Did you know that every black doesn't dye the same?

Did you know?

All About Black Dyes

We carry 5 shades of black Fiber Reactive dyes, soon to be six, each with different colors in their mixes that result in a different cast or shade. "Black" can run greenish, bluish, reddish, etc., depending on what it is made from. To complicate matters further, when you use them for tie-dye, low immersion and ice dye techniques, blacks, like other mixes, tend to "split" or "bleed" somewhat into some of their component colors. Different dye colors have different size molecules. The colors with the smallest tend to spread through the fabric faster than the colors with the biggest, also the proportions of the component colors can affect what kind of bleed you get in these techniques. Three of our blacks (#s 44, 200 & 300) work well in lower room temperature direct application methods like tie-dye, batik and low immersion techniques, including baggie and snow (or ice) dyeing, where the temperatures used are cooler but the fabric is kept moist long enough for the dye to develop full depth. They work great for solid color tub dyeing too, but are not as dark as the hot water blacks. Two (#s250 & 275), and soon to be three, of our blacks prefer hot water (130° to 180°F), and work better for solid color dyeing in a tub where you can heat it up, plus they will melt the wax if you try batik with heat. The hot water dyes CAN be used with tie-dye, if you warm them up - you need to mix with HOT tap water, use your urea, and then either batch it under black plastic in the sun in the summer, or under a heated blanket (protected by plastic, of course) in the colder temperatures. None of these blacks, with the exception of #275, gives anything like a black on silk. #275 comes the closest. To get a rich black on silk or wool, you need to use an Acid Dye.

Now, what black should you use? Below, we try to explain some of the differences. But it is fun to try them all!

#44 Better Black

One of our most popular "cold water" blacks. Tub dyes with a blue cast and edges are blue to blue green in tie-dye. Maroonish on protein fibers.
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#300 New Black

Now in a tie with #44 for the title of most popular "cold water" black! Tub dyes with a blue cast and edges are blue/pink in tie-dye.
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#200 Raven Black

NEW! - A cold water black that has a more balanced cast than 300 or 44, and gives the deepest black of all the "cold water" reactives in tub dyeing. In tie-dyeing the edges are blue to bluish purple, a deeper shade than 44, and slightly darker than 300. We think it is going to be a great new option for dyers doing all kinds of techniques. And while no cold water black can ever equal the depth of a hot water black like #250 in solid dyeing, this one is the next best, and much more economical than a hot water black. Not black on protein fibers.
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#250 Jet Black

Darkest black we have for cotton and other cellulose fibers IF tub dyed in HOT (130° to 150°F) water! Dark brown on silk or wool or other protein fiber. In tie-dye, batik or low immersion techniques, done at room temperature, it yields edges that run mossy and olive green; it can be a really neat look but not the best choice as your basic black for tie-dye with other colors.
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#275 Hot Black

Also best tub dyed in hot (150° to 180°F) water, like the #250. Tub dyes with a deep but bluish black cast on cotton. With Soda Ash on silk it's a deep blackish brown; with vinegar on silk, came out black in our tests and a lighter shade of black on wool. Tie-dye came out blue black for us in warm ambient room temp of 75°F or more! (unlike #250, which it was replacing). If you are looking for a different black, give it a try. The only Fiber Reactive black that works on silk! Also the BEST Fiber Reactive black for Discharging!
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#39 Black

We regret to say we are discontinuing this black, our original from many many many years ago, as it is our least popular black, our least black Black, and sales no longer support keeping it. We are happy to mix up 5 or more pounds for special orders, as always with discontinued colors.


A new shade of HOT water Fiber Reactive Black - EBONY BLACK - it is a mix of the Hot Reactive PURE Black 5, which actually runs blue. Since that is a lot like our other blacks, we have mixed this with other hot water colors to make it more black. Definitely needs HOT water.

Some tips and tricks to get the best out of your blacks:

  • You have to use a lot of dye:
    • In tub dyeing, use 7-8% weight of goods. Always paste up your dye, preferably with a Urea water mixture, to get it dissolved and to avoid "freckles" of undissolved dye, particularly red. (If you are still having freckles, filtering your dissolved dye through a very thin fabric like habotai silk can help.)
    • Use 8 teaspoons per cup of Urea water for tie-dye. It can help to mix this in a blender as it is hard to paste up that much dye in such a small amount of water. Here is where your Urea really pulls its weight, since it is a dissolving agent as well as a wetting agent. Shake your solution up before applying, as the heavier red often sinks to the bottom as it sits. In the blacks that have more red in them, the red is also the most likely color to sit on top of the folds and not migrate as much as the other colors.
  • For tub dyeing, use 1.5 to 2 times as much salt as you normally would - this forces more of the dye to the fabric.
  • Some folks love 50/50 combination of #44 and #300 for tie dye and batik. We got a mean black tie-dye with our NEW Raven Black that folks may like even better! In tub dyeing the hot water #250 gives the darkest black of all, although we are looking forward to the new hot water black we have coming.
  • Keep the blacks as dark as possible and reduce washout by taking the extra step of soaking the finished dyed garment in Dharma Dye Fixative or Retayne. (When the dyebath is done, drain it but don't rinse the garments/fabric. Fill tub back up with HOT water and add the fixative, 1 oz per lb of fabric, 8 oz for a full washing machine load. Soak, agitating occasionally, for 30 minutes, then rinse and wash in HOT water and Kieralon: Dyer's Detergent as usual. Sometimes it is necessary to wash black items twice. But without Retayne or Dharma Dye fixative, you might have to rinse and wash more. The nature of the beast. This helps with any darker shade you want to dye, by the way.
  • For tub dyeing- STIR STIR STIR!!! - The more your item is agitated (a full hour after the last soda ash has been added for darker shades) the more dye will penetrate the fabric for a deeper and more even color.

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