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There are so many different types of fabrics and dyes out there, that it can be difficult to choose the correct one for you. A little research is warranted and that is just what we have done for you, so read on and find out what you need to look out for.
Table of Contents
- 1 Selecting your best Dye for Clothes
- 2 Types of Fabric Fibers
- 3 Best Fabric dyeing Colors
- 3.1 Acid Fabric Dye
- 3.2 Top Acid Fabric Dye: Jacquard Acid Fabric Dye
- 3.3 All-Purpose Fabric Dyes
- 3.4 Top All-Purpose Fabric Dye: Rit All-Purpose Dye
- 3.5 Direct Fabric Dyes
- 3.6 Top Direct Dye: Jacquard iDye
- 3.7 Reactive Fabric Dyes
- 3.8 Top Reactive Dye: Jacquard Procion MX Fabric Dye
- 3.9 Disperse Fabric Dyes
- 3.10 Top Disperse Fabric Dye: Jacquard iDye Poly
- 4 Best Clothing Dye depending on Dyeing Method
- 5 Fabric Dye and Factors to consider when Purchasing
- 6 How to use Fabric Dyeing Colors
- 7 How to Sink-dye or use a Bucket to dye Fabric
- 8 Can you use Food to naturally dye Fabric?
- 9 Helpful Tips for a successful Dye Project
Selecting your best Dye for Clothes
When it comes to fabric dye, many of us jump right to what color should you use. However, you should first consider the type of fabric you are going to be using. Find out what fibers make up the fabric. The various dyes react differently to each of the textile fibers, know this, you can choose the right Best fabric dye for your purposes.
Types of Fabric Fibers
Synthetic Clothing Fibers including Blends
Synthetic fibers are in abundance in fabrics, which makes choosing the correct cloth dye a bit tricky. The synthetic fibers also pose a slight problem when it comes to the dye setting so that it comes out with brilliant colors.
You might not recognize the fabric you are using. In this case, you can use a fabric burn chart to discover the type of fabric you have. See below for popular synthetic fibers you can choose from and the compatible fabric dye.
- Acrylic fibers: you can use basic fabric dyes and disperse dyes
- Acetate Rayon/Acetate: Use disperse dye
- Spandex: You must use metal complex acid dyes. You cannot dye spandex/polyester blends.
- Polyester: Disperse Dye
- Nylon: Response is similar to protein fibers like wool, use disperse dyes or preferably acid dyes.
- Blends: For fiber blends, it depends on the type of blend, but usually you can use an all-purpose dye. Otherwise, you can use a two-step dye process.
Protein Fiber Fabrics
As you might guess, the protein fibers are made from protein and include animal hair. Take note that dyes used for cellulose fibers, discussed below, have a high pH and can damage animal protein fibers.
Protein fiber examples:
- Soy silk (non-animal variety made from soybean residue, which can be dyed the same as cellulose fibers or wool)
Selecting Fabric Dye for Protein Fibers
Let us have a look at the different dyes you can use on protein fibers.
- There is your all-purpose dye
- Vat dyes
- Natural Dyes
- Sabraset or Lanaset Dyes (offers wash fast color and are excellent to use on wool)
- Acid Dyes (number 1 choice)
Cellulose Cloth Fibers
Most of these fibers consist of plant matter.
Cellulose Fiber examples:
- Plant fiber from pineapples
- Lyocell (Also known as Tenecel, and is made of wood cellulose and synthetic materials)
- Ramie (Linen-like fiber made from Chinese nettles)
Selecting Fabric Dye for Cellulose Fibers
- All-purpose dyes
- Naphthol Dyes
- Vat Dyes
- Direct Dyes
- Fiber Reactive Dyes (number 1 choice)
Best Fabric dyeing Colors
Acid Fabric Dye
Acid dyes are considered the best choice for your protein fiber fabrics and work especially well on cashmere, wool, and silk. You may be thinking acid sounds a bit harsh, but it only means the dye is applied to the fabric at a low pH. The dye itself is not caustic in any way and some are even considered non-toxic. However, there are acid dyes that have been labeled carcinogenic.
There is quite a lot of information about acid dyes, so we are only going to go over the basics. Acid fabric dyes can be divided into sub-groups, namely:
- Super Milling/Fast or neutral acid dyes
- Weak/Milling Acid Dyes
- Strong/Leveling Acid Dyes
When using a Strong Dye, you will get a level, and even end result. You will also get a single solid dye effect with no difference in color. The leveling acid dyes should not be exposed to warm water or a machine wash, only hand wash or dry-clean.
Your wash fast clothing dye is affordable and comes in a variety of acid dyes. Although many of the dyes are designed to permanently dye fabric, some fall short of this purpose. When it comes to natural dyes for your protein fibers, obviously the natural dyes will have the least toxicity.
Lanaset is a form of an acid dye and can be used on all your protein fibers from wool to mohair as well as polyamide fibers like nylon. This particular fabric dye is also more wash fast or permanent than many of your other regular acid dyes. There are three different types of Lanaset fabric dyes, but all of them can blend well with others. To support and improve the effectiveness of your acid dye, you can include a product known as Albegal Set, which has been designed to specifically work with Lanaset.
Top Acid Fabric Dye: Jacquard Acid Fabric Dye
This fabric dye provides vivid and bright colors when used on protein fibers like wool, mohair, cashmere, feathers, silk, alpaca as well as nylon.
Why choose Jacquard Acid Fabric Dye:
- Easy to obtain and use on protein fiber fabrics
- Excellent colorfastness
- Produces amazing color
- Non-toxic as it uses citric acid or vinegar
- When used on protein fibers it should not fade or bleed
Simply follow the product instructions and you should produce wonderful results with the dye.
Note: Pro Chemicals produce some similar colors to Jacquard, but it is easier to find the Jacquard Acid Fabric Dye products.
All-Purpose Fabric Dyes
Combine different types of dye, in this case, acid dye with direct dye, this gives you an all-purpose dye that works on different types of fibers. To dye your fabric, you will need to use a hot dyeing process. Because you have different types of dye, the all-purpose dye is good to use on blended fabrics.
All-purpose dye works well on blended fabrics, but you might be wasting your money if you use it on single fiber fabrics. The dye does not attach to the fibers properly, so you will see your dye running down the drain on your first wash. There is also the disadvantage of not being able to dye acrylic or polyester and you cannot even use a cold-water wash.
Top All-Purpose Fabric Dye: Rit All-Purpose Dye
Most probably one of the more popular fabric dye brands, and the reason for this is as follows.
Why choose Rit All-Purpose Dye:
- Easy to use
- Available almost anywhere
- Been around for many years, with a substantial following of customers
- Varied color palette
The Rit all-purpose dye performs from standard to good as most other similar dyes, but you have to follow instructions correctly when it comes to the type of fabric. Higher quality results can be obtained by using a two-part dye process, but this does take longer, and you will need extra dye. So, the all-purpose dye is a perfect alternative.
Direct Fabric Dyes
This type of cloth dye is used on cellulose fibers like cotton or linen and is a hot water dye. Direct dye is one of the dyes you can find in an all-purpose dye, the second one is an acid dye. An average dye in performance but it does have a few strong points:
- Direct dyes are cheaper than most other dyes.
- You can easily include a dye fixative to improve the color and wash fastness, which is usually not as good as the fiber reactive dyes.
- There is only a slight difference in lightfastness from fiber reactive dyes.
You will find that colors, in most cases, will bleed if you wash the fabric. Try to purchase a direct dye with no additives such as acid dyes.
Top Direct Dye: Jacquard iDye
- Needs a chemical helper: requires vinegar or salt (this depends on the type of fabric, for example, protein fibers will need vinegar).
- Easy to use, simply dissolve the packet provided, either in your washing machine or on the stove.
- Best to use in natural fabrics like linen, cotton, and wool.
- Disadvantages: the dissolvable packet does pose a problem when mixing the colors properly. Also, you will find reduced color fastness.
Reactive Fabric Dyes
Reactive clothing dye provides some of the best results, giving the fabric a permanent dye. This is the only dye that forms a chemical or molecular bond with the protein or cellulose fibers. After the process, you are left with a single molecular bond. This type of dye works great on cellulose fibers like cotton fabrics.
One of the advantages of a reactive dye is its colorfastness. You won’t have to worry about placing your whites and your colors together, as the reactive dye will not bleed. There are many forms of reactive dye, so you must purchase the correct reactive dye for your specific fabric you are going to use. Using reactive dyes can range from using hot to cold water, some dyes are made solely for cellulose fibers, protein fibers or wool.
Top Reactive Dye: Jacquard Procion MX Fabric Dye
This is the best fabric dye for cellulose fibers like cotton and is a popular choice amongst experienced dyers. Some of the benefits of the Jacquard Procion MX Fabric Dye include:
- Easy to find
- Provides color fastness and bright colors when dyeing cellulose fibers
- Simple to follow instructions, which guarantees long-lasting and vibrant colors.
- Exceptionally versatile cold-water dye that can be used in a variety of applications including, screen printing, tie dying, batik, airbrushing and lots more.
- Large selection of colors available
- Create custom colors with their color mixing chart
- Perfect for cellulose fiber fabrics
Disperse Fabric Dyes
The disperse clothing dye was created as a dye for cellulose acetate. The water-insoluble dye powder contains a dispersing agent, which it spray-dries to create a powder, or ground with the dye to make a paste. The dye is used to largely dye polyester but can also be applied to acrylic and nylon fibers.
The dye consists of exceptionally fine particles, which provide a high concentration during the dying process. This allows for maximum absorption by the fiber. Certain factors can affect the rate of dying, in this case, the type of dispersing agent. Other factors to consider include:
- In certain instances, a dyebath is required
- Sometimes high temperatures are needed, for example, in cases where polyester is used
- In other cases, you will need a temperature of 266°F (130°C).
Top Disperse Fabric Dye: Jacquard iDye Poly
This is the best dye to use on your Polyester fiber fabrics. The product is great for those one-off projects and also for the home crafter. Some of the benefits include:
- There are a variety of colors available
- The dye process is easy and uncomplicated
- Can color most everything that is synthetic, such as plastics, buttons, toys, dolls, acrylics, and lots more.
- The dyeing effects may not be as great as the commercial fabrics, but you can easily change your colors with great results.
You can check out the iDye poly range online to gain inspiration for the next dyeing project.
Best Clothing Dye depending on Dyeing Method
There are quite a few ways to dye fabric, sometimes the method depends on the dye itself, or in some cases, you can choose how you want to dye your fabric.
Some example dye methods include:
- Immersion: Immersing fabric into a bath or tub of fabric dye for a certain time.
- Dip Dyeing: dipping fabric for a short time into the dye, then drying.
- Batik: Wax resist dyeing method that results in a variety of colors and designs.
- Tie-Dyeing: The gathering of fabric, tying it and immersing into a dye.
- More methods: Heather effect and painting on fabric.
Some methods create a full-color effect on the fabric, while others create designs of various colors. The easiest method involves using a washing machine, allow it to set and leave. Let us have a look at some of these dyeing methods, and the type of dye you should consider:
- When working with kids you want to select a dye that is non-toxic and is easy to work with. The best dyes for this job include iDye, Dylon and RIT, all great for natural fibers.
- Heather Fabric Effect: creating a mixed color effect, usually using two colors. Select two different colors of iDye Natural and iDye Poly for blended fibers.
- Dyeing fabric in the tub or the washer. iDye, RIT and Dylon for natural fibers are the best dye choices as they do not require heat.
- Batik: The best dye to use in this case is Jacquard Acid and Procion dye. You may also want to try the non-wax method from RIT but produces dull colors.
- Paint Fabric: Best fabric dye is Jacquard acid and Procion MX.
- Tie-Dye: For an affordable way to get a variety of colors select RIT and Dylon. These are also easy to use and non-toxic.
Fabric Dye and Factors to consider when Purchasing
Along with your dye, you should find instructions which should give you an idea of what equipment is needed. This should tell you if you have purchased the correct fabric dye for your project. Apart from the method you are using, you will have to consider lightfastness and wash fastness. Will the dye withstand repeated washing or exposure to light? We have already considered dye methods, let us now consider another two factors.
You are dealing with chemicals when it comes to using dye products and some of these can be harmful. So, to avoid any problems, it is best if you use protective gear such as safety goggles and gloves to protect the skin. Some chemicals can irritate or even burn the skin, as it is acidic or caustic. This is why it is important to follow the instructions provided with each dye product.
This is the ability to withstand fading or running colors. The main types include:
- Light Fastness
- Wash Fastness
- Rub Fastness
Fabrics are likely to fade in color because of repeated washing and rubbing. The fibers can also fade due to over-exposure to light.
The lightfastness of dye can be measured and placed in a level from one to eight. Wash fastness is measured in levels from one to five. The higher the level number, the better the performance of the dye concerning color fastness.
How to use Fabric Dyeing Colors
If you have read this far, then you will know that before you begin, it is important to know what fiber you are going to dye. Natural fibers like cotton and wool absorb dye efficiently as does nylon. In cases where other synthetic dyes are used, like polyester and spandex, you will need specially formulated dyes to get the best results. When it comes to a blended fabric like cotton and polyester, you will also need a special formula dye.
First, take your fabric and wash it to remove any dirt or finishes that have been added to the fabric. If your fabric has a stain, try to remove it as it will affect the dye results, especially if it is a fatty or oily stain. When it comes to blech-spotted fabric or printed fabric, you can use a color remover before applying your own dye. By doing this, you will produce an even color particularly if you are using softer colors.
To ensure you use the correct amount of dye, guess the weight of your fabric. Dye product instructions are usually calculated according to the fabric weight, to get the best results. You can also dye your own yarn to create crazy projects like this tissue box cover project from the Melrose Family website.
How to Sink-dye or use a Bucket to dye Fabric
A simple dye method for beginners:
- Begin, use hot water and fill either a bucket or sink with three gallons (about 11 Liters) per pound of fabric.
- Wear your protective gloves and place your dye into the water. Stir well. When using a powder dye, first dissolve into 500 ml of hot water before adding it into the bucket.
- You can first test the dye on some paper towel or use a smaller piece of fabric. You can then see if you need to add more dye or more water. More dye will make the color darker.
- Don’t forget to prewash your fabric. Take the fabric and wet it with warm water, then place it into the bucket with the dye mixture.
- Stir the mixture and fabric for about 10 to 30 minutes with a metal spoon. The time will depend on how intense you want the color to be. When stirring, try not to fold or twist the material, which can cause uneven results. You can use a dipping technique, lifting and dipping the fabric into the dye.
- Once done, remove the fabric from the bucket and carefully rinse in warm water until you can’t see color running off anymore.
- You can then wash your fabric in a washer or hand wash in warm water with a gentle detergent.
- You can then air dry your fabric or use a clothes dryer.
- Once done, clean up straight away, clean the bucket and anything else you used with some hot water and bleach solution.
Can you use Food to naturally dye Fabric?
When considering natural dye, first take note of the following:
- Natural dyes work best on natural fibers – cotton, linen, silk, and wool.
- You might not get the precise color you are looking for. There is a whole bunch of things that will affect the color, from the type of dye you use to your source of water. If you have not done this before, it is not possible to predict the color outcome. You should, therefore, be flexible in your expectations. Some colors may appear lighter or darker, or even a color you did not expect.
Follow these steps to color your fabric with natural dye:
Prepare your Fabric
Prepare or scour your fabric before dyeing. Natural fiber fabrics, for example, cotton or linen, can be scoured with sodium carbonate or soda ash. Remember, wear your protective gloves during this process. Fill a large pot with water and add several tablespoons of soda ash and fabric detergent (one tablespoon for each gallon required to fill the pot). Add your fabric and bring it to a boil, simmer for about 2 hours. Make sure to stir every so often. Remove the fabric and rinse off when the two hours are up.
Prepare your Dye
Some natural dye ideas:
- Spinach – Green
- Ground Tumeric – Golden yellow
- Yellow onion skins – Yellow/orange
- Avocado pits and skins – Peachy pink
- Beetroot – Pink
- Red Cabbage – Purple
- Black Beans – Blue
Preparation Dye Example: Black Beans
Soak your black beans overnight in some water. Drain the water off, you will notice its black color, this is your dye. Take the beans, chop them up and put them into a pot. Fill the pot with water, sprinkle a little salt in and then bring to a boil. Simmer this for about an hour. You can then drain the water off to use for the dye, The beans which are now much paler can be used as compost.
Mordant (Dye fixative)
You will need to soak your fabric in a dye fixative, which helps the dye attach to the fabric. There are a number of choices, so if you are unsure, you can try and Google an answer. Your search will require what type of dye you used and the type of fabric.
One of the more common fixatives is Alum, known as aluminum potassium sulfate. Considered less toxic than other fixatives, you should be able to find it at the grocery store. Still, with your gloves on, add a few teaspoons of alum to one cup of boiling water. Prepare another stainless-steel pot with cool water. Add the alum water to the cooler water. Place your fabric into the pot and increase the heat until it begins to simmer. Leave to simmer for about an hour. Once done, remove the fabric and rinse.
Note: Use a separate pot, one not used to cook in.
Dye your Fabric
Take the food dye you have prepared and placed it into a large pot or bucket. Place your fabric into the pot with the dye. The fabric should be covered completely with the dye water. Make sure the fabric does not fold up and can freely move around, so you can get an even dye. Use less dye if you want the fabric to bunch-up, this will give you a tie-dye effect.
Leave your fabric in the pot for 60 minutes or overnight, depending on the color you want. Satisfied with the results, remove the fabric and rinse with cold water. Allow the fabric to dry. The color might lighten a little but will remain on the fabric.
Helpful Tips for a successful Dye Project
- If you have a project that requires fabric with buttons, you can easily dye the buttons yourself.
- Once you have completed your project, always wash your fabric separately, or you can wash with other similar colored fabrics in a warm or cold wash. Toss in an old towel, this helps to catch any free dye.
- Using a variety of colors. Try to begin the dyeing process with the lighter colors and then move to the darker colors.
- Take note, colors will appear to be darker when wet and before you have rinsed it.
- Adding a dye fixative will ensure colorfastness.
- Always use a dye specifically made for synthetic fibers. This will ensure the best and brightest colors.
- When it comes to darker colors like black, dark green and brown, consider using a little extra dye for improved results.
- To get the Best clothing dye results, make sure the hot water temperature is 140°F (60°C).
- Do not sprinkle or add the dye directly to the fabric, this will produce uneven color.