General Information & Use for Dharma Acid Dyes
Applicable to any brand of Acid Dyes
Acid Dyes are the dye of choice for dyeing all protein fibers, like wool and other animal hair like alpaca, angora, mohair, etc., silk, feathers, and also they dye nylon. They are even used on leather sometimes. These concentrated powdered dyes are used primarily for tub-dyeing yardage or clothing, or tub dyeing or painting on protein yarns & roving. You can use these dyes either on top of your stove or in a washing machine but they do require very hot water to work properly. Washing machines don't get as hot, but do maintain consistent time, temperature and agitation, yielding more even results. If you are using them for direct application you would steam or microwave them. The only other thing needed (as a fixative) is household white vinegar or a mild powdered acid like Citric Acid which is actually more economical and eliminates the Vinegar smell. Textbooks and commercial dyers also talk about adding leveling agents to get the most even solid colors, like Glauber's Salt to Leveling Acid Dyes and using Ammonium Sulfate (used also for fertilizing plants) first, before the vinegar or citric, with Milling and Pre-metallized Acid Dyes, especially when dyeing paler colors. Check out our article - "Did you Know how Acid Dyes Work" if you are a really serious wool/silk dyer and really want to get into the chemistry and types of Acid Dyes and how they work. We have identified all the pure colors on the chart at the bottom of the page as to what type they are, although information out there is conflicting. Basically, the ones marked with an M or a P need a little more work and possibly Ammonium Sulfate to get more even "level" dye jobs. For low immersion dyeing, where you want lots of color separation (sometimes called "breaking", our mixes marked P are great! Also keep in mind that Milling and Pre-metallized Acid Dyes, while more difficult to work with, are more wash-fast and often more light-fast than Leveling Acid Dyes. On the color chart, the colors marked "Advanced", or marked with a + on the blue chart below, are pre-metallized mixes, and they tend to "split" the most, even more so than pure pre-metallized colors.
Acid dyes are very economical, as they are very concentrated, react fast, and the results are very permanent for most colors (see chart below) - light and wash fast! The end color depends on your temperature, how much dye you use, how acid the dye-bath is, how long the fabric is in the dye, and how much fabric you have. Monitors and printed color charts can vary. Also, our color chart was done with a basic wool yarn. Silks sometimes come out lighter, sometimes even a different shade, so as with all dyes, it is important to test, test, test! If you have any problems after following the instructions, we have a "Dissolving and Trouble Shooting" segment we have written for you after much research. And as with all dye powders, you should handle them carefully. Common sense and good housekeeping (dust mask, gloves, proper ventilation, etc.) should always be used when handling any dye or chemicals. Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Stove Top Immersion Dyeing with Dharma Acid Dyes
- We recommend always to pre-wash your fabric in hot water and something like Synthrapol or our Professional Textile Detergent to remove oils, dirt, silkworm gum, etc., even fingerprints, that will hinder an even dye job. Some wools require scouring. Yarns vary. But everything does need to be thoroughly wet before adding to dye-bath.
- Fill a stainless steel or enamel pot with enough hot or warm water for the fabric to swim freely, turn on the heat.
- Pre-dissolve the proper amount of dye powder for the weight of the fabric/yarn you are dyeing in about a cup of hot water (pyrex with a spout is great!), then add to the pot and stir. If a color seems hard to dissolve, try a little boiling water. To get most of the colors on our dye color chart, we used 1/4-1/3 oz per lb of fabric (1.5-2% of the weight of the fabric - %OWG), which is approximately 2 1/4 - 3 level teaspoons (depending on the color - densities vary, so this is not an accurate method). To get a really dark Navy or a good Black, we used 2/3 oz/lb fiber (4% of the weight of the fabric or approximately 6 level teaspoons). For lighter colors, use less, for even darker than our color chart, use more.
- Add the fabric that has been thoroughly wetted to the dye pot.
- Raise the temperature to 185 for silk or up to 200 degrees for wool, just below boiling. Stir frequently for a few minutes to evenly distribute the dye.
- Add 1/4 cup of vinegar per pound of fabric. Try not to pour directly onto the fabric. Or add 1 Tbs. of Citric Acid per lb of dry fabric if you don't like the smell of vinegar. If you do a lot of dyeing, Citric Acid is also more economical. Again, for the Milling and Pre-metallized colors, try using 1 Tbs./lb of fabric of Ammonium Sulfate, which makes the bath go acid much more gradually, especially when trying to get level, even colors. Dissolve before adding to the dye bath. Add leveling agents like Glauber's Salt to the Leveling colors at this time also if you are going to use them. Then gradually add citric acid or vinegar towards the end to exhaust the dye more fully.
- Maintain temperature and stir frequently for 1/2 hour up to an hour for really dark colors. Regular stirring is even more important with the Pre-metallized and Milling colors. If a color isn't exhausting well, try adding more vinegar or citric acid. Some say a bit of plain salt in the dye bath also helps it to exhaust better. If you still have a lot of color left, take a note that you could try using less dye next time on that particular color.
- Wash in Synthrapol or Professional Textile Detergent and warm water to get out the excess dye. Never wash fibers dyed with acid dyes in hot water as it can break the bonds, which are not as strong as say, fiber reactive dye on cellulose fibers. Inform folks who buy your acid dyed silks and wools to dry clean or use cold water.
Note: If you are dyeing wool, a gradual heating and gradual cooling of the dye--bath is important so as not to shock and felt the wool.
Immersion Dyeing in a Washing Machine with Dharma Acid Dyes
(Not for wool. Wool will felt in a washing machine and dyes better with even hotter temperatures than silk. Use the stove top method for wool.)
These directions are for top loading washing machines only.
- We recommend always to pre-wash your fabric in hot water and something like Synthrapol or our Professional Textile Detergent to remove oils, dirt, silkworm gum, etc., even fingerprints, that will hinder an even dye job. At the very least, everything does need to be wet before adding to dye-bath.
- Set the washing machine to the hottest wash/cool rinse and longest wash cycle. Some folks say to turn your hot water heater to its highest setting first and let it heat up, especially when you are going for black and other dark colors, or they add some boiling water to increase the temperature. For silk, you are trying to get as high as 185 degrees F, although that is almost impossible with a washing machine. For dark colors it matters more than light colors. CAUTION - if you turn up your water heater, warn your family and don't forget to turn it back down after your dye-bath!!! Fill water to the lowest level appropriate for the amount of fabric being dyed, i.e., so it can swim freely but way more than that.
- Pre-dissolve the proper amount of dye powder for the weight of the fabric/yarn you are dyeing in about a cup of hot water (Pyrex with a spout is great!), then add to the pot and stir. If a color seems hard to dissolve, try a little boiling water. To get the colors on our dye color chart, we used 1/4-1/3 oz per lb of fabric (1.5-2% of the weight of the fabric), except to get a really dark Navy or a good black, use 1 oz/lb fiber (4% of the weight of the fabric). For lighter colors, use less, for even darker than our color chart, use more. A full washing machine load can hold approximately 8 lbs of fabric, depending on how dense it is or how big the machine is. For 8 lbs of fabric, 1.5-2% weight of goods = 2 - 2.5 oz of most colors ( ~6 - 8 TBS or 1/3 - 1/2 cup, again, depending on the density of the dye), 4% weight of goods = 5 oz of dye for Dark Navy and Blacks (~16 TBS or 1 cup).
- Add clean wet fabric and agitate for a few minutes.
- Add 1-2 cups of vinegar depending on the size of the load and how dark you want the color, being careful not to pour directly onto fabric. Or add 1 Tbs. of Citric Acid per lb of dry fabric if you don't like the smell of vinegar. If you do a lot of dyeing, Citric Acid is also more economical. Again, for the Milling and Pre-metallized colors (see chart below), try substituting 1 Tbs./lb of fabric of Ammonium Sulfate, which makes the bath go acid much more gradually, especially when trying to get level, even colors. Dissolve before adding to the dye bath. Add leveling agents like Glauber's Salt to the Leveling colors at this time also if you are going to use them. Let agitate 15 more minutes or so, depending on the depth of color you want. Then gradually add citric acid or vinegar towards the end to exhaust the dye more fully.
- Let machine run through cycle OR for maximum wash fastness, stop and reset washer until your fabric has been agitating at least 30 min. to an hour for darker colors. Do not let the washing machine drain or start a new wash cycle. You just want to lengthen the time the fabric is in the dye bath. After resetting, let washer run through entire cycle including a cool rinse.
- To ensure that all of the excess dye has been removed, we suggest running the fabric through another wash cycle with cool to warm water and some Synthrapol or Professional Textile Detergent. Again, never wash acid dyed fabrics or garments in hot water as it can break the bonds of the dye and it will just continue to bleed.
- Run washer through a large rinse cycle to remove any excess dye in the washing machine.
Silk Painting with Acid Dyes
- Stock Solution
-Add 8 oz. (1 cup) of very hot water to one 1/2 oz. (for Black and a Dark Navy, use 1 oz.) of Dharma Acid Dye powder. Stock solutions can be stored up to 6 months in the refrigerator. Reconstitute by heating.
-Stir until dissolved. This will yield a very concentrated dye stock solution. Most colors require further dilution. Note: Every color has a different solubility. Some colors are difficult to dissolve, but most are easily dissolved. A small amount of alcohol (about 1 tablespoon) can be added to the dye solution as a wetting agent, and boiling water can help dissolve also.
- The final concentration of the dye solution for painting should be between 4 and 8%. Start by adding 4 oz. (1/2 cup) of water to the 8 ounces of stock solution you have, test the color and continue adding water until desired shade is achieved.
Keep in mind that the color intensity really develops in the steam setting process. Most colors will remain stable in solution for a long period of time. However, some colors will fall out of solution, and some might even congeal (especially some of the reds), upon cooling or from sitting for a matter of weeks. To restore them, simply heat them on the stove.
Also keep in mind that some mixes of Acid dye colors, especially milling and premetalized dyes, can "separate" as they are drying and the colors migrate. Can be desirable, as it adds texture. If you don't want this, use the colors that we mark on the chart below with a color index #, as those are pure, unmixed colors.
Screen Printing, Stamping & Painting with Acid Dyes
The traditional method of printing with dye is to add the dye to a thickener paste. This method can be used for screen printing, hand-painting, stenciling and stamping and many other direct application techniques. As with the methods above, it is important to prepare the fiber by washing to remove the sizing and anything else that might hinder the dye from penetrating.
- Wash, dry and iron the fabric.
- Prepare dye thickener paste (see below).
- Add dye, either powder or stock solution, as above, to thickener. Proportion the dye in the container in relation to the amount of thickener paste and desired intensity.
- Print, paint, or stencil or stamp on fabric.
- Air dry. Steam set. (See Steam setting directions.)
Preparing Dye Thickener
When screen printing with dye thickened with sodium alginate, the print base should be as thin as the image will allow. Dye printed in too thick a base will halo from the image before the fabric is cured or will accumulate in the corners, altering the image. Sodium Alginate SH is a high viscosity, low solids type of alginate thickener used primarily for cotton and other cellulose fibers. It may also be used for silk when fine line definition is not required. Sodium Alginate F is a low viscosity, high solids alginate used for silks and synthetics when fine line definition is desired. Use about 2 1/2 times more of the F to equal the viscosity of SH.
- Mix chemical water by adding 1/4 cup of urea and 1 Tablespoon of vinegar to 1 quart of water.
- Sprinkle sodium alginate over water and stir constantly for 10 minutes, OR mix in blender.
- Let stand for a few hours or overnight before using. Mixture may be stored in refrigerator for many months.
Acid dyes will work on other things besides silk and wool. Basically anything protein, like feathers, fur, leather, etc. You just have to come up with a way to use it that won't ruin the substrate you are using it on - for example, leather doesn't like being simmered in a pot, it will just dry out. With feathers or leather, some folks paint it on, then steam it. These dyes also work on Nylon as it has a similar chemical structure. With Nylon, as with all fabrics, you must be sure there is no surface treatment that will interfere with the dye bonding with the fabric, i.e.: water repellents, stain resistance. So called PFP (prepared for printing) Nylon works best.
The quantities recommended are for the deepest color saturation in one pound of fabric. For pastels and lighter colors, use less dye. For darker colors, use more dye.
To get the colors on our color chart, we generally used between 1.5% & 2% OWG (of weight of goods), except for #413 True Black, #476 Toner Black and #409 Dark Navy. These colors have an * next to their names on our color charts and jar labels. For the blacks, we used 4%. For the Navy we got a nice Navy at 2%, and a dark "to dye for" Navy at 4%. 1.5% worked well for the light colors and 2% worked well for all the darker colors with the three exceptions above. That translates to 1/4 oz to 1/3 oz (or ~2.25-3 tsp) of dye per pound of fabric for most colors, and 2/3 oz (~6 tsp) of dye per pound of fabric for black and the deepest of Navies. You have to play with it as silk and wool uptake differently, so if the dye bath isn't exhausting all the way, even if you add more vinegar or citric acid, make yourself a note to use less dye next time for that color. These are very concentrated dyes, and that is one thing that makes them very economical. (Besides our great prices!)
Dharma Acid Dye Primaries
Any of the "pure" yellow, blue and red or fuchsia type colors can be used as primaries, but the chart below lists the most popular.
|Warm Primaries||404, 409, 415||402||414, 401|
|Cool Primaries||407 -for brightest, 416||411, 406 for super bright||401, 445 for super bright|
Dharma Acid Dye Properties
Colors #406, 445 and #456 are pure Fluorescent and glow under black light. Our new colors #478 & #479 are Fluorescent Acid dyes mixed with another color (unfortunately, no such thing as a fluorescent blue), so they fluoresce, but not quite as strongly.
For wash & light fastness higher numbers are better. For the less wash fast dye colors, of which we are carrying a couple so you have more color choices, Dharma Dye Fixative or Retayne in a final soak after dyeing helps a lot. Wash less wash fast colors in cooler water. Acid dyed silk and wool should be washed in cooler water anyway. Hot water breaks the bonds that make the dye permanent, and will cause the dye to bleed. All the dyes can be dry-cleaned. There are 3 basic Acid Dye types : L=Leveling, M=Milling, P=Premetallized 1:2 (see our article - "Did you Know how Acid Dyes Work" if you are a serious wool/silk dyer and want to get into chemistry and types of Acid Dyes and how they work). Some folks suggest mixing L colors with L colors, and M or P colors with M or P colors, because of the sizes of the molecules and how fast they travel through the water or the fiber (see below), if you want completely even dyeing. Leveling agents, as discussed above, help to solve that. There is also conflicting info out there as to whether some colors are L or M as some sources listed them as both. For low immersion dyeing, where you want color separation, you can mix any of them indefinitely!
Colors below marked with an + are pre-metallized mixes that are having the most variation in color dependent on the conditions of the dyebath and other factors (see our trouble shooting guide). They tend to "break" the most, separating into their component colors, especially with low immersion techniques, which can be very visually interesting. We brought them in because they are beautiful and unique colors that are very difficult to achieve by mixing leveling or milling dyes, and have never been available to home dyers before. The Pre-metallized colors are also extremely washfast and lightfast. We think that once you get the hang of using them, they are worth it! If you want colors that are easier to use, we recommend you enjoy the other 49 beautiful colors. Just remember, if you want the color perfectly even or "level" when using any of the Pre-metallized colors or even the Milling colors, use ammonium sulfate at the beginning of the dyebath as described in detail above, and stir more than you would with the Leveling colors.
|Color # - name||Color Index # / Dye type||Solubility in|
|Dischargability w/ Discharge Paste|
|401 - Brilliant Yellow||Acid Yellow 19 / M||50||5||5||doesn't|
|402 - Fire Engine Red||Acid Red 266 / L||25-30||4-5||6||moderate|
|403 - Flamingo Pink||mix / L||great|
|404 - Sapphire Blue||Acid Blue 25 / L||50-60||1-2||4-5||doesn't|
|405 - Deep Purple||mix / L||to pale blue|
|406 - Fluorescent Fuchsia||Flu. Acid Red 52 / L - bright fluorescence under black light||100-150||3-4||2-3||doesn't|
|407 - Caribbean Blue||Acid Blue 7 / L||30-40||3-4||1-2||moderate|
|408 - Teal Green||Acid Green 25 / L or M||10-30||4||6||doesn't|
|409 - Dark Navy*||Acid Blue 113 / M||20-30||4-5||7||to plum|
|410 - Kelly Green||mix / L; slight fluorescence under black light||moderate|
|411 - Deep Magenta||Acid Red 131 / M||n/a||5||4-5||good|
|412 - Pink Orchid||mix / M||great|
|413 - True Black*||Acid Black 194 / P||n/a||4-5||7||goesn't|
|414 - Sunflower Yellow||Acid Yellow 135 / M||n/a||5||6-7||moderate|
|415 - Midnight Blue||Acid Blue 92 / L||n/a||5||5||great (to pale yel.)|
|416 - Peacock Blue||Acid Blue 40 / L||n/a||2-3||6||doesn't|
|417 - Tobacco Leaf||mix / L||moderate|
|418 - Deep Maroon||mix / L||good, to tan|
|419 - Cayenne Red||mix / L||doesn't|
|420 - Golden Straw||mix / L||slight|
|421 - Plum Dandy||mix / L||to bluer color|
|422 - Bright Aqua||mix / L||4||1-2||good|
|423 - Blazing Orange||mix / L + M||moderate|
|424 - True Turquoise||Direct Turquoise 86 / D||35-45||4-5||7||doesn't|
|425 - Amethyst||Acid Violet 90 / P||n/a||5||5-6||doesn't|
|426 - Pecan Brown||Acid Brown 282 / P||n/a||5||6||doesn't|
|427 - Sand Dune||mix / P||doesn't|
|428 - Chocolate Brown||mix / P||doesn't|
|429 - Alpine Blue||Acid Blue 260 - 50% / M||n/a||5||6-7||doesn't|
|430 - Persimmon||Acid Orange 144 - 50% / P||n/a||5||5||doesn't|
|431 - Lilac+||mix / P||doesn't|
|432 - Antique Mauve+||mix / P||doesn't|
|433 - Strawberry Red+||mix / P||doesn't|
|434 - Pistachio+||mix / P||doesn't|
|435 - Soft Tan+||mix / P||doesn't|
|436 - Twilight Grey+||mix / P||poor; goes purplish|
|437 - Purple Haze+||mix / P||doesn't|
|438 - Olive Brown+||mix / P||doesn't|
|439 - Espresso Bean+||mix / P||doesn't|
|440 - Oxblood Red+||mix / P||doesn't|
|441 - Peach Blush+||mix / P||doesn't|
|442 - Honey Mustard||Acid Yellow 220 / P||50-75||5||6-7||doesn't|
|443 - Tangelo||Acid Red 357 / P||n/a||5||5-6||doesn't|
|444 - Electric Violet||Acid Violet 76 - 75% / L||n/a||5||5-6||doesn't|
445 - Fluorescent Lemon
Flu Acid Yellow 250 - 25% / L - bright fluorescence under black light
|446 - Silver Grey||mix / P||doesn't|
|447 - Emerald Green||mix / L||moderate|
|448 - Chartreuse||mix / L||doesn't|
|449 - Vanilla Cream||mix / P||doesn't|
|450 - Sage Leaf+||mix / P||doesn't|
|451 - Moss Green||mix / L + M||to bluer green|
|452 - Forest Green||mix / L + M||moderate|
|453 - Fawn+||mix / P||5||6-7||doesn't|
|454 - Poinsettia||Direct Red 81||n/a||3||4-5|
|455 - Royal Purple||mix / L + M||3||4-5|
|456 - Fluorescent Safety Orange||mix / L - bright fluorescence under black light||2-3||3|
|457 - Extreme Blue||Acid Blue 62 / L||n/a||2-3||4-5||moderate|
|458 - Cabernet||Acid Red 299 / M||n/a||4-5||5-6||good|
|459 - Intense Iris||Acid Violet 43 / L||n/a||1-2||5-6||doesn't|
|460 - Saffron Spice||Acid Orange 116 / M||n/a||5||5||moderate|
|461 - Avocado||mix / L + M||4||6|
|462 - Teddy Bear Brown||Acid Brown 19 / P||n/a||5||7||
|463 - Duckling||mix / L||3-4||5-6|
|464 - Hyacinth||mix / L||3-4||3-4|
|465 - Lichen||mix / L + P||3-4||4-5|
|466 - Baby Blue Eyes||mix / L||4-5||4-5|
|467 - Mahogany||mix / L||4||4|
|468 - Winter Green||mix / L||4||4|
|469 - Golden Poppy||mix - neutral||4||4|
|470 - Berry Crush||mix / L||3||3|
|471 - Sour Apple||mix / L||4||4|
|472 - Blued Steel||mix / L + P||5||6|
|473 - Spearmint Breeze||mix / L ; slight fluorescence under black light||4||1-2||good|
|474 - Valentine Blush||mix / M||4||5|
|475 - Aubergine||mix / M||4||5|
|476 - Toner Black*||mix / M||4||5|
|477 - Cherry Bomb||mix / M||4||5|
|478 - Purple Pop (fluor.)||mix / L - medium fluorescence under black light||2-3||3|
|479 - Radioactive (fluor.)||mix / L - medium fluorescence under black light||2-3||3|
|480 - Sea Spray||mix / M||4||4|
|481 - Ballerina Pink||mix / M||4||4|
|482 - Delphinium Blue||mix / M||4||4|
|483 - Chinese Red||Acid Red 88 / M||3-4||3-4|
|484 - Platinum||mix / M||2-4||3-5||moderate|
|485 - Frozen Blue||mix / M|
|486 - Champagne||mix / M||3-4||4-5|
|487 - Indigo Blue||mix / M||4-5||4-5||moderate|
|488 - Ivory||mix / M||3-4||4-5||moderate|
|489 - Monarch Orange||Acid Yellow 199 / L||4-5||6-7||moderate|