• What types of dyes last the longest when made up in liquid form. I ask because bought some the Jaquard PMX dyes for use on paper/card ect, but found out they have quite a short shelf life. I call under a year a very short shelf life, let alone a week or two. I have some old silk dyes that are well over ten years old now and they're just like fine. But i must say i never need to fix them, is this where the lasting problem starts with fabric?
  • The reason why Procion MX type dyes go bad is the fact that they are reactive dyes. They can react directly with the fiber to create a permanent covalent bond, which is why they are so incredibly long-lasting, compared to other dyes. You can even boil Procion MX-dyed fabric, without affecting the chemical bond in the least. Try that with acid dyes, and they can't help but at least partially leave the fiber. Most acid dyes produce fabric that should be hand-washed, separately, at or below 105°F, because only hydrogen bonding holds the dye to the fiber. The only exceptions are the metal complex dyes, such as the Lanaset dyes, which can be washed up to 140°F, but even they must never be boiled, after they've been applied.

    The key is the specific class of dye. You can read about the range of different type types, for different fibers, on my page About the Dyes. Different dyes attach to the different fibers with different chemical bonds. The fiber reactive dyes can go bad before use, if you mix them up too far in advance, or store them under excessively hot conditions, by reacting with the water in the dye/water mixture, instead of with the cellulose in the cotton fiber or the protein in the silk fiber.

    Among the fiber reactive dyes, there are different levels of reactivity. The highly reactive ones react quickly with the fiber, when you're dyeing, but they also go bad the most quickly. There are less reactive fiber reactive dyes, which last much better after being mixed with water, but for the same reasons they require more heat to react with your fiber. More reactive = faster reacting = less heat needed. Less reactive = longer lasting = hotter dyebaths needed, either that or after-steaming to enabled the reaction.

    Procion MX dyes are the most reactive of all the fiber reactive dyes. This means that they can handle the lowest temperatures. 70°F (21°C) is the practical lower limit, below which some of the dyes quit working as efficiently. The different unmixed pure colors in the Procion MX line have slightly different levels of reactivity. The Procion Turquoise MX-G is the least reactive, so when people write to me complaining that everything about their dyeing worked except that the blues are pale, I know that their workroom is too cold. The Procion Fuschia, Red MX-8B, is the most reactive, so people complain about (or exploit) the fact that it will strike the first place it touches on soda-soaked fabric, not blending or spreading like the other colors, in tie-dye or dye painting.

    There are also less reactive fiber reactive dyes. There's a chart at the bottom of my fiber reactive dyes page that compares them. Drimarene K dyes are a bit less reactive than Procion MX dyes; these are the dyes found in Dylon Permanent Dyes and Dylon Machine Dyes. Cibacron F come next; They can be used at room temperature, but they don't like a cold dyeing studio. After that, you have the Remazol dyes, which are unreactive enough that they can actually be sold in liquid form! This makes them very handy to use—no powders to mess with—but more expensive to ship. One group of Remazol dyes are sold as PRO Chemical & Dyes Liquid Fiber Reactive Dyes, while a mostly different subset of Remazol dyes are sold by Jacquard Products in their new Vinyl Sulphon dyes; these are the same dyes also found in Jacquards Red Label and Green Label Silk Colors, though the Vinyl Sulphon line is more concentrated, similar to the Liquid Reactives in strength. The only drawback is that you must apply the additional heat that these less reactive fiber reactive dyes require in order to get all of the dye molecules to react. You can either use a hot dyebath (40°C to 60°C), or a very warm spot in your house, or you can steam or microwave afterwards to get the extra heat you need. (Never microwave dry fabric.)

    If you're not satisfied with the short shelf-life of Procion MX dye after you mix the dye powder in water, you can extend their lifespan by refrigerating the dye solutions—the dye solutions will last three times longer for each 10°C (or 18°F) decrease in storage temperature, or nine times longer for a 36°F decrease in storage temperature—or switch to using Remazol dyes, which stay good for a year in solution.

    By the way, "silk dyes" that never need to be fixed are probably fabric paints instead of true dyes.

  • Thankyou so much for such an in depth reply.

    Just to clarify i am not using these for fabric, just paper and card. This is why i mention the "silk dyes" that never need to fixed. The label states the recommended fixative for them, but i never had call for it on paper. The main requirements i have for the dyes is as follows: Long shelf life and good reactance to household bleach, no need for the dye to bleach all the way to white but but they must show good signs of change. Water based

    My most recent experiments have been the Green label dyes (good colour and depth but little or no reaction to bleach) and the Dupont silk dyes, they bleached to white in an instant almost to much and to fast, but are not water based (not sure what the solution is) and the colours are really bland (do some dyes need steam to become vivid?) making then dry way to fast and look poor.

    I was thinking Remazol and then these Vinyl Sulphon dyes you mention. I know the Green label dyes are the same as the Red label but one has higher PH than the other (poss changing the effects of bleach?) I dont want to be buying every single dye ever made as it has become quite costly already, as you must understand i have bought alot of artist drawing inks already, finding out that the only ones that worked are dye based but hard to get and expensive,and that's howi came to be here.
    Sorry to run on like this, and thanks again for the nice reply.
  • If you don't need to fix the dyes at all, then it doesn't matter what the shelf life for the reactivity of Procion MX dyes is. Even after the dyes hydrolyze, losing their reactive chlorine to a reaction with the water, they are still quite usable as acid dyes, as long as they don't clump or otherwise look or smell noticeably bad. They will no longer react with the cellulose in paper, but they can be sealed with some sort of lacquer. If you do not set or seal the dyes in any way, they will dissolve in water if the card gets wet, but the same is true of many watercolors.

    Jacquard's Vinyl Sulphon dyes and ProChem's Liquid Reactive dyes are similar to each other in strength, but both are much more concentrated than the Red Label dyes, which in turn are twice as strong as the Green Label dyes. Don't use Green Label dyes unless you want to make use of the chemical dyeset agent (Permanent Dyeset Concentrate) on silk or another protein fiber; it doesn't give you any advantages on plant-based fibers.

    The Remazol dyes are noted in general for discharging well. You've been using hypochlorite bleach to oxidize your dyes; perhaps you should also try the other class of discharging agents, which work the opposite way, by reduction. Jacquard Discharge Paste would be a good one to try for cards (iron it to activate). See What Chemicals Can Be Used To Remove Dye?. The Remazol dyes as a group discharge particularly well with reductive discharge chemicals.

    Here's a chart for both hypochlorite and reductive discharge on Procion Dyes: Which Procion MX dyes discharge the best? Which are good at resisting chlorine bleach?; for reductive discharge on Remazol type dyes see Jacquard's table or my comparison of liquid vinyl sulfone dyes table.

  • Thankyou so much, that is really helpful. I will most likely not go for the iron discharge method as i work very slowly (can't have the iron on for hours at a time) and also like to see the results as i apply the bleach, allowing me to breath on the bleach a little to warm and increase the affect or dab with a paper towel to halt it, giving me real-time control. I am a very regular visitor to your web site, a real gold mine of good help and information. Just need to find a stockist for the Vinyl Sulphon dyes and others in the UK.

  • I am so disappointed in the shelf life of the jaquard green/red label silk dyes-less than one year and the colors are very faded-- have others found this to be true
  • Hi Kathleen,

    Your Silk Dyes should have a longer shelf life than one year. If they have been stored in a fairly stable environment with the lids closed tight they should last longer than that. Would you check the batch numbers and let us know what those are? And where did you buy the dyes?

    Thank you,
  • Hi, I live in Australia and have probably had my Procion MX dyes for about eight years - stored in a darkish place, but they would have been subjected to outside temps of up to 35c plus degrees from time to time. Would this be the reason for my latest batch being very faded and pale? What sort of time frame can I expect from the powdered dyes and in what sort of situation should they be stored?
  • Hi Sally,

    How disappointing!
    However, 8 years is a pretty long time to expect Procion MX dyes to hold their full strength, even if they'd never been opened. If they have been opened over the past 8 years that would contribute to ever further degradation.
    Generally speaking you can expect unopened Procion MX to last several years - 3 to 4 to be on the safe side, but once opened and exposed to even the slightest amount of humidity or moisture that time frame can be quite compromised. I do have some dyes that are 7+ years old that seem to still be in good shape, but on the other hand I've had very disappointing results with dyes that are only a year or so from purchase. The difference, I'm sure, is how careful I was to make sure my implements that I used to measure out the dye were very dry. Once moisture is introduced to the dyes reaction can start 'firing off' the dyes in the jar.
    Based on my personal experience, I'd test each dye on a small piece of fabric before I tossed the whole lot - some of your dyes may be just fine.
    Storage is easy, dark and the cooler the better. The higher temps that your dyes experienced may have something to do with the poor result you've experienced.

    hope this helps
  • Thanks Annette, I will test them all before ditching them. I will take better care of the next lot. Can I keep them in the fridge?

  • Ummm, the fridge makes me nervous because of the ambient moisture in most refrigerators...I'd go for an internal closet before I used a fridge.