lines of good fabric paints. Fluorescent Versatex transparent fabric inks include the colors yellow, blue, green, orange, and violet; like several other suppliers, they offer their fabric paints in quantities up to a gallon, which will afford considerable savings over smaller jars of paint. There are also true fluorescents among Setacolor Fabric Colors, Jacquard Fabric Paint, and Createx Fabric paints. ProChem (PRO Chemical & Dye) also sells fluorescent fabric paints in their line of PROFab Pigment Color Concentrates. Another good source for many fabric paints is Dharma Trading Company, which also sells Dharma Pigment Dye (actually a paint, not a dye). Each of these paints will require heat-setting, though allowing them to dry on the fabric at room temperature for at least a month will often have the same effect. Dye is nicer to the touch than paint, but the color range available in fabric paints is so much better that, for painting with true fluorescent colors, fabric paints are probably much better than dyes.
I have been looking into the topic of fluorescent dyes. UV-active fluorescent dyes, that is, true fluorescents, as opposed to colors which are merely so bright that they look as though they might be fluorescent, present some problems. While there are fluorescent dyes in most classes of dyes, there is never a full range of colors.
As you have seen, Dylon "UV Fluorescent Fabric dye" is expensive to use, simply because it is packaged in such tiny tins; each will dye only half a pound of fabric. The colors are numbered 63 yellow, 64 green, and 65 pink. The instructions (see glowshop's) indicate that these dyes may be used on both cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, etc.) and animal fibers (wool, silk, and also nylon, which dyes like wool); the dye must be simmered with the fiber. These instructions, and the picture of the tins, imply that the dye is part of Dylon's line of Multi-purpose Dye. These dyes tends to not be very long-lasting when washed; in many cases, they are a mixture of acid dyes (for protein) and direct dyes (for cellulose), but some direct dyes work on both types of fiber, so they might just be direct dyes. This dye would undoubtedly be MUCH more economical if purchased in bulk. I understand that Aljo Dyes, in New York, sells fluorescent direct dye, but I know of no other source. Unfortunately, Aljo's web site has gone down again as of this writing, so the only way to find out is by telephoning them (their number is on my Sources for Dyeing Supplies list), and they do not have a toll-fee number.
Other fluorescent dyes include just two that I know of in the Procion MX line of fiber reactive dyes; unfortunately, these are hard to find. One is a lovely blue-violet, Blue MX-7RX or reactive blue #161; it is extremely difficult to find (it is not carried by the major dye suppliers, such as Dharma and Prochem), very expensive, and easily damaged by even reasonable exposure to bright visible light. Another I recall as being either rubine MX-B (reactive red #6) or orange MX-G (reactive orange #1); I don't recall which one just now, because I love to use these two dyes together. These also are not easily found. I purchased Reactive Orange #1 from Standard Dyes.
It is easier to find fluorescent dyes in the acid dye family, which is used only for proteins fibers such as silk. Prochem (PRO Chemical & Dye) sells the fluorescent Rhodamine B and Flavine Yellow among their Washfast Acid Dyes. Among Dharma's acid dyes, #620 Hot Fuchsia is probably Rhodamine B; they have also listed #627 Brilliant Kelly Green and #628 Chartreuse as being fluorescent, and they sell a 'Fluorescent Yellow Dye', possibly Flavine Yellow, that works only on protein fibers. All of these are normally used for immersion dyeing, not for direct application, such as painting. In theory they might be usable by painting and then steaming, but without experimenting we cannot say how good they really would be, and properly steaming painted fabric, so color does not run and creases are not formed, is a skill in its own right.
Fluorescent white dye is extremely common. This is a type of dye that absorbs dye in the invisible ultraviolet range, then emits it as visible white light, thus creating "whiter than white". Almost all laundry detergent contains some of this dye, which is why most white clothing appears to fluoresce under a blacklight (ultraviolet lamp). You can get even brighter results by purchasing the dye itself. The Rit Dye company sells it as Rit Whitener & Brightener, available next to the little boxes of not-very-washfast "all purpose" dye sold in nearly every drugstore and grocery in the US. Dharma Trading Company sells an Optic Whitener, Uvitex BNB, which is probably more concentrated. None of these dyes are very washfast, so they must be reapplied now and then to regularly laundered fabric.
(Please help support this web site. Thank you.)
[updated February 27, 2008]
Friday, April 22, 2005
smelly new black shirt
Message: Hi. I recently bought a black cotton t-shirt. It is a really sharp-looking shirt, but I noticed that it STINKS. It is apparently the dye. I have washed the shirt several times, and it still smells bad. It has a sulphur-like odor...something akin to a wet dog smell. I have tried washing, adding scented fabric softeners, and nothing seems to kill the odor. I cannot stand to wear it.
Is it indeed likely to be the dye, and is there anything I can do about this?
Yes, there is one thing you can do, and you should do it right away: return it to whomever you bought it from, and request a refund or replacement!
When someone sells something, there is an implicit warranty that the item will be usable for the purpose for which it is sold. In this case, that your shirt will be suitable for wearing. Obviously, your shirt cannot be worn, even once, and thus you are due either a refund or a replacement. (It is up to the person who sold you the shirt to determine which. All you want is a wearable shirt, though, so either should work.)
Is it likely to be the dye? Not if the garment was dyed correctly. I don't see any way you could distinguish bad smelling dye from bad smelling sizing or other fabric treatments, however. Black shirts are commonly dyed with a type of dye that is called sulfur dye, but there is not normally a lingering odor, at least after the first washing. Either the dye was bad, or something else in the shirt's manufacturing was bad. It doesn't really matter which, from your perspective, though it is an issue for whoever made the mistake and needs to avoid repeating it in the future.
If you bought the shirt at a flea market or some other source you cannot locate again, the best thing to do would probably be to just throw the shirt away. It is not even suitable for use as rags. Who needs horrible-smelling rags?
Thursday, April 21, 2005
what types of dye are used in sun printing?
Message: I am wondering what dye is used on fabric that when dyed and laid in the sun, develops the dye color. If patterns are put over the fabric, then that part remains lighter or white. This is used making the Hawaiian sarongs or pareos.
There are three different ways to color fabric permanently with sun-developed images.
The easiest is actually sun painting, not dyeing. You saturate fabric with transparent fabric paint, arrange objects on the damp fabric, then expose the assemblage to the sun or any hot lamp. It is actually the infrared light (radiant heat) which does the trick. Exposed areas dry first, in the hot light; the drying exposed fabric sucks additional wet dye out from under whatever you have placed on top of the fabric. The result is lighter-colored 'shadows' wherever you placed the masking objects. The color is deeper where the light from the sun, or the hot lamp, was able to reach. It is not the ultraviolet in the light which does the work, but instead infrared, so a halogen lamp is more suitable than a fluorescent sun lamp. This procedure has been widely popularized for use with Seta Color brand fabric paint; for example, see the Klutz book of Sun Painting, entitled "Sun Paint: Use Sunshine to Make Colorful Fabric Prints". However, the same technique can be used with other brands of thin, transparent fabric paint, as well; for example, PRO Chemical & Dye provides instructions for "Sun Printing using PROfab Textile Paints". This is a highly suitable project for children and beginners.
Another method of sunprinting is to use Inkodyes. These are a type of dye which is chemically similar to vat dyes, but instead of being applied in an oxygen-free bath and being developed in the fabric by exposure to oxygen, Inkodyes are developed by light. Inkodyes are true dyes, not fabric paints. (A dye actually itself attaches to the fabric; fabric paint includes a glue-like binder, which imparts a stiffer feeling to the fabric.) The process is more difficult than the process of tie-dyeing with fiber reactive dyes. The only known retail source of Inkodye is Dharma Trading Company. Jean Ray Laury's book, Imagery on Fabric, provides information on how to use this type of dye.
A third method is to use blueprinting, or brownprinting, using exactly the same photographic techniques used in making architectural blueprints, in which fabric is treated with two chemicals, ammonium ferric citrate and potassium ferricyanide. Sometimes you can find pre-treated fabric, which simplifies matters drastically. The treated fabric, whether purchased pre-treated or prepared in the darkroom at home, must be stored in a light-proof bag. Working quickly, but not necessarily in the dark, you arrange your stencils or objects on the treated fabric, then expose it to the sun. A book on how to do this is Barbara Hewitt's "Blueprints on Fabric: Innovative uses for Cyanotype". The technique is also covered in Deborah Dryden's "Fabric Painting and Dyeing for the Theatre". The resulting fabric, or garments, can be washed by hand, but should not be line dried out-of-doors, since extended exposure to the sun will encourage fading. Blue Printables sells treated fabrics (and at least formerly also sold treated t-shirts), as well as chemicals for preparing your own fabric.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
My son tie-dyed a shirt blue then washed it with a load of whites
Message: My son tie-dyed a shirt blue then washed it with a load of whites. It blead on to my other white clothing. How can I get this out of my whites? Thank You
What kind of dye did he use?
Properly tie-dyed clothing, made with good fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye, should be safe to wash with white clothing at any temperature, unless the initial washing out of excess dye has not been performed adequately.
However, all-purpose dye is a completely different story. It will continue to bleed in the laundry for the life of the garment. This is one of several reasons to never use all-purpose dye for tie-dyeing cotton.
In any case, the first thing to do is wash the bled-upon garments in HOT water, with detergent. In many cases the excess heat will remove loosely-associated dye.
If that fails, then, if the garments are bleachable, you can use regular chlorine bleach in the laundry. Chlorine bleach is an extraordinarily destructive substance. It will break up the molecules of most dyes, in many cases resulting in no color. (Sometimes it results in an odd shift to another color altogether.)
An alternative to chlorine bleach is Rit Color Remover. It is sold in a small box next to the boxes of Rit brand all-purpose dye which are sold in many grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. While I cannot recommend the use of all-purpose dye on cotton, Rit brand Color Remover is an excellent product. It may take out other color from the garments, but if they were all white originally, this will not be a problem for you.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
how to lighten color of nylon
Message: I recently dyed a nylon guitar strap using your site. It turned out much much better than the first time, but its almost too dark this time. Is there any method to fade it a little bit without completely losing all color? It's very dark orange right now and I want it to be regular orange if that helps in any way.
You may already be aware that it would be an extremely bad idea to use chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach is very destructive to both synthetic fibers and animal fibers.
Another chemical, however, sodium hydrosulfite, is apparently used sometimes to lighten the color of nylon fabrics, as well as wool and silk. An easy-to-find form of sodium hydrosulfite is Rit brand Color Remover, which is sold alongside the little packets of Rit All-purpose dye in many stores.
I must warn you that I have never tried hydrosulfite on nylon myself. All of my experiences with sodium hydrosulfite have involved cotton. I can't guarantee your results. It's probably worth a try, though.
Monday, April 18, 2005
fibers to wear if you are allergic to disperse dye
Name: J Smith
Message: I Just recently found out i'm allergic to a chemical called Dispurse # 6 and was told to change the types of clothes i wear could you give me a list of what kind to buy without any of this chemical in them Thank You Mrs. J. Smith
Disperse dyes appear to be the most allergenic of textile dyes. There are many references in the medical literature to dermatitis caused by contact with disperse dyes. This is perhaps due to the fact that this sort of dye gradually rubs off of the garments it is used to color, so wearers are exposed more to the dye, and are thus more likely to develop a reaction.
Disperse dyes are used only for synthetic fibers. They can be used on nylon (though nylon can also be dyed with less irritating acid dyes), and they are used a great deal on polyester and other synthetics. Polyester is always dyed with disperse dyes, so you must avoid polyester above all. Disperse dye cannot be used to dye natural fibers, so all natural fibers are safe for a disperse-dye-allergic person.
Here is a list of fabrics that are never dyed with disperse dye and thus should be safe for you: cotton, linen, rayon (viscose rayon), hemp, lyocell (Tencel), wool, silk, and other animal fibers such as mohair, angora, etc.
However, you must be very careful of lined garments. Oftentimes you will find a garment labeled as being 100% cotton or wool, when its lining is actually acetate, which is a synthetic fiber that may be dyed with disperse dye.
Synthetic fibers that may be dyed with disperse dye include but are not limited to: acrylic, acetate (including rayon acetate), polyester, Astron, Crimplene, Dacron, Enkalen, Fortrel, Lavsan, Mylar, Tergal, Terlenka, Terylene, Trevira, Polarfleece, Polartec, Orlon, Courtelle, Dralon, Leacryl, and Nitron.
Some synthetic fibers are sometimes dyed with other dyes, but it is impossible to tell which are safe for you, just from the fiber contents label. Your best rule of thumb is simply to stick to 100% natural fibers, making sure that any linings are also made of natural fibers.
Polyester thread is commonly used to sew together even natural fiber garments, but you will probably find that this amount of exposure is okay for you. If not, you might end up wearing 100% cotton garments that are sewn with cotton thread only. Clothing that is labeled as being "garment dyed" may be sewn with dyeable natural fiber thread; so is PFD ("Prepared Fro Dyeing") undyed clothing from sources such as Dharma Trading Company. You can safely dye your own cotton clothing using fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye, without affecting your disperse dye allergy, if you are careful to avoid excess exposure to dye powder. (Breathing any sort of dye powder is apt to encourage the formation of new allergies.)
Sunday, April 17, 2005
silk chiffon or silk charmeuse: which is going to be easier to dye for later use?
Message: I have two choices of fabric for my wedding dress---silk chiffon or silk charmeuse. Which is going to be easier to dye for later use?
Both will dye beautifully. Prewashing the fabric has the side benefit of making the silk dress made from it washable, unless the trim does not allow this.
You can dye silk with the acid dyes that can be used for wool, OR with the same fiber reactive dyes we use for cotton. Acid dyes will help to retain crispness and shine, while fiber reactive dyes will make the fabric feel softer and less stiff. Which do you prefer?
ya know...I just like the idea of being able to dye it...I prefer the chiffon dress the more I think about it. I need to find out if it is washable silk...and if the lining is washable/dyeable
Lining? Oh, dear. I thought you were writing about unsewn silk, to be dyed and then sewn into a dress.
Lined garments are just about never washable, and silk garments whose silk was not prewashed before sewing are often not washable. I have never heard of an off-the-rack lined silk dress that was not marked "dry clean only." And of course, truly dry-clean-only garments are NEVER dyeable. All forms of dyeing require washing.
The way to make a silk dress washable is to prewash the material before sewing it into the dress. A silk dress, especially a lined one, should be assumed to have missed this incredibly simple and easy step, and to be dry-clean-only. When you wash a lined garment that was marked "dry clean only", either the outside layer of the garment will shrink, or the lining will, but they will never match each other. The way the lining fits under the outer layer will almost inevitably be completely ruined.
In contrast, if you prewash and dye some nice silk chiffon, then have it sewn together (there are thousands of tailors who can do the sewing for you!), the dress is washable. If the fabric, or its trim, is too fragile for machine washing, it should still be hand-washable.
There are many advantages to clothing that is washable, besides the obvious one of saving time and money by not having to haunt the dry cleaners. Dry-clean-only garments are susceptible to damage from water spots, which are so common at parties where food and drink are served. Water spots on a water-washable dress can be easily rinsed out. Furthermore, the solvent used in dry-cleaning is a probable carcinogen, so it is important to avoid extended exposure to it. Storing freshly dry-cleaned garments in a closet that is attached to a bedroom produces extended exposures; they should be aired out in another room, or, preferably, outside, to reduce this exposure. Of course, perchloroethylene is also damaging to the environment, and may have significant risks for those people who work at the dry cleaner's establishment.
My own wedding dress was sewn of a beautiful silk charmeuse that was prewashed in the washing machine before sewing. Silk just cut from the bolt may be prewashed and then dyed in the washing machine (see "How can I dye clothing or fabric in the washing machine?").
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Tintex colour charts
Name: carol savage
Message: Tintex colours... is there a colour chart I can view
Tintex - Dye Manufacturers of Australia - provides color charts online for their High Temp Dye (all-purpose), Low Temp Dye (fiber reactive), and Silk Dyes (acid dyes) through links on their Fabric Dyes page.
Friday, April 15, 2005
dyeing a bohemian beaded skirt
Message: I am sorry to bother you but have searched and searched and want to make sure that I do this correctly.
I purchased some silk---I believe it may be what is called a lightweight raw silk---antique white---with embellishments. These are evenly spaced 'pearls' with pearl colored matte sequins around each pearl. I purchased this to make one of the beautiful bohemian skirts [see picture]---I am planning on machine stitching a little bit of metallic embroidery ( i don't mind if it puckers a little) and last but not least---I need to dye it and don't know which order I should do the different steps in plus what kind of technique and or dyes to use on the fabric. I don't think that it will dye the original sequins and pearls---even so it would be kind of neat if it does---I read on your site that the metallic thread---most likely will go untouched. Thanks so very very much for your help and expertise!
The fabric might shrink a bit if it's never been washed before, so I'd recommend doing the dyeing before machine embroidery, though it's not essential since you don't mind a bit of puckering. Also, the results of dye application can be a little random, so you might prefer to be able to adjust your hand-guided machine embroidery to go with the design of the dye.
You can sew the skirt either before or after dyeing. If you sew it before dyeing, stitch with cotton thread or cotton-wrapped thread, so that the thread will take the dye. (Polyester thread will stay its original color.) You can sew with polyester thread, selected to match as well as possible, if you do the sewing after you do the dyeing. You must wash the material before dyeing in any case.
Silk is a unique fabric in that it can be dyed with the same fiber reactive dyes we use for cotton, OR with acid dyes such as we use for wool. You'll probably want to treat it like cotton. Doing so can reduce the sheen of silk, but make it softer, which looks as though it should be no problem at all for this project. Cool water fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion MX dye, are certainly the easiest way to do direct dye application, which is how you can dye different parts of the skirt different colors. You can get a "tie-dye kit" from your local crafts store, or from many of the different companies listed on my Sources for Dyeing Supplies page, such as Tie-dyed.com's Small Tie-Dye Kit or their Standard Tie-Dye Kit. The mail-order kits cost less and provide a better value, more dye for the money, and you can add different Procion MX dye colors that are sold by the company you choose to order from, if you don't want to mix your own from the usual turquoise/fuchsia/yellow provided. Note that if you want to use colors very similar to the picture of the skirt you sent, you will want to use much less dye than the instructions indicate, in order to get paler colors than the average tie-dye kit is intended to produce. Remember, it is much easier to add more color by dyeing again, than it is to remove dye to get the colors you want.
We don't know what the "pearls" are made of, but they might (or might not!) dye the same color as the fabric, if you use acid dye. They are unlikely to take any of the color of the cool water fiber reactive dye, however. If you used acid dye, you would have to "cook" your skirt in hot water with the dye, simmering at 190 degrees F. (87 C) for perhaps half an hour, which is a lot more trouble than applying cool-water dye - especially given that you are not supposed to ever again reuse a cooking pot for food, once you've used it for dye, unless the dye you use is food coloring. Also, we aren't sure that the "pearls" can take any heat - what if they are made of easily melted plastic? Cool water dye would be a safer choice.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Why did my tie-dyes come out too pale?
Message: hi, well i understand you probably get tons of email and surely can't respond to them all. i don't find a concrete answer to my question and i get different answers from other sites so i do not know which way to go. one site said to soak in ash, let dry, then tis & dye. another sire says to soak and apply to wet shirts, so i'm not sure which way to go. i made my first tie dye shirts this weekend, and was to it was very important to wash in HOT water and rinse in cold. but after much searching, it appears the shirts should be washed in cold? maybe the reason my shirts look faded and NOT vibrant colors as i have seen friends made. i soaked the shirts in ash for 15 min, squeezed out, tied with rubber bands & applied dyes, so maybe i'm not doing something in the correct order. any input would be appreciated. thank you. LLG
There are different ways you can use the soda ash. All that really matters is that you somehow combine fiber reactive dye (NOT all-purpose dye!) with soda ash and cellulose fiber (that is, cotton, rayon, linen, etc. NOT polyester!) at a warm enough temperature. Washing out wrong does not turn tie-dyes pale. The order you did things in sounds just fine. So what could have gone wrong? One of the following....
If your dyes + fabric + soda ash combination was not warm enough (over seventy degrees F. or 21 Celsius), then the reaction will not work very well. If it is cool outside and I'm dyeing outside, I wrap each item in plastic wrap so I can put it in a warm place overnight, before washing.
At 70 degrees F (21 C), allow the dye to remain on the shirts for 24 hours before you rinse them out. Warmer temperatures do not require as much time.
If your shirts are 50% polyester, you will get much paler colors than if they are 100% cotton, because polyester does not dye at all, period, with any ordinary sort of dye. Were your shirts 100% cotton?
This can go on the shirts in different ways. Since you are just starting out, I would advise you to do it the standard tie-dye method, which is exactly what you did. Presoak in soda ash, squeeze out, rubber band and dye - that should work fine. HOWEVER, if you accidentally grabbed the bag of urea and used that when you thought you were mixing soda ash, so that you actually did not use soda ash at all, your colors will wash out. Don't laugh - I know that some very intelligent people have done this! (Urea is commonly mixed in with the dye in tie-dyeing, just to help it stay moist longer on the fabric, so most people have it around when they tie-dye.)
You did not use all-purpose dye, such as Rit brand dye, did you? You can't use all-purpose dye with the room temperature recipe. You must use fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX in order to use any room temperature method, such as the usual squirt bottle technique for tie-dyeing. Pre-packaged "Tie-Dye Kits" are usually just fine. Jacquard tie-dye kits use good Procion MX dye, as do Rainbow Rock tie-dye kits. You can order a tie-dye kit containing Procion MX dye from most of the companies listed on my page of Sources for Dyeing Supplies.
If you did all of the above correctly, then there is nothing you can do wrong in washing (except for using bleach!) that can make your colors too pale. The point of washing out properly is just to get all of the excess dye out; it has no effect on good fiber reactive dye that has already bonded properly to the fabric. Even if you did everything wrong in washing out, this is not the cause of your problem! Unless you did the washing too soon after applying the dye, that is.
The thing is that there is always excess, unattached dye, so we want to get rid of it. We don't want it coming off of the fabric onto our skin, the furniture, or other laundry. The best way to accomplish this is to wash first in cold water, just to get rid of the soda ash and any other auxiliary chemicals, then wash as many times as it takes, in hot or warm water. Hot water works more efficiently, so it'll take fewer washings if you use hot water. Warm water is kinder to delicate rayons, or sometimes you might even dye something so delicate you can only use cool water, so then you just have to wash a number of times and then be sure to wash separately from other colors when you do your laundry. Properly washed-out tie-dyes are safe to launder with even white clothes in hot water, though.
I'm guessing that either you made the urea-instead-of-soda ash mixing mistake, or you used all-purpose dye, or your temperatures after applying the dye were too low, or you did not leave the dyed items alone with the dye long enough before washing out. Or maybe you used partly-synthetic shirts. Do any of these seem likely to you?
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
how to get a single solid color when dyeing garments
Message: I have tried to dye my clothes a few times in huge pot on the oven and every time I got the same result: mix of shades instead of even colour. Now I want to dye new 100% cotton beige dress with printed rosy flowers to red dark colour and I do not know how to die so I get evenly coloured thing. These rosy flowers are darker than the "background". When I dye the dress will I get dark red dress with darker flowers? It does not matter as much as having "the background" evenly coloured, not unwatchable mix of bright and deep shades. To achieve it should I dye it in washing machine or rather in bath tube? Should I agittate it while dying? Please, help me.
Since dye is transparent, your flowers will always end up a little darker than the background, no matter what dye you use.
The washing machine will be much easier to use than the bathtub, at least if you get the right type of dye. (Do not use all-purpose dye!)
When your clothes come out mottled, instead of a single solid shade, the major causes are not using enough water in the dyebath, and not agitating enough. When you want a single solid shade in your results, you should use at least 10 liters (2.5 gallons) for every pound of fabric, and you should stir almost constantly. ProChem provides an excellent set of instructions for immersion dyeing in a bucket.
These instructions are for the use of Procion MX dye, or similar fiber reactive dyes such as Cibacron F or Drimarene K. These dyes can be used at room temperature, as long as that is 70 degrees or above (21 C). It is much easier to find a bucket that is large enough, than it is to find a cooking pot that is large enough. Also, enormous cooking pots are extremely expensive, unless they are made of aluminum, which is not suitable for dyeing. Five-gallon plastic buckets are inexpensive and readily available, since they are commonly used by restaurants and other businesses.
You realize, I hope, that you should never again use a cooking pot for food, after using it to dye in. There is no textile dye that is safe for human consumption. The sole exception is food coloring, which can be used to dye wool, but will not dye cotton.
It is important to choose the right type of dye for your fiber. All-purpose dyes require hot water to do a good job of dyeing. This hot water is likely to cause shrinkage when you are dyeing whole garments, and, for best results, it requires the use of cooking pots larger than most people possess. You will get far better results, with far less trouble, if you use a cool water fiber reactive dye. In European countries, cool water fiber reactive dye is often readily available under the brand names Dylon Cold Water Dye and Dylon Machine Dye. In the US, most stores carry only all-purpose dye. Instead of buying all-purpose dye, you should mail-order some fiber reactive dye. Good brands of fiber reactive dye include Procion MX (also sold under the names Pro MX Reactive Dyes, Dharma Fiber Reactive Dyes, and Procion MX dyes), Cibacron F (also called Sabracron F), and Drimarene K dyes.
Dyeing in the washing machine is the easiest way to produce solid colors. I think that this would be the best thing for you to do. You can see links to different sets of instructions for washing machine dyeing with Procion MX fiber reactive dye under "How can I dye clothing or fabric in the washing machine?".
Another very important factor is preparation of your fabric. You must be able to prewash the garment to remove all dirt, sizing, and anything else that might block the dye from reaching the fiber. Permanent-press and stain-resistant finishes make it impossible to dye evenly, but they can be removed only with hazardous chemicals such as muriatic acid, not a procedure I can recommend for you. Occasionally, different parts of a commercial garment will dye darker or lighter than other parts; there is nothing much that can be done to prevent this, except for buying PFD ("prepared for dyeing") garments, or dyeing fabric from a single bolt of fabric and using that to sew an entire garment.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
dyeing a tent
Message: hi, I have a yellow silicon coated nylon tent (the outer). I want to change the colour to a more natural colour. I have experimented with small test samples and the nylon material accepts the dye. I have no problems there, the nylon appears not to be damaged at all. I used the DYLON UNIVERSAL COLOUR DYE. This dye requires that I use a water temperature just below simmering, I took the water temperature to 90 to 95 degrees centigrade. What I can not see, if the silicon coating is damaged. Can you tell me if the silicon coating is damaged by dyeing and by the high temperatures. If there are other options for doing this, I would like to know. regards.... Johnny
My main concern with a silicon coating would be whether it prevents the dye from reaching the nylon, causing uneven dyeing. The silicon coating is intended to repel rainwater, after all. It is probably impossible to get a smooth single color with dye, as long as the silicon coating is intact. On the other hand, since your goal is to make the tent look more natural, perhaps a mottled effect would be preferable.
I would expect it to be necessary to reapply the silicon coating after dyeing the tent, in any case. In the US, the best product to use for waterproofing tents is "TX Direct Spray-On," made by Nikwax. (Their "Tent & Gear Proof" is for non-breathable tents.) I learned this by calling my tent's manufacturer, after spending a very wet night on a backpacking trip, only to find that even the manufacturer-applied coatings are not expected to last more than ten years anyway. I mail-ordered my Nikwax from REI, but a quick google search shows that there are many sources for Nikwax in Europe, as well.
Monday, April 11, 2005
HOW CAN WE IMPROVE WASH FASTNESS OF REACTIVE DYED YARN?
Message: HOW CAN WE IMPROVE WASH FASTNESS OF REACTIVE DYED YARN?
The most important thing to do is get the chemical reaction right. Fiber reactive dyes are extremely washfast, compared to most dyes, because they form a permanent chemical bind to the fiber.
First, you must have the right kind of fiber for the reactive dyes to reactive with. Forget about synthetics such as acrylic, acetate, or polyester. They do not react with fiber reactive dye. They do not have the right chemistry. In contrast, cotton, linen, and rayon yarns react very well with the fiber reactive dyes that are designed for cellulose, such as Procion MX, Cibacron F, or Drimarene K dyes. Wool, and other animal fibers such as angora and mohair, as well as nylon, react well with the reactives found in the Lanaset range of dyes. (The Lanaset dyes include both reactive and 1:2 premetalized acid dyes.) Silk, which is uniquely dyeable, works well with both.
Next, you must have the right pH for the reaction. The cellulose fiber reactive dyes prefer a high pH, around 10.5 to 11. Soda ash, also known by its chemical name, sodium carbonate, as well as the old name washing soda, is ideal for reaching this pH range. Try pH paper in your dyebath, before actually adding the dye, or in a mock dye reaction from which you have omitted the dye but used exactly your usual quantities of other items, to make sure that your pH is appropriate. The Lanaset fiber reactives used on wool, in contrast, require an acidic, low pH, as is usual for wool dyes. Cotton cannot be dyed at a low pH, but wool disintegrates at a high pH! In addition, Procion MX, Cibacron F, and Drimarene K dyes can also be used on animal fibers, such as wool, at a low pH.
Third, you must have a high enough reaction temperature. Some fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion H (not the same at all as Procion MX!), must be steamed for the reaction with the fiber to take place. Procion MX, Cibacron F, or Drimarene K require a temperature range which is called "cold" by the textile industry, but is not at all cold to anyone outside of that industry. The minimum temperature for dye reactions that will be left to react for twenty-four hours is 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C), but higher temperatures may lead to better dye yields, and take less time. I prefer temperatures of 85 to 95 degrees F. (30 to 35 degrees C.), myself.
Fourth of course is the reaction time, which must be chosen to work well with the reaction temperature. Lower temperatures, near the minimum, require much more time than higher temperatures.
Then there are factors which are not truly involved in the washfastness of the reacted dye, but which have an effect on the brightness of the results. The yarn or fabric must be free of any coatings which will prevent the dye from reaching the cellulose (or protein) molecules, such as permanent press or stain-resistant finishes. For less permanent finishes, such as sizing, the fiber must be scoured before use. Prewashing is sufficient for PFD items (marketed as being "Prepared For Dyeing"), but other fiber may have to be boiled with soda ash and detergent before dyeing. See the instructions for pre-scouring on Pro Chemical & Dye's website.
Fiber that has been treated with starch before sale can be extraordinarily difficult to get clean of starch. Starch dyes well with reactive dyes, but then gradually bleeds out in the laundry. Even boiling does not always remove the starch. To determine whether your fiber is contaminated with starch, put a drop of iodine on it. If it turns blue, you know that this is your problem. Try to find a source which does not sell you goods with starch in them.
If you like to heat set your reactions - many people find it convenient to microwave their Procion MX reactions for speed and brightness, and of course steaming is the original form of heat-setting - you may find better results with the use of Ludigol, which helps prevent the reduction of dyes at high temperatures. It is not needed at room temperature, however.
After you have dyed your yarn with careful attention to ALL of the above factors, you will find yourself with excess unattached dye that must be removed. If you do your first rinsing in hot water, you may find that this dye becomes a little more firmly associated with the fiber, and reluctant to leave, so that it comes out gradually over many washings. This is very undesirable. You need to remove all of the unreacted dye. To do so, make sure that your first rinsing is in cool water, 90 degrees F. (32 C) or below. Then, all following washings should be as hot as the fiber will allow. Often two complete wash cycles in hot water is sufficient. In order to determine whether your washing has been sufficient, press the dyed yarn between two white cotton cloths with a hot iron. If any dye transfers to the white cloth, there is more unattached dye that must be washed out. A shortcut is to soak the dyed fiber in hot water for a while before washing again. The hotter the water is, the more effectively it will remove dye. For home use, increasing the temperature of the water heater may help. Washing machines that can heat the water to a much higher temperature are very convenient at this stage, but they are difficult to get and very expensive in North America, though they are readily available in Europe.
If you are unable to do as much washing out of unattached dye as is needed, such as in the case of being located in the desert or while experiencing a drought, you can substitute an ionic dye fixative for some of the washing. This is a commercial product that essentially glues the excess unattached dye inside the fiber, and is added only after all dyeing steps have been completed. This dye fixative is essential for use in dyeing with direct dyes, which are not very washfast, but can also be used, instead of proper technique, by those using fiber reactive dye. The form most commonly available at retail is called by the brand name Retayne, which many dye retailers sell; there are also other brands available. Ask your dye supplier about this.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
where can I buy Glauber's salt?
Message: I need to buy some glauber salts. Can you provide me with an address for this product? I can't find a place that sells it.
Glauber's salt is the chemical sodium sulfate decahydrate, sometimes used instead of sodium chloride in immersion dyeing, especially with wool and nylon. It is valuable for leveling with acid dyes, and is sometimes used with fiber reactive dyes to produce more intense dyeing with the phthalocyanine dye Procion Turquoise MX-G.
Glauber's salt is widely available from almost any company that specializes in supplying dyes at retail, such as PRO Chemical & Dye, Dharma Trading Company, etc. For contact information for these and other companies from which to buy Glauber's salt, look at my page of Sources for Dyeing Supplies Around the World.
[Updated December 6, 2007]
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Saturday, April 09, 2005
chart of pure versus premixed MX color names
Name: Amira Khedher
Message: I was not able to print off your procion MX types with MX codes and the colour chart that was running alongside the codes. Could you please send a chart to my address as I am a fashion and textiles in my first year at Ashford Art College and this information would be very useful for my assignments. Any information you could send to me would be useful. Many thanks for your time. PS. I did not know about your website, but it is a fantastic help and such a good idea.
Here is a link to a snapshot of the page in PDF format. The page needs some minor updates, as it was last updated in January 2004. I hope that you will have no difficulty in printing it. (If you do not already have a copy of Adobe Reader, you can download it free of charge.)
The color swatches next to the chart are not present in the PDF, but, like those of all web pages, their colors are are only crude representations, anyway. It would be best to get properly printed color charts from any of the companies that sell this dye.
Friday, April 08, 2005
I really need to know how to dye a white dress I purchased for a costume
Name: Kate Whitaker
Message: Hi I really need to know how to dye a white dress I purchased for a costume. The dress is of towelish material..like dresses that go over swimsuits..but all the sites I find on the internet are how to tie dye not just dye like a plain color and Im confused on what I should do. Please help the dance is on sunday and Im going to be the Blue Powerpuff girl. thanks a bunch!!
(Your email bounced....I guess you mistyped it into the form.)
What fiber is the dress made of? There is a big difference between dyeing cotton terrycloth and dyeing synthetic terrycloth. Dyes that will work on one will not work on the other. Cotton is easy to dye, but polyester and acetate are quite difficult and require specialized dye and other chemicals. I will assume that you have a cotton or rayon dress, because anything else is pretty much hopeless for you to do. Nylon can often be dyed with acid dye, depending on whether or not there is any surface treatment that resists the dye; all-purpose dye contains acid dye, so you can use it on nylon.
Your dress will probably shrink if you dye it in hot water, so using a hot water dye, such as Rit brand all-purpose dye, is not a very good idea. All-purpose dye also bleeds in the laundry for the life of the garment, but that doesn't matter much if you plan to wear it only once, or if you are willing to wash it separately from all of your other laundry.
If you have access to a good art supply store or crafts store that sells it, cool water fiber reactive dye would definitely be the best type of dye to use, because fixing the dye in cool water will not shrink your dress. (In dyeing, "cool" is defined as being between 70 and 100 degrees F. or 21 to 38 degrees C; do not dye with icy cold water!)
The best way to buy fiber reactive dye is by mail-ordering from one of the many companies listed on my Sources for Dyeing Supplies page. Unfortunately, you don't have enough time to mail-order even by express mail, so you'll have to see what you can find in local shops. Different brands of fiber reactive dye that might be available in stores are as follows:
Be sure to check your local sewing stores, crafts stores, art supply stores, and quilting supply stores. Call around and ask them if they sell Jacquard Procion dye, or Dylon Cold water dye, or Rainbow Rock dye. If you are in Canada or the UK, you should be able to find Dylon Cold Water Dye or Dylon Washing Machine Dye, but it is more difficult in the US. Any fiber reactive dye is easy to use in a large bucket or a washing machine. Use soda ash (also known as sodium carbonate, or washing soda, or dye fixative) to fix fiber-reactive dye. Solid color dyeing is simpler than tie-dyeing, though it requires a lot more stirring. See, for example, Dharma Trading Company's recipe for bucket dyeing. The easiest way to use fiber reactive dye to in solid-color dyeing is in the washing machine.
If none of your local stores sell fiber reactive dye, then you are stuck using all-purpose dye, which is really quite unsuitable for dyeing ready-made garments that will be worn repeatedly, but is easy to find even in grocery stores and pharmacies. All-purpose dye requires a great deal of heat to make a long-lasting attachment to the fiber. Ideally, you should dissolve the all-purpose dye and salt in a large pot of water (which you must never use for cooking again, as all-purpose dye, like most dyes, is not safe for human consumption); add the dress and slowly bring the temperature of the water to a simmer (190 degrees F. or 88 C.), using a thermometer so you are not surprised by a boil-over. Then continue to simmer the fabric in this dye bath for half an hour or longer. For pale shades, you can use less time, or less dye, or both; dyeing in the washing machine is the easiest way to apply the dye, though less effective than hotter water.
If you are concerned about shrinking your dress, you will have to use your all-purpose dye in hot tap water. This is definitely for costume use only, as hot tap water is simply not hot enough to allow all-purpose dye to do a good job. It may work well enough for one-time use as a costume, however. Expect the dye to mostly wash out in the laundry.
I would like to urge you to plan ahead next time, so that you will have time to buy good fiber-reactive dye, and can avoid using inferior types of dye. Be sure that any garment you choose to dye is washable, and 100% cotton, linen, or rayon, and is free of any permanent press or anti-stain finishes, as these will interfere with dyeing. The best dresses to dye are those that are labeled as PFD (prepared for dyeing); an excellent source for these in the US is Dharma Trading Company.
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[Updated June 8, 2008.]
Thursday, April 07, 2005
How can I tie-dye Zebra stripes?
Message: I want to tie dye t-shirts with "zebra type" stripes. How can I fold the fabric to do that? We're doing an African theme camp and I want shirts that look like animal prints!
Thanks for your help!
I dyed a very nice tiger striped outfit for my baby once (years ago). I accordion-pleated the waist, several horizontal pleats to lengthen the design vertically, before folding and tying it in a standard sort of spiral (centered on the gathered pleats), dyed it in orange and yellow, then soaked one side in a shallow pan of black dye. The stripes came out surprisingly naturalistic. All you'd have to do differently for Zebra stripes is omit the color. This is related to the 'stained glass' spiral, in which a shirt is tied in a spiral and dyed in bright colors before briefly laying it in a shallow pan of black.
Michael Fowler of Tied-dyed.com has an illustration (free of charge) of how to tie a spiral fold, and a downloadable movie (for $2) showing how to do an "Indian Spiral," his term for a combination of spiral and accordion.
Be sure to use fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion MX dye, not all purpose dyes! Use soda ash to fix the dyes. To find a good source for your dye, if you don't already have one, see my list of different companies that mail-order fiber reactive dye.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
dyeing baby clothes
Message: My girlfriend offered me a deal to split a lot of white cotton onesies
which I would love to tie dye them and offer matching booties and hats. I would love advice. I would prefer to offer these outfits at farmers market where I think the concern may be the toxicity of the dyes used. Can you offer any suggestions? Is there a dye person that you could recommend? If the price is right, I would be interested because it would save me a great deal of time.
As long as you use fiber-reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye, and not all-purpose or direct dye, and use soda ash to fix the dye, and as long as you properly wash out your dyed garments, after dyeing, to remove all excess unattached dye, your products will be at least as safe as those which are commercially marketed for babies.
Most commercially-available baby clothes are dyed with direct dye (one of the components of all-purpose dye). This seems likely to be a somewhat less safe dye than fiber reactive dye, since it tends to bleed out of the garment at least during laundering, and might possibly leach onto the skin during wear, though finishes are now applied to lock in the dye, making it less likely to bleed in the laundry (or onto skin). However, there is no known evidence that there is any hazard involved in wearing clothing dyed with direct dye! The medical citations I have found concerning reactions to dyes in clothing have all involved dyes used for polyester or acrylic, not for cotton.
There is no dye for cotton that is safer to wear than fiber reactive dye because it forms a permanent covalent bond with the fiber, and does not come off, assuming that all unattached dye has been properly washed out. (See the entry for April 3, 2005.) Food coloring is an even safer dye, safe enough even to eat, but it works on wool, NOT on cotton. Do not attempt to dye cotton with food coloring! If you want to dye with food coloring, buy wool and dye that.
Is there a dye person I can recommend? There are quite a few who have listed themselves in the Custom Dyers' Listing on my site; you should browse through there. However, the profit margin on items such as these, once you take into account money lost from dye failures, unsold items, blank garments which disintegrate in the wash, and so forth, might not be enough to give both you and the dyer any profit. Perhaps you should investigate the use of low water immersion dyeing, which is faster and easier than tie-dyeing, and often gives more attractive results, as well.
Updated September 7, 2008
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Is it possible to dye a dress that is Satin (I think a polyester) with organza overlay?
I am trying to find out if it is possible to dye a dress that is Satin (I think a polyester) with organza overlay? Is this possible and if so how would I do it?
Is the dress washable? If not, it can't be dyed, no matter what its fabric content. The different layers may shrink differentially, resulting in a total loss of shape.
The solid color dyeing of polyester is not a job for the dye novice. You'll have to invest in a large (and therefore expensive) cooking pot, which must never be used for food again after it has been used for dye. This is true both for polyester dye and for all-purpose dyes. Aluminum pots are not suitable for dyeing; you must obtain a several-gallon pot (ten liters or more) that is either stainless steel (expensive!) or enamel (which chips easily). Then, you'll have to get 'disperse dye', as no other type of dye will work on polyester. Since you are in New Zealand, the closest source would probably be by mail-order from Batik Oetoro in Australia; the brand of disperse dyes that they sell is called Polysol. You must also use a noxious carrier chemical, to make it possible for the polyester to take up the dye at only boiling temperature, instead of a much higher temperature.
Dyeing is a very easy and rewarding hobby only if you buy washable materials that are made of cotton, linen, rayon, silk, nylon, or wool, and then use the correct type of dye for the fiber you choose. Polyester garment dyeing is much more difficult and unpleasant. However, making your own iron-on transfer designs for polyester is a fun project.
See "Dyeing Polyester with Disperse Dyes".
Monday, April 04, 2005
I would like to know how to dye braided nylon rope
Message: I would like to know how to dye braided nylon rope. I want to use a black or (hot)pink color. Can I use a Rit dye from the store and boil the mix and put the rope in to soak? I am not able to find a good source for colored braided nylon rope so I thought I would try to color it myself. I noticed you cover a lot of other nylon fabrics but no mention of rope on your site that I could find. Your advice is very important. Thank you, Jack
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Yes, you can use all-purpose dye, such as Rit brand dye, to dye nylon rope. One caution, however: are you using this rope for climbing purposes? Some aspect of the home dyeing process, such as its heat, might reduce the strength of the rope (I'm only guessing here), which could be a very serious matter for rock-climbing robe.
Heat and acid (vinegar) are required for nylon to dye as well as possible when using acid dye, which, for nylon, is the active component in the all-purpose dye mixture. A recipe for immersion dyeing dyeing nylon, which you should closely examine, provided by PRO Chemical & Dye for use with their products, suggests heating the dye bath to 205 degrees F (96 C). Note that if you were to use all-purpose dye with this recipe, you would need a much larger volume of dye to be added, since all-purpose dye includes other ingredients besides acid dye. If you have the few days necessary to wait for some mail-order dye to arrive in the mail, it would make sense to buy some of ProChem's Washfast Acid Dye or Kiton Acid Dye, instead of using all-purpose dye. They also have an excellent technical department which you can consult if you want truly authoritative answers to your questions.
Some novice dyers have boiled all-purpose dye in water and then let it cool before adding the item to be dyed. Note that using a cool dyebath on nylon is ineffective; you must actually heat the item to be dyed, in the hot dyebath, when using acid dye or all-purpose dye. In some cases you can compromise by heating the material to a lower temperature, for example 185 degrees F. (85 C.), in order to avoid damage to fiber, as, for example, in the case of silk dyeing.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Is clothing dyed with Procion MX dye safe to wear?
Message: I'm a little concerned about using Procion dyes. My friend invited me to do some fabric dyeing. She is the one who mixes the dye from powder form. My concern is that I'm worried about the toxicity of the whole process. I have read that Procion dyes are only toxic in powder form and that one should always wear a mask and gloves to protect oneself. But I'm a little confused about once the dyeing process is complete. After the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 10th wash and beyond, is my dyed fabric or dyed clothing still toxic? Do I have any reason to be concerned and paranoid? Please help me feel confident again about dyeing. Also, do you know of any completely non-toxic fabric dyes on the market? I've heard of Deka dyes. Thank you for your time and expertise.
Procion MX dyes, like other fiber reactive dyes, form a permanent covalent bond with the cellulose fiber (cotton, rayon, linen, etc.). This is an extremely strong sort of molecular bond. Once the dye has properly reacted with your fabric, it is not going anywhere. Chlorine bleach will break it (and most other organic molecules) into pieces, thus changing its color, but will not detach it.
This means that fiber reactive dyes such as Procion MX are among the safest of all dyes, once they have been properly applied to fabric. Even people who are chemically sensitive report that clothing dyed with Procion MX dye is non-irritating. There is no permanent dye for use on cotton material that is safer to wear. Procion MX dye in powder form tends to produce allergic reactions in some of the people who unwisely breathe it repeatedly, which is why it is important to avoid breathing dye powder. There may also be a risk of toxicity if the dye is consumed internally; note that this is also true of many art products that are labeled as being 'non-toxic'. No dye should ever be consumed internally, by eating it or breathing it, except for certified food dye, which is safe to eat, but not safe to breathe.
Wool material can be dyed with food coloring, such as with Kool-aid drink mix or Jello brand gelatin desert mix; of course, food coloring is the safest of all dyes, since it is safe to eat. You cannot dye cellulose materials, such as cotton, rayon, or linen, with food dyes, however. Only animal fibers such as wool will attach to acid dyes such as those used to color food.
Deka dyes are certainly not safer than Procion dyes. Deka dyes include an all-purpose type of dye called Deka L Hot Water Dye (this dye is available in Europe and New Zealand, but cannot be purchased in the US, at the present time). All-purpose dye is certainly not safer than fiber reactive dye, and there is some small reason to suspect that it could be less safe. The dye found in all-purpose dye gradually continues to wash out of the fabric for the life of the garment, bleeding onto other garments in the laundry; one imagines that it might even bleed onto the skin in tiny quantities, under hot and humid conditions, thus exposing the wearer to larger doses of the dye. This is probably quite harmless; in fact, I have found no evidence anywhere in the medical literature of reactions to clothing dyed with direct dye, only to clothing dyed with disperse or basic dyes, which are used for polyester or acrylic. However, it seems clear that a type of dye which is more permanently bound to the fiber might be even safer.
When fiber is dyed with Procion MX dye, some of the dye reacts with the fiber, while some remains only loosely associated with it. In order to remove every trace of the unreacted dye, you should wash the fabric first in cold or lukewarm water, once, to remove the auxiliary chemicals such as salt and soda ash, since these can encourage the weaker association of unreacted dye with fiber. Then you should wash the dyed material in hot water, with either Synthrapol or ordinary detergent. Hot water is most efficient at removing excess unreacted dye. It may require more than one washing with hot water to remove all of the excess unattached dye. If you want to be quite sure that every last vestige of unreacted dye has been washed out (this is quite important in quilt making), use a hot iron to press the damp dyed fabric against some white cotton fabric; if dye transfers to the white, then you should wash again, but if no dye transfers, you have completed the removal of unattached dye.
Incidentally, once you have followed the above procedure, you may safely wash the clothing at any temperature with any color of clothing, even whites, without fear that the Procion MX dye will transfer onto any of the other clothing in the wash. If all of your clothing is dyed with Procion MX dyes, you need never bother to sort your regular laundry by color again.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
8th grade science fair project on the effect of pH in dyeing with Procion MX dyes
Name: Michelle Jaconette
Message: Dear Dr. Burch:
My name is Michelle Jaconette and I just won a school prize for my 8th grade science project entitled “pH: It’s to DYE for!”, and I get to move on to my local County Science Fair. I need to fine tune my project and I am hoping you can answer a question or two for me.
My project involved changing the pH of six different colors of fiber reactive dye solutions from pH 5 to 13 to determine the best pH for dyeing cotton fabric. My results showed (beautifully) that pH 12 works the best. What I need to know is if changing the pH of the dye solution affected only the chemical structure of the cellulose, or does changing the pH somehow affect the chemical structure of the dye.
Also I would like to know why pH 12 produced for me the best color intensity as opposed to my pH 13 solution (in truth my pH paper went only up to 12, but I added so much more sodium carbonate to my pH 12 source that I assumed it was at least pH 13). Does the extra-high pH of 13 somehow degrade the cellulose fabric?
I have read in depth your website and have found lots of pertinent and interesting information. I would appreciate immensely any further information you could offer. Thank you so much for your time and consideration of my email. If you would prefer to answer me by telephone please let me know and we can set up an appointment for a phone call.
I used Procion dyes from the Grateful Dyes Co. located in Colorado. The colors I used are Fuchsia, Turquoise and Yellow. I dyed 100% cotton fabric that was not pre-soaked in any solution.
Congratulations on winning your school competition!
My son, who is in seventh grade, did a very similar experiment for science fair this year, dyeing cotton in a 4% solution of red MX-5B at various pHs, at 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25 C), for eighteen hours. The results were a little surprising to me, because I expected a pH of 8 to have quite poor results. His three swatches dyed at pHs of 2.5, 4, and 7 were all alike, a pale pink, as expected, but the one at a pH of 8 was only a little less bright than the best one. His pH 9 was almost identical to pH 10, which was the best pH he tried. The one with a pH of 12 was pretty intense, but a little spotty, and the one with a pH of 13 was of a medium intensity.
Our pH paper did go up to 14 (he used the pHydrion paper sold by Dharma Trading company). It is not correct to assume that a larger concentration of sodium carbonate will result in a significantly higher pH. The maximum pH that sodium carbonate will produce is likely to be around twelve. The Merck Index ("An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals") gives its pH as 11.6, but Doug Wilson on the DyersLIST mailing list posted in 2003 that, while a one gram per liter solution of sodium carbonate has a pH of 11.1, and a 40 gram per liter solution has a pH of around 11.9, 100 grams per liter produces a pH of about 12.2. So, your "pH 13" dyebath was probably actually closer to a pH of 12. For his pH 13 dyebath, my son used trisodium phosphate (TSP), a powder sold in hardware stores for use as a caustic cleaner. (Please be aware that this substance is more hazardous to use than sodium carbonate.) I think he may have combined TSP with sodium carbonate for his pH 12 dyebath.
On mercerized cotton, the optimal reaction pHs of MX fiber reactive dyes that I have found in the scientific literature range from 10.2 to 11.1, depending on which individual dye you are considering. Rayon likes a higher pH, from 0.5 to 1.0 pH units higher (i.e., from three to ten times as basic). There's a optimum pH chart for several different MX dyes on the page on pH in the FAQ section of my web site. Unfortunately, red MX-8B, yellow MX-8G, and turquoise MX-G are not represented on this table, because I have not found this information anywhere. Dye retailers recommend a pH of 10.5 for all MX dyes, regardless of their individual properties, although the optimal pHs for the different color molecules varies a little, as you can see in my chart, whose data came from Ivanov's 'Reactive Dyes in Biology'.
Why does a pH that is higher than the optimum produce a poorer performance? One possible reason for the increased 'spottiness' my son saw at a pH of 12, as compared to a pH of 10, is that perhaps the dye reacted too quickly with the fiber, instead of diffusing along the fiber and spreading out a bit before reacting. (I also believe that I read somewhere that the substantivity of the dye is altered as the pH increases, but I am failing in my efforts to track this down anywhere; without better references, it would be best to skip this issue.) Perhaps the greatest effect of excessive pH on the dye reaction would be in the greater tendency of the dye to react directly with the high-pH water, before it can even reach the fiber. MX dyes do react with water, but the dye solution "goes bad" far more quickly once even the usual amount of sodium carbonate is added; it seems that the addition of an excessive amount of -OH- ions might easily increase this effect.
It is unlikely that the higher pH degrades the cellulose fiber. The mercerization process, which makes cotton dye more brightly and gives it a little sheen, involves the use of a 25% solution of sodium hydroxide, which is greater than pH 13.
Another question to consider is how much dye solution you added to your dyebaths - or did you add dye powder directly after measuring the pH of your dyebaths? If you used a dye concentrate, as my son did, of course the added volume of the liquid will reduce the pH slightly. Unfortunately, we have no idea how much of an effect the dye itself may have on the total pH, since it is impossible to use pH paper once the dye has been added.
Your dye source, Colorado Wholesale Dyes a.k.a. Grateful Dyes, prides itself on using no salts to dilute their dyes. Dye powders must be diluted in order to provide a consistent concentration of dye strength per gram of dye powder; Tamol, the product used instead of salts to dilute dye, is a lighter and fluffier powder than sodium sulfate, which is sometimes used by other dye sellers. Sodium sulfate can increase the color intensity of turquoise, and so could possibly confuse matters slightly. It's just as well that you know that you are not using it.
What I need to know is if changing the pH of the dye solution affected only the chemical structure of the cellulose, or does changing the pH somehow affect the chemical structure of the dye.
We raise the pH of the dyebath in order to ionize the cellulose, that is, to encourage an H to come off of an -OH group on the cellulose, so that the dye can then react with that negatively-charged oxygen atom (losing a chlorine atom in the process). We do not intend to alter the dye chemical itself. However, there is no reason to suppose that a very high pH cannot affect the dye molecule itself, possibly harming it. In fact, I have often noticed that pouring a strong solution of sodium carbonate directly onto dyed material, in low water immersion dyeing, will temporarily cause a color shift in the dye on which it is poured. As the carbonate solution gets mixed in, the color seems to return to its previous value. What this really means, I do not know. Many colored materials exhibit some color shift with pH, the best of these being very useful for use as pH indicators. More likely to be important is the simple fact that dye will react with water and "go bad", that is, lose its ability to react with cellulose; this process occurs much more rapidly under basic conditions than at a neutral pH. It is reasonable to suppose that a very high pH will have this effect much more quickly still.
The way in which the dye reaction takes place is that a nucleophile, either a cellulosate anion or a hydroxide ion, attacks the carbon to which one of the chlorine atoms in the dichlorotriazine dye (MX dye) is attached. If the nucleophile is the cellulose fiber, the result is a covalent bond between the dye and the fiber; if it is a hydroxide ion, the result is hydrolyzed, nonreactive dye. (Taken from p. 194 of the book Cellulosics Dyeing, edited by John Shore, published in 1995 by the Society of Dyers and Colourists.)
I think that you should use the generic names of your dyes in your science fair presentation, explaining under your Materials section where you got them from. The MX codes and generic names for the fuchsia, turquoise and yellow dyes you used are as follows:
Procion red MX-8B
Colour Index reactive red #11
Procion turquoise MX-G
Colour Index reactive blue #140
Procion yellow MX-8G
Colour Index yellow #86
Friday, April 01, 2005
dyeing silk to match cotton
Message: I am becoming very familiar with procion mx; and growing fond of tie dyes and crystal wash. my brother has asked for a shirt for work (dress shirt) and said he would need me to pick out a tie to match. I would like to CW a shirt (already bought, 100% cotton white-what I am used to) and do a tie in a solid color i used to cw, to match. dharma only has silk ties, and they say don't wash. how would i rinse my pro mx out? if i have to use silk dye, how can I find a color that would match/compliment a pro mx dye? this could start me on a new silk adventure, but its important these match. I have done several silk/velvet scarves with pro mx, i know the back (silk side) dyes different, should I use one of these to get an idea of how the color will come out?thank you so much, your website has been an invaluablt resource. What an act of love it is.
Dharma used to sell washable ties, I believe, but it looks as though their current batch will lose their shape if washed or even allowed to get very wet. It's a problem with the interfacing and possibly the stitching. Perhaps some of the materials will shrink while others do not, ruining the shape of this particular batch of silk ties. Better not try dyeing these ties.
One option would be to use silk paints, matching by eye, but I think a better option would be to make a tie from fabric that you have dyed. I have not done this myself, but my mother once made a tie for my husband out of 100% silk in a satin weave. Avoid polyester like the plague, as it is very difficult to dye. Dharma is one of the possible places to buy silk yardage, but your local fabric store may very well have it. It should also have patterns for ties, or check the web page "Make-Your-Own-Tie Patterns". Ties can be made from non-shiny fabrics such as cotton knit, as well, of course. In any case, you will need to buy the appropriate interfacing material at your local fabric store.
Silk, even silk satin, can be dyed exactly as you dye cotton, using the usual soda ash recipe. It will be softer and less shiny as a result. Or, instead, you can use an acid dye recipe to dye silk with the same MX dyes you use, but with heat added, and with vinegar instead of soda ash, as, for example, in Dharma's recipe for "Tie-Dyeing Silk in a Microwave". Vinegar does not soften and reduce the shine of silk the way that soda ash does, and silk is versatile enough to be dyed either way. (Do not attempt to use the acid dye recipe on cotton; cotton requires a high pH.) If shininess is not a major issue, just dye the silk as you always dye your cotton.
All pure, unmixed MX dye colors will dye the exact same color on silk as on cotton, but mixtures will come out quite differently on the two fabrics, because the different dye colors may dye more or less brightly on cotton, causing mixtures to shift. This is why you have been getting different colors on the rayon nap than the silk backing of your silk velvet scarves. To make sure that your silk and cotton come out matching, dye them in separate containers (or baggies) using the same pure single-color Procion MX type dyes. Avoid the use of pre-mixed colors as it is quite difficult to predict what color will appear when you sue them to dye silk. To determine which of the specific dyes you are using are pure unmixed colors, and which are mixtures, see my table of "Which Procion MX colors are pure, and which mixtures?", which lists actual catalog names and numbers of pure dyes as sold by Dharma, Prochem, and other dye retailers in the US and Europe. I have had great success in low water immersion dyeing a silk purse and a rayon dress to match in this way. (Rayon tends to dye very much like cotton, since both rayon and cotton are made of cellulose.)