Web www.pburch.net
Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing
Overview Fiber Reactive Dyes Direct Dyes All-Purpose Dyes Acid Dyes      Food Coloring      Lanaset Dye      Acid Levelling (Kiton) Natural Dyes Vat Dyes Disperse Dyes Basic Dyes Naphthol Dyes Fabric Paints
Index How to Dye with
    Fiber Reactive Dye
How to Tie Dye How to Batik Low Water
    Immersion
Dip Dyeing Washing Machine
    Dyeing
How to Tie Dye
    with Kool-Aid®
How to Tie Dye with
     All Purpose Dye
How to Dye and
    Paint Fabric
    with Light
cellulose fibers:     cotton     rayon and
     bamboo
protein fibers:     silk     wool synthetic fibers:     acrylic     nylon     polyester     spandex other materials...
acetic acid alginate ammonium sulfate baking soda citric acid ludigol mordants salt soda ash sodium silicate temperature synthrapol urea vinegar water softener
Index Batik Mandalas &
    Peace Signs
LWI dyeing Watercolor Rainbow
    Drip-dyes
Tie Dyeing Spray Dyeing Fabric Paints and Markers
The Dye Forum Book Reviews Find A Custom Dyer Old Q&A Blog Blog of Questions
     & Answers (new)
Search Contact me Link here About This Site
Where to Buy
    Dye & Supplies
Mailing Lists Other Galleries Other Informative
    Sites
Additional Links
Index General Dye
    Questions
Fixing Dye Synthetic Fibers Color Choice Dye Auxiliaries Bleaching and
    Discharging
Safety Procion Dyes Acid Dyes Problems Tying Miscellaneous
Facebook: All About
    Hand Dyeing
Twitter @HandDyeing Google+
Procion MX Dyes Jacquard Acid Dyes Other Dyeing
    Supplies
Fabric Paints, Dyes,
    Books, and DVDs

You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > FAQ > fibers > dyeing cotton



Advertisement

Dye cotton with
fiber reactive dye


Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye
Procion MX
Fiber Reactive
Cold Water Dye

Advertisement

Tie dyeing works great on cotton clothing


Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit


The Jacquard Tie Dye Kit includes excellent Procion MX dyes, plus soda ash, plastic squirt bottles, gloves, and rubber bands - everything you need to get started except for the shirts!

How to Dye Cotton

Choose the right dye

The longest-lasting and easiest-to-use dyes for hand-dyeing cotton are the cold water fiber reactive dyes, such as the Procion MX type dyes found in most tie-dye kits. Since they're fixed with sodium carbonate (a common household chemical), instead of heat, you don't have to invest in a dyeing pot to apply them. It is rare that there's a good reason for a hand dyer to use anything else for dyeing cotton.

Cotton can also be dyed with direct dyes and all-purpose dyes, though the colors from these less washfast dyes will fade quickly unless a cationic aftertreatment is used to fix them. The main advantage of direct dyes is their cheapness. If you buy direct dyes in bulk from a dye supplier, you can dye a pound of fabric with only about six cents' worth of dye. Unfortunately, all-purpose dyes tend to be among the very most expensive of dyes because of the way they are packaged and marketed, costing about two dollars per pound of fiber dyed; compare this to the cost of Procion dyes from the major dye suppliers, typically forty to sixty cents per pound of fiber, although clothing dyed with Procion dyes will stay bright for years longer.

Vat dyes, including indigo, and naphthol dyes can also be used to dye cotton.

If you use natural dyes on cotton, you will need to use a mordant such as alum, often in combination with tannin, to fix the dyes to the fiber. Most natural dyes will not bond to cotton as easily as they do to wool. Don't try to use a recipe for dyeing wool with natural dyes, as cotton requires different materials and techniques. Look for a good recipe that has been worked out specifically for use with cotton.

Dyes to avoid

Never try to dye cotton with food coloring. Food coloring, such as Kool-aid drink mix, Wilton cake dye, or Easter egg dye, works well to dye wool, but cannot be turned into a good dye for cotton. It will just wash out, leaving at most an ugly stain.

The acid dyes that are used to dye protein fibers such as wool will not work on cotton, except for a very few that are capable of also acting as direct dyes. The disperse dyes used to dye synthetic fibers such as polyester will also not work at all on cotton.

Directions

The best way to dye cotton is to use a fiber reactive dye, such as Procion MX dye. See How to Hand Dye for instructions. To dye a single solid color, use a washing machine or bucket, with a large ratio of water to fabric, and constant stirring.

Sources for cotton clothing to dye

Any cotton clothing that is free of surface treatments, such as water resistance, stain resistance, or anti-pilling or permanent press finishes, will dye well with the right sort of dye. (Never buy stain-resistant t-shirts to tie-dye!)

However, keep in mind that commercially-sewn garments are held together with polyester stitching unless specifically labeled otherwise. Polyester will not dye with cotton dyes. Unless you buy special clothing that is sewn with cotton thread, expect the seams to stay their original color after you dye cotton clothing.

One of the best available sources for ready-to-dye white cotton clothing blanks is Dharma Trading Company. Many of their clothing blanks are sewn with cotton thread, which takes the same dyes as the fabric. Gildan Ultra Cotton t-shirts are sewn with cotton thread and are available from many suppliers. For tie-dyeing, t-shirts that are sewn with polyester thread are usually satisfactory, but for dyeing solid colors or low water immersion dyeing, cotton thread is best.

Further Information

For more information on the properties and commercial processing of cotton, see John Shore's book Cellulosics Dyeing. See also books on how to dye cotton, on my page of Reviews of Books and Videos on Hand Dyeing and Fabric Painting.




Back to list of FAQs

 Home Page     Hand Dyeing Top     Gallery    About Dyes    How to Dye    How to Tie Dye    How to Batik    Low Water Immersion Dyeing    Sources for Supplies    Book Reviews    Other Galleries    Groups    FAQs     Custom Dyers    Forum    Q&A blog    link here    search    contact me  


Last updated: October 30, 2009
Page created: October 30, 2009
Downloaded: Sunday, October 22, 2017

All of the pages on this site are copyright ©1998‑2017 Paula E. Burch, Ph.D.