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
Dip Dyeing Washing Machine
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
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
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
Additional Links
Index General Dye
Fixing Dye Synthetic Fibers Color Choice Dye Auxiliaries Bleaching and
Safety Procion Dyes Acid Dyes Problems Tying Miscellaneous
Facebook: All About
    Hand Dyeing
Twitter @HandDyeing Google+
Procion MX Dyes Jacquard Acid Dyes Other Dyeing
Fabric Paints, Dyes,
    Books, and DVDs

You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > FAQ > auxiliary chemicals > sodium silicate


Sodium silicate is available from dye suppliers and through Amazon

Sodium Silicate Freezable Solution, 40%, 30oz

buy from amazon

Ceramix sells sodium silicate
via Amazon

Sodium Silicate

buy from amazon

Sold by Ceramix
"We carry everything for the ceramic crafter"

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

Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues. Fix with soda ash or sodium silicate.

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit
Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Dye up to 15 adult-size T-shirts, with vivid, electric colors that are so colorfast they can be washed with the daily laundry.

Always wear eye protection when working with sodium silicate

3M Professional Chemical Splash Goggle

buy from amazon

Sodium silicate as a fixative for dyeing

Sodium silicate, Na2SiO3, can be used as a fixative for fiber reactive dyes, such as Procion MX or Remazol dyes. (It will not fix other classes of dye, such as all-purpose or direct dyes.)

purpose of sodium silicate

The sole purpose of sodium silicate in dyeing is to increase the pH.

In using any sort of fiber reactive dyes to dye cotton or any other cellulose fiber, it is necessary to increase the pH (alkalinity) of the reaction. The high pH activates the cellulose fiber molecule so that it can attack the reactive dye molecule and form a permanent chemical bond to it. A similar mechanism allows the proteins in silk to react with fiber reactive dyes at high pH.

The ideal pH for the reactive of cotton with Procion MX dyes is around 10.5 to 11, while that of Remazol dyes is about 11.5; the exact best pH depends on the dye and on the fiber being used. (See What is the effect of pH?.) The pH of your dye reaction does not have to be right at the ideal in order to work, but it should be near it, preferably within about one pH unit. The pH of a 40% sodium silicate solution is between 11 and 12.5.

The high-pH chemical most commonly used in hand dyeing is soda ash, also known as sodium carbonate (see What is soda ash, and what's it for in dyeing?). If sodium silicate is used as a dye fixative, soda ash is not needed, since sodium silicate serves the same role as sodium carbonate. Sodium silicate is a substitute for soda ash or trisodium phosphate.

how sodium silicate is used

Fabric that has been painted with Procion MX or similar dyes, and the dye allowed to dry, can be treated with a liquid sodium silicate solution. AfterFix is a solution of sodium silicate.

Dharma Trading Company give these instructions:

"Just mix the dye powder with water, add thickener if you want - nothing else. Now paint it on. When it's dry, completely cover the dyed area with DyeHouse Afterfix (paint it on with a brush)....Keep damp, then one hour later wash out the Afterfix and excess dye and you are done! "
They make a big point of not letting the sodium silicate dry on anything. Dry sodium silicate in your fabric is not something you want to deal with.

PRO Chemical & Dye has a detailed two-page set of instructions for dye painting entitled Direct Application using PRO QuickFix [PDF] which is worth close examination. Here are some important details:

"Using a wide soft brush or paint roller, apply PRO QuickFix to the right side (painted side) of your dry fabric. Use a minimum of brush strokes to avoid smearing your design. Let the PRO QuickFix dry a little bit, then cover your fabric with plastic/plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour."
Wrapping your silicate-coated painting in plastic wrap, as ProChem suggests, keeps it from drying out. They advise using a warm room temperature, over 70°F (21°C), for getting intense colors with sodium silicate. Just as with soda ash, a warmer dye reaction temperature works better than a cooler one. Poor results will result from a cold studio.

Tobasign Dyes recommends two different methods for using sodium silicate to fix reactive dyes. One is the same as Dharma and ProChem's method; the other is for solid-color immersion dyeing. They use Remazol dyes instead of Procion MX dyes, but the recipe will work for both types of dye, though Remazol dyes do prefer a higher pH. The following is a paraphrase of their immersion dyeing recipe:

Weigh your fabric. Use twenty times as much water as your fabric weighs: for 50 grams of fabric, use 1 liter of water, 50 milliliters of Tobasign brand liquid vinyl sulfone dye, and 50 grams of salt. Mix the water, dye, and salt, then add the pre-wetted fabric and agitate for half an hour. Remove the fabric from the dyebath, and stir in 50 milliliters, per liter of dyebath, of TobaFix brand sodium silicate solution (use half as much for silk). Return the fabric to the dyebath and stir it for one hour.

how to buy sodium silicate

Sodium silicate is purchased in the form of a thick liquid, dissolved in water at a concentration of around 40%.

Many dye suppliers are good sources for sodium silicate. PRO Chemical & Dye sells it under two names, either PRO Fix LHF or PRO QuickFix. Dharma Trading Company sells it under the name AfterFix. In Australia, Batik Oetoro sells it under the brand name Drimafix, and in Spain, Tobasign Dyes sells it under the name Tobafix. (See my Sources of Supplies page for contact information for these and other dye suppliers.)

The traditional name for sodium silicate solution is water glass; it was once commonly used for preserving eggs at room temperature. You might be able to buy it from a small farm supplier. Look for a product called "Cement Floor Sealer and Carton Adhesive", checking the fine print on the label to be certain it is sodium silicate. Since sodium silicate is used in pottery making, you may be able to obtain it from a crafts supply store. The product "Engine Stopper" is the same sodium silicate solution, intended for use in destroying car engines. Sodium silicate is also sold by chemical suppliers, such as Ward's Scientific.


A drawback of using sodium silicate as a dye fixative is that acidic solutions can turn it into a gel that is extremely difficult to remove, so be sure to rinse well with alkaline or neutral water if at any step you are about to introduce a low pH (i.e., by using any acid, such as vinegar or citric acid).

Do not leave the sodium silicate to dry on anything. Wash all spills immediately with water. After it has dried, sodium silicate cannot be removed.

Don't use sodium silicate on or near a glass surface. Once it dries, sodium silicate cannot be removed from glass.


Sodium silicate is severely irritating to the skin and eyes, and, like most household chemicals, must not be swallowed. It is not suitable for use by children. Wear reliable gloves, eye protection such as safety goggles, and a plastic or vinyl apron. J. T. Baker provides an MSDS for sodium silicate [PDF], as will any good supplier.

When it dries, sodium silicate can form a glass film which is sharp enough to cut skin.

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: August 2, 2012
Page created: March 9, 2010
Downloaded: Wednesday, June 12, 2024

All of the pages on this site are copyright ©1998‑2024 Paula E. Burch, Ph.D.