Dye went awry! Any advice?

Old 05-04-2020, 01:21 PM
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Default Dye went awry! Any advice?

Hello Quilters!

I worked quite a bit with dyes @15 years ago, but this weekend was my first foray into it in quite some time...

Not the most artistic of endeavors, but I chanced across two 100% cotton, navy blue, long-sleeve tactical polo shirts that are new-with-tags, and they would be perfect for work. Here's the rub: these shirts are normally $60, but I paid $8 each because they were on a store mannequin, and the collars are slightly faded due to sun exposure.

No problem, I figured, as I can bust out my old Dharma Trading supplies and dye the shirts to be good as new. The color is a very dark navy--about as dark as navy can be without being black. Thus I opted for Dharma Trading's "Deep Space" fiber reactive procion dye. As it's been awhile, I went to the Dharma site and I followed their tub dye instructions as best as I could:

1) Pre-washed the shirts, albeit new, with 1/4 cup of synthrapol;
2) Mixed 2 tablespoons of the aforementioned Deep Space dye into a slurry, and then added 3 gallons of warm water into my 5-gallon bucket;
3) Mixed in 3 cups of non-iodized salt;
4) Dropped in the shirts and stirred them for @20 minutes;
5) Gradually folded in 1/3 cup of soda ash slurry over a 15-minute period;
6) Let soak while stirring for another hour;
7) Drained dye and added cold water to shirts until the color was almost clear.

I noted that the collars looked great at this point: the dark blue was completely uniform and I was feeling a sense of triumph. When I worked with dyes years ago, the shirts were invariably white to begin with, and I would do batik or tie dye treatments to them. I didn't have my own washing machine back then (rental apartment--no dyes in machine per owner!) and so I would add a bit of sythrapol and hot water to the 5-gal bucket at this stage.

At any rate, I dropped the two nearly-clear-running wet shirts into my washing machine, set if for HOT/max extract/low water level, and in a dour moment, I didn't measure out the 1/4 cup as recommended by Dharma: I think I put in 1/3 cup or so.

After the cycle was done, I took out the shirts, and...the color on the collars had rinsed out to the point where they didn't look appreciably better than when I'd started, some 2 1/2 hours earlier. Womp womp.

Checking the internet for "synthrapol washed out dye," many results led me to this site, although with problems different from mine. I did find a blog that suggested an after wash using 3 tbsp of synthrapol for each 8 pounds of dry product, with as much water in the washing machine as possible. EIGHT POUNDS! Here I put @1/3 cup of synthrapol for *maybe* 1-lb of shirts, with a low wash level.

Would an excessive amount of synthrapol be the culprit here? I don't want to give up just yet, and I would like to give it another shot next weekend. Should I in fact go with just a dollop of synthrapol in the after-wash with a higher water level?

Any/all advice greatly appreciated! Thank you!
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Old 05-04-2020, 01:52 PM
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First off, for your question -- nah, wouldn't worry about the synthrapol. I think formulation of dyes is a bit different than it used to be. Also, is it possible that the collar fabric is different than the rest of the shirt? Sometimes I think 100% cotton gets woven with a bit of something else to make it 102% total.

I did a lot of fabric treatments 20-30 years ago and then moved on to other things. Last year I bought a beautiful bag of hand dyed fabrics at the thrift store. I could feel they had been treated in some way, but it turned out they had never been properly dye set. Went to all the bother of being starched and pressed but not stabilized...

First I machine washed like colors in the washer with my normal detergent. Since I didn't know what had been used/how they had been processed I decided to basically heat set the "stain" (the dye) by boiling for 20-30 minutes in a bath also containing both salt and vinegar, rinsing until clean, then another 20 minutes in the microwave, rinse again... and only then I washed in the washer with a color catcher. Some still required another round, most were fine by that point.

Since then my quilting friends have been handing me problem pieces and I just had to do a similar thing on two other pieces last week, one of which was commercially made the other I don't know but that thing ran so much it went from a very dark to a medium fabric.

I also tried dying some Kona white into more reds for my project. I had terrible results using Rit products they I used to use all the time 20 years ago. The dyes just would not set. The pieces looked so good and all faded to pepto pink.

I strengthened the color by acting like I was starting with fresh fabric. First I washed it again adding caustic soda to the wash. I found you can easily buy it in reasonable quantities these days -- at Walmart! Next to the fabric area they have crafts and had a lot of tie dye t-shirt stuff and have small packets there. There was also a Rit Dye display in with the quilting notions -- but check out the tie dye stuff!

Then I overdyed it. I am getting my best results with boiling on the stove top. 20 years ago I did tie dye t-shirts in the microwave that still look great, again, when I tried that with the red I just got pink. Also was unimpressed trying to dye in the washing machine. I sacrificed my aluminum canning pot (my biggest pot) to being no longer food worthy, stainless should be fine. Glass in the microwave is perfectly fine.

I think the best dying now is being done on rayons... I had signed up for a Ricky Tims thing this spring (has a segment on dying) but it got cancelled due to Covid.
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Old 05-04-2020, 03:46 PM
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I agree with Ice. Synthropol is more of an option...not a necessity. Regular laundry soap works well too.
With procion dyes, the longer the fabric stays in a Hot water bath, the more time the dye molecules have to penetrate and attach to the cotton fabric. I often leave the fabric in much longer...several hours longer...even overnight...keeping the water as hot as I can for as long as I can. The longer the bath, usually the more vibrant the color I get.
I like to put the fabric into a smaller dye bath container, then put that container into a bus pan size tub filled with with hot water. Much like a double boiler. This way, I can keep adding hot water to the bottom pan without diluting the dye. Rinsing with cold water will help set the dye, and, as Ice said, salt & vinegar will also help.
Another option that some people like to use is Retayne. But again, it's an option...not a necessity.
Welcome to the board! And, good luck.
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Old 05-04-2020, 04:37 PM
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I'm not by any means an expert in dying, having only done it a few times in various classes. However my understanding is that Synthrapol is supposed to pick up the loose dye particles and keep them from adhering to other fabrics. It shouldn't be able to remove dye that has set into the fabric, so I suspect that the problem was that the dye was not set.

One of the cautions on the Dharma site is this: Fabrics treated with permanent press, conditioners, sizing or water proofing, etc are not recommended. I wouldn't be surprised if the shirt collars were treated with one or all of these to give them more body. Unfortunately that would also interfere with the dye.
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Old 05-05-2020, 05:15 AM
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Hello, and thank you for your replies.

I do suspect that there may be some sort of "repellent coating" applied to these tactical polo shirts just as most of you have alluded to, even though it says 100% cotton on their labels. I contacted the company yesterday, and their CS person said she would get in touch with the design team and give me a definitive answer.

If I get word back that there is no coating applied and the shirts are pure cotton--and even then I won't be completely certain--perhaps I will try again this weekend, though I will leave the shirts in the eye bath overnight. I'm not sure that Dharma Trading's fiber reactive dyes "work" any better with hot water as opposed to warm, but I will look into it.

Thanks once again.
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Old 05-05-2020, 05:38 AM
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First of all let me welcome you to the QB from SE Michigan! Glad to have you here. I have not dyed a lot of fabric but had 3 yards ready to go right now that just finished their "pot ash" bath and are ready for dying. I have not worked before with Dharma dyes. I suppose I am one for lesser cost effective dyes. I use RIT dyes. Something simple. I would maybe prep your tshirts a bit differently. Pre-wash in detergent without fragrance, and then the bath in pot ash before starting the actual dying process. After that leave your dyed tshirts in the hot bats for as long as possible keeping the water hot for as long as possible. I keep my tea pot ready with the hot water. I use the bathtub and for the fabric bats I use wall paper trays for each color dye I want to use. I have not tie dyed any fabrics since my hippy days back in the late 60's The yardage I did a few years ago came out just the way I wanted it to looking like a nice blended fabric. What I am preparing now will be with a bit of design, more batik-ish than others I have done. The fabrics I am doing are a guild project that COVID has kept us from getting finished together to complete this project.
Don't give up. You are so on the right track. Again welcome to the QB. Looking forward to seeing a lot of you here.

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Old 05-06-2020, 09:31 AM
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Are you located anywhere near Dharma Trading Company? It's not far from me.

I have no suggestions on the dye, though, I probably would have used a dark blue Sharpie!
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Old 05-06-2020, 12:27 PM
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Too funny! This morning I was going through a box of assorted odds and ends and out came one of the shirts my son and I made 20+ years ago. This is after 20 years of storage and he actually wore it for about a year so repeated washings. We'd do stuff like this with his friends on 3-day weekends I'd have a gang at the house... we had 4 boys all within a year of each other within about 6 houses of each other. Just followed the directions and did them in the microwave.

Next to it is one of the darkest pieces of "red" I was able to fix. Oh, they all started out so wonderfully vivid. Again, I followed all the directions, I used the proper setting fixatives in the proper amounts. I did all sorts of things, this is one of the ones that is actually over dyed so I worked with it twice, it started out more baby pink so at least this was usable for my purposes even if not "red".
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Old 05-13-2020, 06:56 AM
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Hello!

Original poster here, and I'm just following up.

I did get a message back from the customer service department of the company (5.11) that made the two tactical polo shirts in question. They advise that the shirts, though 100% cotton, have been treated with a special "anti-fade" coating that would inhibit the dye from taking. That's it: closure on this issue.

It's more than a little bit ironic that these two new-with-tags shirts will now be relegated to the trash bin because their original color has been compromised around the collar due to sun exposure on display mannequins, and though they are 100% cotton, the "anti-fade" treatment applied by the manufacturer precludes my attempts at restoring the color through dyeing.
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Old 05-13-2020, 10:21 AM
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That is pretty crazy.
Thanks for the update. I wondered how things turned out for you.
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