Types of Fabric dyes

fabric dyes

Fabric dyeing usually happens during the textile production process, as fabric is made. But if you want to change the colour of a garment you already bought or the fabric you already have, you can do it easily at home. Fabric dyes, the magic ingredient of fabric dyeing is available at shops everywhere. But which dye to buy? Let us checkout the different fabric dyes available.

Types of Fabric Dye

Acid Dyes

This is a water-soluble anionic dye and is usually used for dyeing protein fabrics wool fabrics, cashmere and silk. Man-made fabrics like polyester, nylon, rayon, acrylic can also be dyed with acid dyes. Colour may run after some washes. It is not used on cotton fabrics. This is a very safe dye to use even at home. 

Azoic dyes

This dye is used to dye cotton fabric and even for printing on cotton. It is also used for dyeing silk and wool.

Basic dyes/Catonic dyes

This dye is used to dye acrylic, polyester and nylon. It creates bright colors. May bleed, and has little colorfastness. It is an economical dye.

Disperse dyes

This dye is used for dyeing synthetic fabrics like Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic, and acetate. It doesnot wash away fast.

Mordant dyes

This dye can be used for dyeing fabrics like polyester, nylon, rayon, acrylic wool and silk. Excellent colour adherence. But not as bright as acid dyes.

Reactive / Fiber reactive dyes

This is the most preferred dye. This is used for dyeing protein fibers like wool, silk, all cellulose fibers, like cotton, rayon, hemp, linen, Tencel, Modal, bamboo and nylon. It gives nice bright colours which last for a long time. It is an expensive dye compared to other dyes.

Sulfur dyes

This is usually used to dye cotton fabrics and other natural & man-made cellulosic fibres. Sulfur dyes give mostly dull colors but it is very inexpensive. It is also used for printing.

Vat dyes

This is used to dye cotton and cellulosic fabrics. Vat dyeing is the name of the process of dyeing. Vat dyes are insoluble in water (or most other solvents) but they become soluble during the vat-making process, which can be complicated. Colour doesnot wash away fast. Indigo dyeing is an example of vat dyeing.

Natural dyes

This refers to dyes derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. Most of the natural dyes used are vegetable dyes derived from root, leaves, barks, trunks & fruits. It is usually used to dye natural fabrics.

Learn more about dyeing fabric with natural dyes here.

Hot water Dyes & Cold water Dyes

Coldwater dyes are used to dye cotton fabrics. A fixing agent (like soda ash) has to be used along with cold water for dyeing. Coldwater dyes do not work well with polyester. Hot water dyes are used to dye natural fabrics as well as synthetics and are used with hot water of temperature 130-150ºF

Selecting the dye

Other than the suitability to the fabric, there are many elements that should be checked when selecting the fabric dye – good fastness to washing and low or no sensitivity to fading when exposed to sunlight or chemicals like bleach. The dyeing should be accomplished without it having any effect on the tensile strength of the fabric.

Related posts : How to dye clothes – a simple tutorial; How to tie-dye ; How to create cool tie dye patterns on fabric50 different methods to embellish and decorate fabric

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Types of Fabric dyes”

    • Polyester and elastane fibers cannot be dyed with regular dyes used for natural fibers. The colors won’t stick, and also heating methods will damage the fabric. You can use disperse dye for dyeing polyester, but it has a high-temperature dyeing process. Acid Dyes can be used for elastane-synthetic blends as they have a lesser-temperature process.

  1. Hi Sarina,
    Thanks for posting this info! Perfect timing: I stored some clothing inventory in my truck over the winter which then leaked and caused damage to many of the items – the black die off the paper label/price tags bled onto the cream/pink cotton blouses. I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to salvage the pieces. Now that you’ve taught me which dyes to use perhaps you’d consider posting a lesson on how to use them! Lol! Thanks again for the info…

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