If you’ve never used dyes before, you may be concerned about their safety, especially when using them for large projects or in the classroom.
The two most popular synthetic dyes include Acid dyes and Procion MX dyes. When correctly used, create a permanent bond with the fabric with excellent wash fastness. Acid dyes have been formulated for use on protein fibre such as silk and wool. The word ‘acid’ relates to the acetic acid (vinegar) used to set the dye. Procion MX dyes are set using soda ash and a quantity of salt to help the dyes migrate into the fibre. Procion MX dyes are best used with cellulose fibre such as cotton, viscose and linen.
There is no substantiated evidence of a causal link between exposure to Acid and Procion MX fibre reactive dyes and any chronic or fatal illnesses. Both the acid and fibre reactive dye families have a considerable track record of use in industry in large quantities, and in the less well controlled environment in the crafts.
Sensible safety precautions must be taken when handling dyes and chemicals, particularly as powders:
- Avoid inhaling dusts, they can produce an asthma type reaction. People with known respiratory problems should not handle synthetic dyes, and particularly the fibre reactive dyes, in powder form. A dust mask should be worn when working with the powders. One should also be worn when exposed to an aerosol from spraying dye solutions made up in water.
- Avoid splashing solutions into the eyes, swallowing the materials or prolonged skin contact. A simple ‘non-contact’ approach (most people use rubber gloves to avoid dyeing themselves) plus normal, good, hygiene is sufficient precautions for the occasional user.
- Store in clearly labelled containers well away from children, pets and foodstuffs. Treat dye powders and solutions with the same caution as domestic poisons (e.g. strong cleaners, bleaches or medicines).
- Dispose of spent solutions containing residues of the dyes responsibly. Dilute and pour onto waste land or into the sewage system. They have no known effect on the environment when used in the quantities recommended in the literature.
Provided these dyes are used following the above guidelines, there should be no restriction on creativity and experimentation.
Please visit the Dyes and Dyeing section of our website to learn more and get started at home.