Basic Dye Method for Dry Fabric

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Use this method whenever you have a project that you need to dye while the fabric is dry.

After having an epic failure on a big project, I ran this experiment and found that when soda ash is added to the dye solution its shelf life is drastically reduced. Certain projects require more time than the dye is good for, so I needed a way to extend the shelf life. Below are two methods dye dry fabric without the dye color fading.

Supplies:

The supplies for both methods are the same – the only difference is the order in which things are applied.

  • 100% Cotton fabric
  • Synthrapol or laundry detergent
  • Dust mask*
  • Gloves*
  • Jar or bottle
  • Urea
  • Water
  • Sodium alginate
  • Soda ash
  • Procion dye

*Use your protective gear whenever working with chemicals

Painting

Yes, you can use dyes to paint! Using this method you can work on project over several hours and still not have any noticeable color loss.

  1. Prewash your fabric in detergent and dry. Do NOT use fabric softener.
  2. Prepare the soda ash solution. Add 1 cup of soda ash per gallon of warm water.
  3. Soak the fabric in the soda ash solution for approximately 15 minutes, wring out the excess liquid, and allow to air dry overnight. Helpful tip: it dries a little crusty so it’s easiest to work with if you keep it as flat as possible.
  4. In a jar, mix together:
    • 1 c warm water
    • 1 Tbsp urea
  5. If you wish to thicken the dye to make it more paint-like, add up to 2 tsp of sodium alginate slowly to prevent clumping. The more you add, the thicker it’ll be. Allow to set overnight. If you don’t want it thickened you can use the solution immediately after the urea has fully dissolved.

    Glob of purple dye paint on brush

    Thickened the dye looks a lot like normal paint

  6. Add the desired amount of procion dye to the solution and allow the dye to fully dissolve before using. Helpful tip: if using small amounts, portion into clean yogurt or applesauce cups to hold dyes!

    Cups filled with several colors of dye

    Reuse plastic cups to hold your dyes

  7. Apply dye in preferred method.
  8. After dying, keep moist under plastic for up to 24 hours.
  9. Rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Rinse under warm water until the water runs clear again.Blue dyed fabric under running water
  10. To fully remove all excess dye soak the fabric in a bath of the hottest water possible (boiling water is okay) for about an hour (careful not to burn yourself!). Drain and give the fabric a quick rinse. Repeat until the soak water is mostly clear (a slight tinge is okay). This may take 3-4 times.
  11. Fill your washing machine on hot cycle with detergent. Add up to 8 adult shirts at a time and wash through a full load. Dry as normal.

Bottle Dyeing

Use this method when you are going to use the prepared dye within a short time (under an hour is recommended, but the faster the better) and you can’t or don’t want to soak fabric first.

  1. Prewash your fabric in detergent (do NOT use fabric softener) and dry.
  2. In a bottle, mix together:
    • 1 c warm water
    • 1 Tbsp urea
    • 1 tsp soda ash
  3. When you are ready to dye, add the desired amount of procion dye to the solution and allow the dye to fully dissolve before using.
  4. Use immediately. Apply dye in preferred method.
  5. After dying, keep moist under plastic for 24 hours.
  6. Rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Rinse under warm water until the water runs clear again.
  7. To fully remove all excess dye soak the fabric in a bath of the hottest water possible (boiling water is okay) for about an hour (careful not to burn yourself!). Drain and give the fabric a quick rinse. Repeat until the soak water is mostly clear (a slight tinge is okay). This may take 3-4 times.
  8. Fill your washing machine on hot cycle with detergent. Add up to 8 adult shirts at a time and wash through a full load. Dry as normal.
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