Lots of people have tried to dye plush toys with all-purpose dye, such as Rit brand dye. What happens if you try this? As soon as you rinse the toy, the color all washes out! You can't avoid rinsing, though, because unrinsed dye will rub off on anything it touches, a problem called crocking.
The problem is that plush toys are usually covered with difficult-to-dye materials. If they are covered with wool, mohair, or nylon, you can dye them with acid dyes; if they are covered with cotton velveteen, or silk or rayon velvet, they can be dyed with cold water fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion MX dyes. However, most plush toys are covered with synthetic fiber fabrics or fake furs that require specialized dyes.
Beanie Babies appear to be made of polyester fleece, though they do not reveal the outside fabric fiber content on the label, only the stuffing. Polyester can be dyed only with a special kind of dye called disperse dye, which requires that you boil the items to be dyed in the dye for half an hour or longer, depending on the desired shade. Will your plush toy be able to withstand such harsh treatment?
You cannot buy disperse dye in your local grocery store. You will have to mail-order it. You can order Disperse Dye from PRO Chemical & Dye in Massachusetts or Aljo Mfg. in New York, or you can order iDye Poly (not regular iDye) from Dharma Trading Company or other retailers of Jacquard Products. See Dyeing Polyester with Disperse Dyes for more information about dyeing polyester.
Many other commercially available stuffed animal toys are made with acrylic or modacrylic fake fur, instead of polyester. You can dye acrylic with the same disperse dye that works on polyester, or with another type of dye, more hazardous in use, which is called basic or cationic dye. See Dyeing Acrylic with Basic Dye. Note that dyeing should never be done in your good cooking pots; you should buy a stainless steel or enamel pot specifically for dyeing, because it is not safe to reuse pots for food preparation after they have been used for dyeing.
Alternatively, you could use fabric paint, a different way to color fibers, which does not require boiling. Many paints will impart a nasty stiff "hand" to your fabric, so you must use extreme care in selecting a fabric paint, and even then expect a slight alteration in feel. Two types of fabric paints which are almost as thin as dye, and therefore unlikely to gum up the fur too badly, are Jacquard's Dye-Na-Flow Fabric Colors fabric paint , and Dharma Pigment 'Dye', which is a fabric paint (not dye) sold by Dharma Trading Company (see Sources for Dyeing Supplies). You may wish to dilute the paints before use (practice beforehand on a rag). Jacquard fabric paints can be diluted with up to one-third as much water, while Dharma supplies specific instructions for diluting and using their Pigment Dyes.
You will need to heat-set most fabric paints after they dry, using, for example, a heat tool (like a hair dryer without the fan), or a commercial clothes dryer (home dryers don't get hot enough) - but watch out that you don't melt the plastic pellets inside! Alternatively, you can buy an acrylic catayst made for fabric paints, such as Jacquard AirFix or Versatex "No Heat" Fixative, and add it to your fabric paint before use; the catalyst enables the fabric paint to set on the fabric without added heat. It looks like you can use Dharma Pigment Dye on polyester without heat setting, however. For maximum washfastness it is best to allow fabric paint to dry for several weeks before washing it for the first time, unless the manufacturer indicates otherwise. p>
Page created: January 20, 2005
Last updated: July 16, 2008
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