Books for hand dyers with information on basic dyes and other dyes
Fabric Painting and Dyeing for the Theatre
by Deborah Dryden
includes directions for dyeing with basic dyes
Ann Milner's book
The Ashford Book of Dyeing
includes directions for dyeing with basic dyes
Books with highly technical information on basic dyes
Industrial Dyes: Chemistry, Properties, Applications
edited by Klaus Hunger
Color Chemistry, 3rd Edition
by Heinrich Zollinger
Handbook of Biological Dyes and Stains: Synthesis and Industrial Applications
by R. W. Sabnis
Heterocyclic Polymethine Dyes: Synthesis, Properties and Applications
edited by Lucjan Strekowski
Basic dyes are dyes that are cationic. This means that the dye molecule has a positive charge, unlike most dyes, which have either a negative charge or no net electronic charge at all. The word "basic" refers to bases, as opposed to acids. It's definitely not basic in the sense of "back to basics". These are not dyes for beginners; they are not the most useful of textile dyes.
The reason why this is important is that the positive charge makes basic dyes stick to almost anything. Working with basic dyes is a mess, because they stain just about everything they touch, even plastics and silicone sealants. Other types of dyes can be more easily scrubbed off of impervious materials such as plastic, glass, and porcelain. Their positive charge also attracts basic dyes to proteins and nucleic acids in your body, making them useful as biological stains, but more dangerous for your health.
Basic dyes are historically important in that they include all of the first synthetic textile dyes, starting with mauve, which was the first synthetic dye. They are also of importance in medicine, due to their ability to bind to and stain different parts of human cells so they can be distinguished through a microscope. Basic dyes important for their use as biological stains include crystal violet, safranin, basic fuchsin, methylene blue, toluidine blue, and thionine.
Basic dyes can be used to dye many different fibers, including natural fibers such as wool, silk, and cotton, but, when used on natural fibers, they are very poorly lightfast: they tend to fade very quickly when exposed to light. Since the introduction of many superior dyes for natural fibers, basic dyes are no longer much used for dyeing them because of the lightfastness problem.
However, basic dyes continue to be very important in the textile industry for dyeing acrylic fibers. Their lightfastness on acrylic fiber is far better than on natural fibers. Acrylic yarn and fabric cannot be dyed with most dyes that work on natural fibers; they can be dyed only with basic dyes or disperse dyes (the same disperse dyes that are used for acetate and polyester). Basic dyes are needed to produce bright or dark hues on acrylic fiber, because disperse dyes produce only pale to medium colors on acrylic.
Basic dyes do not bind to cotton at all well unless the cotton has first been mordanted. A mordant forms a bond directly to the cotton; the basic dye then bonds to the mordant. Oddly, pre-dyeing with a direct dye can serve for mordanting on cotton. In dyeing reeds, raffia, grasses, and barks, these substances' natural tannin content acts as a mordant for basic dyes.
In Australia, Batik Oetoro sells Astrazon basic dyes (similar to Sandocryl® dyes).
In the US, you can buy basic dyes as "Alcohol/Water" dyes from Aljo Dyes.
Ann Milner's The Ashford Book of Dyeing lists Sennelier Tinfix silk painting dyes as being basic dyes, though it is widely assumed by many dyers that these are acid dyes.
Jacquard Products now sells basic dye in one-pound or greater quantities in their Bulk & Specialty Store. The old Jacquard Wood & Reed Dyes were also basic dyes. They wrote, "Wood and Reed Dye is designed for a whole range of dry natural materials: straw, grasses, raffia, leaves, potpourri, shell, bone, dried flowers, bamboo and even acrylic. This dye is strong! It will produce bright, even colors that are water fast to tap water."
Methylene Blue and Malachite Green are both sold as medications for sick aquarium fish, but the label will probably fail to indicate how strong the dye solution is.
When buying Basic dye, be sure to request a separate MSDS sheet for each dye color!
When dyeing acrylic, be aware that it can be damaged by sudden cooling. Allow the acrylic to cool only quite gradually. Another issue is the fact that basic dyes tend to strike the acrylic fiber very suddenly, when the correct temperature (about 60 degrees C., or 140 F.) is reached, which can result in uneven shades. Raise the temperature only gradually between 60 and 70 degrees C. Getting the dye level is a challenge. Commercial dyeing of acrylic uses chemical agents that retard dye striking in order to produce smoother solid colors. Often home dyers very much prefer uneven dyeing, however, and do not find it to be a problem at all.
Deborah Dryden's excellent book, Fabric Painting and Dyeing for the Theatre, gives instructions for Basic dyes as follows:
One US source of basic dyes, Aljo Dyes, provides a small amount of information on how to use basic dyes (which they sell under the name of "Alcohol/water dyes"), but only for use as a silk paint:
The main reason why I recommend against the home use of basic dyes is their toxicity. The fact that basic dyes are positively charged means that they are attracted by the proteins and nucleic acids in our cells. They penetrate inside our bodies much more easily than fiber reactive dyes do, since fiber reactive dyes tend to react with the outer layer of dead cells on our skin, without penetrating inside living cells. The fact that basic dyes penetrate readily inside human cells makes it easier for them to have toxic or carcinogenic effects, even in smaller quantities.
Basic dyes should not be used in a kitchen, in case some of the dye powder falls on a food preparation area, and the cooking pot used for heating the dyebath must NEVER be used for food again. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Basic dye is much more dangerous than the dyes we more commonly use for hand dyeing, and must be treated with correspondingly greater respect!
Another major problem with basic dyes is that they dye everything. If you spill a little bit of Procion MX dye on your countertop, it may not be the smartest thing you ever did, but you can usually wash it off, with a bit of help from some chlorine-containing scouring powder at worst. If you spill basic dye, the color is apt to be permanent.
DO NOT allow any of the dye powder to fall on the floor, counters, tables, etc. Clean up all spills immediately as mandated in the specific instructions in the MSDS. DO NOT breathe any of the dye powder! Wear substantial waterproof gloves, not the thin latex gloves commonly worn when working with safer dyes, and DO NOT allow your gloves to get a hole in them.
According to Textile Chemicals: Environmental Data and Facts, a 2004 book by Katia Lacasse and Werner Baumann, dyes that have been have been classified as toxic by ETAD, the Ecological and Toxicological Association of Dyes and Organic Pigment Manufacturers, include basic blue 3, basic blue 7, basic blue 81, basic red 12, basic violet 16, and basic yellow 21. Some of these dyes are in common use.
Occasionally, people develop contact allergies to dyes in clothing. Both basic dyes and disperse dyes are less tightly bound to clothing fibers than are fiber reactive dyes, and are therefore much more likely to cause allergies, as loose dye molecules are more likely to contact the skin. One basic dye, basic red 46, is among the more common dye allergies seen in humans; it can be found not only in red clothing, but also in clothing that is dark in color, particularly black or brown.
Basic dyes and disperse dyes in clothing are more allergenic than dyes that are bound more tightly to the clothing fiber. In contrast to basic dyes and disperse dyes, allergies to fiber reactive dyes in clothing are almost unknown; the only case published involved clothing that had not had unattached dye washed out properly, although there have been many cases of allergies to the powdered form of fiber reactive dyes among textile workers.
selected MSDS informationMany MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheets) say that the product has not been thoroughly tested, so information is not available about particular hazards. The absence of a known hazard in the MSDS is not proof that the substance is not carcinogenic or mutagenic. Be careful.
Here is a typical statement, quoted from an MSDS for Basic Red 1 (rhodamine 6G):
Rhodamine B is a true fluorescent basic dye which is also sold by many suppliers of hand dyes as an acid dye for use on wool and other protein fibers; it has been classified as "Health Rating: 3 - Severe (Cancer Causing)" in the SAF-T-DATA Ratings in a Rhodamine B MSDS provided by JT Baker, though it also says "There is limited evidence that this material causes cancer in laboratory animals. There is no evidence that this material causes cancer in humans." According to an MSDS at Sigma Aldrich, Rhodamine B has been shown to cause tumors and lymphoma, including Hodgkin's disease, when injected subcutaneously into rats, and it has caused DNA damage in the Ames assay and in germ cell lines.
From an MSDS for Methylene Blue (basic blue 9):
From an MSDS for auramine yellow (basic yellow 2):
In summary, there is ample evidence that there is reason to be cautious in the use of some basic dyes.
|C.I. Name||color description||examples of some dye brand names|
|basic yellow 2||bright yellow||Orcozine Yellow OX|
|basic yellow 11||red shade yellow||Orcozine Yellow R|
|basic yellow 13||bright greenish yellow||Yellow Sandocryl SHINING B6GL, Acrylene Brilliant Yellow 6G; Orcozine Yellow L|
|basic yellow 21||bright greenish yellow||Orcozine Yellow 7GLL|
|basic yellow 28||workhorse dye||Acrylene Golden Yellow GL; Orcozine Golden Yellow GL|
|basic yellow 29||medium yellow||Acrylene Yellow 2GL; Orcozine Yellow 6DL|
|basic yellow 37||bright greenish yellow||Orcozine Yellow SFK|
|basic yellow 40||fluorescent yellow||Acrylene Flavine 10GFF; Orcozine Brilliant Yellow 10GFF|
|basic yellow 56||Yellow Sandocryl CORN|
|basic yellow 82||Yellow Sandocryl GOLD BGRL|
|basic orange 1||dull yellowish orange||Orcozine Orange RS|
|basic orange 2||yellowish orange||Orcozine Chrysoidine 4|
|basic orange 14||Acridine Orange (see my Ph.D. dissertation)|
|basic orange 21||bright yellowish||Orcozine Orange G|
|basic orange 37||Yellow Sandocryl GOLD BRLE|
|basic orange 57||Yellow Sandocryl GOLD BRLN|
|basic orange 58||ORANGE Sandocryl B3RLN|
|basic red 1||Rhodamine G (known mutagen)|
|basic red 14||bright fluorescent red||Orcozine Brilliant Red|
|basic red 15||bluish fluorescent red||Acrylene Brilliant Red B; Orcozine Brilliant Red BN|
|basic red 18||dull red||Orcozine Red GTL|
|basic red 22||bright bluish red||Red Sandocryl BBLE; Orcozine Red B|
|basic red 27||Red Sandocryl SHINING BF|
|basic red 44||Red Sandocryl B2GLE|
|basic red 46||bright bluish workhorse red; stable to high pH and temp||Red Sandocryl BRLN; AcryleneRed GRL; Orcozine Red GRL|
|basic red 49||bluish fluorescent red||Orcozine Brilliant Red FBB|
|basic red 54||Red Sandocryl B2GLN|
|basic red 59||Sandocryl RUBY BRLN|
|basic red 75||Sandocryl ROSE SHINING B5B|
|basic red 104||Red Sandocryl BRL|
|basic red 181||Acrylene Red G|
|basic violet 1||bluish violet||Orcozine Methyl Violet 2BP|
| basic violet 10|
also known as acid red 52
|true UV fluorescent||Rhodamine B (often contaminated with some Rhodamine G); sold by ProChem and Jacquard Products: see Washfast Acid Dyes|
|basic violet 14||bright reddish violet||Orcozine Fuchsine SB|
|basic violet 16||red violet||Orcozine Rhodine BL|
|basic violet 48||Purple Sandocryl B2RLN|
|basic blue 3||bright greenish blue; |
good pH stability
|Blue Sandocryl B3G, Acrylene Blue 5G; Orcozine Blue 3G|
|basic blue 9||greenish blue||Methylene Blue [sold by Aljo]; Orcozine Blue B (see my Ph.D. dissertation)|
|basic blue 7||bright blue||Orcozine Pure Blue BO|
|basic blue 17||toluidine blue O (see my Ph.D. dissertation)|
|basic blue 22||Blue Sandocryl BFE|
|basic blue 41||bright blue workhorse dye||Acrylene Blue GRL; Orcozine Blue GRLA|
|basic blue 54||bright royal blue||Orcozine Fast Blue 6GL-WC|
|basic blue 73||Blue Sandocryl B2GLE|
|basic blue 120||Blue Sandocryl B3GLE|
|basic green 4||bright bluish green||Malachite Green [sold by Aljo]; Orcozine Green V|
|basic brown 13||Brown Sandocryl Yellow BRLE|
|basic brown 14||Brown Sandocryl Yellow BRLN|
Last updated: July 2, 2013
Split from "Dyeing Acrylic with Basic Dyes" on January 24, 2012
Page created: May 5, 2005
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