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You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > FAQ > Problems > Spots of Undissolved Dye


Procion MX Fiber Reactive Dye

Why are there specks of color all over my fabric?

You didn't manage to get one of your dye colors completely dissolved. Little specks of undissolved dye of any type can end up making little spots on your fabric. This is rarely a problem for direct dye application, such as tie dyeing or low water immersion dyeing, because there inconsistancy of color is actually often a good thing. It's a huge problem when trying to get a perfectly smooth even color, however, such as when dyeing in the washing machine.

Dissolving Dye

The right way to dissolve dyes is called "pasting"; it is much like mixing cornstarch with water before using it to make gravy. Mix a very small amount of water with your dye and stir it until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually add more water, stirring until smooth, and only then mix in the rest of the water.

water temperature

Acid dyes, such as we often use for dyeing wool and silk, can safely be dissolved in hot or even boiling water without making them go bad. However, for dissolving temperature-sensitive dyes, such as all cool water fiber reactive dyes - this includes Procion MX dye, Cibacron F dye, and Drimarene K dye (most Dylon dyes are Drimarene K dyes) - use only lukewarm water to dissolve the dye. Warmer water works better to dissolve almost anything, but very warm or hot water will damage the fiber reactive dye before you can use it.

Red Spots

Fuchsia (Procion type red MX-8B) is the most common cause of this complaint. Dyers will see little red dots on their fabric, or orange spots in their "Bright Yellow" fabric, red dots in the "Midnight Blue", etc. Because bad batches of fuchsia cause so much trouble, I often prefer to use red MX-5B, known by the names of magenta, mixing red, or light red, instead of fuchsia, for this and other reasons. The colors are quite similar, but red MX-5B is better-behaved.

Red Spots in Mixed MX dyes

The real problem comes if you are buying premixed colors. Buying premixed colors can save you time and trouble, especially when you need a neutral black or grey color. However, dye suppliers often use fuchsia (red MX-8B) in mixing their fiber reactive dye colors.

How to Solve the Red Spot Problem

Avoiding mixtures that contain fuchsia

You will not have any problems with the red spots caused by fuchsia (red MX-8B) if you buy only unmixed single-hue dye colors, other than fuchsia, and use them to mix your own colors. There are about twenty of these. To see which dye colors are unmixed, and which mixtures, see my table on Which Procion MX colors are pure, and which mixtures? (follow the link).

Filtering dye mixtures which contain fuchsia

Dharma Trading Company advises users of their Procion MX fiber reactive dyes who wish to avoid the red spot problem to filter their dye solutions, that is, their mixtures of dye and water, with or without urea, using either a coffee filter or a piece of nylon stocking in a funnel or strainer. This usually works, though it's certainly more trouble. Unfortunately, if a dye mixture was prepared with a particularly bad batch of dye, even this may not always work, as occasionally dye particles can precipitate right back out of solution. If you are working on a project which will be ruined by little red dots all over it, it is important to test your mixed dye powders very soon after you buy them to see whether or not this is a big problem with any jar of dye you receive. If it is, you can return the dye for a refund, for being of inadequate quality, without first ruining a large amount of fabric or clothing. (You can never get a refund on the materials that you have dyed.) You usually cannot return dye for quality control issues more than thirty days after you order it, so be prompt in running any tests.

Is Freshness of Dyes an Issue?

I'm not sure, but suspect that older batches of dye might also show more problems with the fuchsia dye they contain. Note that Dharma Trading Company advises the use of their Procion MX typedyes within one year of purchase, and PRO Chemical & Dye says their Procion MX type dyes should be good for up to two years.

Sources for Dyes

Some dye suppliers are more cavalier than others about making sure that the lots of fuchsia they buy from the manufacturers are good before using it to make mixtures. We have good reports about the reliability of mixed dye colors from PRO Chemical & Dye, and have heard no complaints so far about Jacquard Procion MX dye from Rupert Gibbon & Spider (which is the brand of Procion MX dye sold via Amazon). See my list of Sources for Dyeing Supplies Around the World to see contact information and web sites for these and many other dye suppliers.


see answers to other FAQs about dyes and dyeing

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Page created: February 16, 2003
Last updated: July 25, 2006
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