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Printing with Procion MX Dyes

Printing with Procion MX dyesProcion MX dyes are suitable for printing on cotton, linen and viscose rayon. They have excellent colour fastness, provided they are set using soda ash. The results are less vibrant when used on silk fabric and we recommend you use Acid dyes, see our printing with Acid dyes page.

Procion MX dyes are very reactive and the print paste must be used quickly.

Before printing, dyeing or painting, it is important to check whether the material is ‘Prepared for Dyeing’ (PFD) or requires scouring to remove any grease, oil or starch. The dye will be less effective on soiled fabric, reducing the brightness and depth of colour. Run a few droplets of cold water onto the fabric. If they soak in quickly, no scour is necessary. To remove starches, size and oils, add 5ml of Synthrapol (a non-ionic detergent) along with 2-3 litres of water for each 100g of material. Stir gently over a 15 minute period, and then rinse thoroughly in warm water. It is possible to use household detergent, but the alkaline residue may affect the final colour or wash fastness.

Recipe for Printing Paste using fibre reactive Procion MX dyes

Soda Ash and Urea
The following items can be found in our Dyeing section

  • 20g Soda Ash
  • 20-50g Procion MX dye
  • 100g Urea (for Viscose Rayon increase to 200g)
  • 30ml Ludigol
  • 300g water (40°C). Use 2g Calgon when using water from a hard water area as this eliminates the effects of calcium and magnesium salts which make colours weaker and duller.
  • 50g Manutex RS
  1. Make up the 10% stock paste by sprinkling 50g of Manutex RS into 500ml of cold water. Stir and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Pre-treat the cotton or linen fabric in a solution of Soda Ash using 20g soda ash to each litre of water, either soak the fabric or spray it with the solution soda ash and then hang out to dry. When using viscose rayon, make the solution from 25g sodium bicarbonate for each litre of water instead of using soda ash.
  3. Weigh out the dye and urea and add 300ml warm water (40°C). Add the Ludigol and stir well to dissolve.
  4. Add the dye, Urea and Ludigol solution to the Manutex solution and stir well.
  5. The solution is now ready to print or paint. Remember these dyes are very reactive and the paste must be used very quickly.

Fixing the Print

Once dry, there are a number of ways for making the print permanent on the fabric. You can either steam-set it for 5-10 minutes, bake it for 5 minutes at 150°C, or iron it with a hot (120°C) iron for 5 minutes.

The Final Process

Make up a solution of 1/2 teaspoon of synthrapol with 5 litres of hot water and agitate the fabric for 2 minutes. Rinse well in tepid water until the water is clear.


There is no substantiated evidence of a causal link between exposure to Procion MX 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 considerable quantities and in a less well controlled environment in the crafts

Sensible precautions should 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 or exposed to an aerosol from spraying dye solutions made up in water
  • Safety EquipmentAvoid splashing solutions into the eyes, swallowing the materials or prolonged skin contact. A simple ‘non-contact’ approach (most people use 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 (eg 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.

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