Safety of Soda Ash with Children and general question
  • I'm considering doing a tie dye program, using Procion MX, with children ages 7-11. Currently, I'm trying to decide whether to add the soda ash to the dye bottles, or do a dip after the dying is done.

    My manager is concerned about hazards to the eye if we put the soda ash in the spray bottles (we only have spray bottles). I'm wondering about having adults do a soda ash dip after the dying. But, do we leave the shirts tied when we do the dip? Does the dye all mix together in the soda ash bucket? My manager is also concerned about wet shirts getting soda ash on the kid's skin.

    In other words, how safe is this process for children? What are my options?
  • The usual way to do tie-dye with children is to have them tie the shirts either dry or dampened with a little plain water, then dump them all in a bucket of soda ash and water to soak for fifteen minutes. (See How to Tie Dye.) Then, have someone with sturdy gloves wring out the excess moisture, and allow the children to apply the dye from squeeze bottles - NOT spray bottles.

    Soda ash is no more toxic than laundry detergent, which usually contains large amounts of it, but it is irritating to the skin and eyes. Handling requires the children to be wearing gloves, aprons, and safety goggles. it's easier to avoid the whole issue by using the above technique. Tying the shirts while they are wet with soda ash is something I avoid at all costs. I always get my gloves caught in the string or rubber bands, but soda ash irritates and dries out my skin if I don't wear gloves. You have to wear gloves with soda ash. Some people prefer to tie dry garments, others wet ones, but plain water is fine. When you dump the shirts into the soda ash, use a cup of soda ash per gallon, and the extra water won't matter.

    The children should all be wearing plastic gloves (size extra small, not the large ones from the drug store). Do not allow the dye to contact their skin, or yours. The dye is not very toxic, but good practices require that you avoid all unnecessary contact.

    Don't use spray bottles. Spraying dye can give cool results, but you have to be very careful that everyone involved cannot breathe any dye at all. This means giving every one of them a properly-fitted respirator and safety goggles. The dye is seriously allergenic if inhaled. You must not let the children breathe it. It will be much easier and far less expensive for you to go out today and buy some squeeze bottles somewhere than to do the respirator thing right.

  • Thanks for your answer. I hope I can get my manager to pop for the costs of doing permanent tie dying!