indigo dye is not lightfast
  • Hi -- I love your indigo dye kit, and used it happily two weeks ago, getting some nice deep colors. Afterward I washed all the fabrics thoroughly. Today I noticed that several of the fabrics have faded pretty severely where they're folded, and they're not stored in bright sunlight. This seems to only be happening on 100% cottons; so far, linen and linen/cotton blends are holding their color. I had big plans to do more dyeing, but now I'm hesitant. Help!! :0)
  • Hi Fresh,

    ...this is a new one on me! The fabric is fading on the exposed, top side? No direct sunlight exposure?...I think I'm going to have to put my head together with a couple of the other folks here as nothing comes to mind that might be causing this.
    We'll get it figured out, though!

  • Yes, that's exactly what's happening.
    Thanks in advance for your help!!
  • oookay...I will talk with the chemist on Monday...

  • Okay, so my conversation with the chemist raised some additional questions.
    First, how was the 'flower' on your vat? Did you get a nice thick flower or was it thinner? More like this: or more like this:
    Also, have you checked for wash fastness in either of the fibers? And is the cotton a much lighter weight than the linen/cotton fabric. Last, but not least, did you dye the cotton first or the linen/cotton fabric first?
    ....we'll get there!
  • Thanks so much for getting back to me. To answer your questions, the flower was thinner, more like the second photos. I have not checked for wash fastness -- I'll go ahead and wash pieces of each fabric and see how they do. One of the cottons that's faded was quite thin, but another was comparable in weight to the linens. And I don't remember the exact order I dyed them in, thought I'm sure one of the cottons (the thin one) was very early on.

    Also maybe relevant, I did multiple dips on each piece but found that things didn't really get any darker on subsequent dips (but they were fairly dark after one dip).

    I had one thought I wanted to bounce off you guys. The conditions here are very humid -- could that possibly be a factor? The parts of the fabric that are exposed to light are also exposed to more air. Could the Thiox be somehow re-activated by the humidity in the air? The faded sections are a bright blue/green, similar to the color when the dye is part way through the oxidation process, if that makes sense.
  • oooohhhh, the blue/green color is telling us something - i think...It seems unlikely that the Thiox could be the culprit - but the green in the color is telling, and baffling. I'm back to the lab - will get back to you later today.

  • okay! Sorry for the delay, but I did have a good conversation with the chemist and we both recalled a situation from a couple of years ago when one of our long time clients was having the same problem, should have remembered this right away because it was a BIG deal.
    This customer is a teacher who had been using our Indigo very successfully for a number of years in her workshops - she called us panicked - her students were calling to report that the beautiful pieces they'd made during workshop were fading! After much back and forth - having her send samples of the fabric to us dyed and undyed - we discovered that the fabric she was using was a very nice cotton/polyester blend (the company she purchased from labeled it 100% cotton).
    As the chemist and I discussed your situation this is the only possibility that makes any sense.
    ...any possibility this is what is going on with your fabric?

  • Hi, I too am trying to figure out the lightening on the fold.
    My tests have proven the indigo fabrics to be totally lightfast sitting in broad sunlight for months on my dashboard, so it is not a lightfastness issue.
    I have the yellowing/lightening on linen, on cotton, on silk. The yellowing is in the white parts of the shibori folded fabrics, the lightening on the indigo portions.
    I have it on fabric from the first dips from my vat, from subsequent dippings later in the vat, from a re-fed vat, from my 5 gallon vat, from my 35 gallon vat, from a well-tended ph-read vat 3 months into its career...
    I've kept the fabrics in very non-direct ambient light, I've kept them, from the start, in a folded-shut pillowcase.
    I've used Dharma Dye Fixative as a soak after washing out the indigo dye chemistry, to prevent the crocking, and it happens on those also. (ps, that fixative does a good job against crocking).
    This is just a mystery, and I'm hoping to find an answer as well, since our customers here at Dharma are wondering.
    It does occur to me that the indigo dyers dyeing kimono fabrics in Japan sell these fabrics rolled, not folded, but while this may be a smart way to prevent the fold-line "bleaching", I cannot assume their indigos would "bleach" if folded.
    I have a fabric indigo-dyed in Africa which I have owned and kept folded for years, and this has not been an occurance with it.
    Can it be the thiox in fact? I love the special effects that it provides in the form of halos around the indigo when I tie my fabrics, especially if I'm dyeing something already colored by fiber reactive procion mx dyes.
    I've also noted, by the way, that indigo-thiox-soda ash dye vat "eats" reds previously dyed into fabric with the procion mx dye.
    This list of observances is added to the discussion to hopefully help with figuring this out, I'd so love to have a solution.
    Apparently some are suggesting soaking the indigo dyed fabric in hydrogen peroxide, however our customer who shared that with me, who then tried it, said it worked for a short time to eliminate the "bleaching" but that it returned shortly thereafter.
    Well, I have always maintained that I am "dyeing for adventure", so I will find a way to enjoy it anyhow, but hopefully this can add to the information your chemist is drawing from.
  • Lauralee,

    Thanks so much for your input! I, in response to fresh-eye's questions pulled some of my indgo pieces out, a variety of cottons, rayons and cotton blends and found no (noticeable to me) fading and most of the pieces are several years old.
    The chemist and I talked about the thiox being the issue and the only thing that came to mind in the discussion was the possibility that the thiox was less than perfect resulting in an incomplete reduction. While there is a possibility of that being the issue the chemist couldn't figure out how it would be so.

    thanks for your input!
  • Thanks so much for chiming in, Lauralee -- I was feeling like I was the only person in the world to have this experience! Just a quick question -- are you having the lightening in *all* the fabrics dyed in the various vats you describe, or just some?

    Annette, It looks like I spoke too soon about which fabrics are lightening -- now I'm seeing it on the linen and linen/cotton as well, just not as much. These are all recycled fabrics, so it's definitely possible that some have some hidden synthetic content, but it seems unlikely that they all do (5 different fabrics, and all were labeled natural fibers). I scoured them all well, and they were all originally white or natural colors, but is it possibly a reaction with some previous treatment or dye? Thanks again for your help on this, and I do hope we can get it figured out.
  • Oh my, now I have to go back through my collection and see if any of my fabrics did NOT create lightening. None of mine are recycled, they are all straight off the cutting table at Dharma so they are not laundered in any detergents that would leave residues, were never before dyed.

    I'm thinking I see no lightening on the hemp-cotton blend t-shirt I made from scratch, but I previously dyed that in fiber reactive dye (that's the red that looked pink so I thought I'd overdye with indigo to make purple - but it destroyed the pinks and left only the yellow portion of the red to make greens and browns to augment the indigo.)
    I'll look at my stash and report back on Monday!

    Annette, the lightening that we are reporting is not subtle enough to have to hunt for, it would be easily noticable if your fabrics have it. I'm going to put some effort this summer to trying different recipes - different proportions of indigo to thiox, to see if there is a variable there I can predict. I've seen so many variations on that relationship that I cannot eliminate the thiox element.

    Annette, besides looking at the green in the vat, is there a method you can recommend for measuring when the thiox is most effective and when its "working" but not optimal? It is easy to tell with the soda ash, I just use the ph paper, but how about thiox? Even my brand new vat with its radiator-fluid-green is resulting in the lightening.
  • With this additional information I think I'm gong to have to set up a couple of vats.
    I'm going to have to check in with the chemist to ask about a way to test for viability with the thiox - I do know if the thiox is yellow or yellowish in its dry form that I can't expect much if anything from it, but off the top of my head don't know a way to test once in solution.
    Lauralee, are you using the Indigo Kits or making your vats from 'scratch'?
    Fresh, glad Lauralee could validate your experience - I know it must be frustrating and am glad she has entered the conversation. As for the fabrics - I suspect, as you do, that it is unlikely that ALL your fabrics have a hidden synthetic content.

    We will preserver!!

  • p.s.
    Lauarlee, are you at the main Dharma facility?

  • I so appreciate your work on this, Annette and Lauralee. FYI I'm headed out of town for a bit so I won't be posting, but I'll get back to this thread when I return.
  • Hi Fresh,

    Hopefully I'll have more info for you on your return!

  • Hi All,

    I'm going to be out of town for the next three weeks so won't be able to do the testing I want to - Just know I've not set this conundrum aside.

  • Hi there!

    I've been using Michael Garcia's natural fructose vat and have had similarly disappointing affects long after the dyeing process. The fabric is a 100% organic cotton batiste so is very thin. It is scoured prior to dyeing and the correct pH is maintained though out the dying process. The fading discoloration is the same as everyone here is describing. Pieces that are folded fade and discolor along the folded edges and garments that are hung fade wherever they are exposed to ambient, indirect light. On a rack with many other garments, this usually means they fade along the outside and at the bottom if they are longer. Thought it may be helpful to the diagnosis to know that this is happening with other dyeing methods as well. The person who taught me this technique also has no idea why this could be happening.

  • Hello All,
    I see that this discussion is several months old, but I'd be interested in knowing if you ever solved the mystery. I've been using pre-reduced indigo, Thiox and Soda Ash. I've also experienced the whitening/bleaching out at the fold lines. I tried halving my recipe while keeping the amount of water the same, thus diluting its strength. The vat became the nice yellowy-green it's supposed to be. Not much of a flower, though. I've made several vats this way, dyed yards of 100% Robert Kaufman pfd cotton, Dharma 50/50 cotton/linen blend, 100% cotton sateen and some 100% cotton denim. Sometimes I still get the bleaching at the fold line. also if a piece is folded the top side changes. The lighter areas have gotten even lighter or turned white. Some of the lighter shades have gotten a greenish hue. I think these are the same problems the rest of you have mentioned. Has anyone resolved the issue?
    Thank you, Rachel
  • Rachel,

    Thanks for your input. We still haven't come up with a solid reason for this fading, especially in light of the fact that it doesn't seem to be a result of exposure to UV.

  • We have been talking about this further and we think that the Soda ash and or the reducing agent being left over in the fabric is the culprit. It is reducing the color once again and is concentrated in the folds just as water or another liquid would be. Our chemist suggests very thoroughly rinsing and adding a dilute amount of vinegar in the rinse to neutralize any soda ash remaining.
  • I have also had these problems. Edges and folds getting lighter, areas getting lighter or turning green.
    I rinse my products well, actually I typically let my indigo dyed products sit in dark for about a week before rinsing, then I soak in very hot water with vinegar for a minimum of 30 minutes- this water will actually turn green sometimes. After this I do a hot water wash with synthrapol and then rinse thoroughly and line dry. Since I sell my products, this is a problem.
    Sometimes if things have been hanging in the studio for awhile and I am noticing the fading and greenish hues- I do a warm water rinse- believe it or not, everything returns to a brighter blue. I have been "freshening" up my inventory like this on a regular basis.

    Someone told me that thiox has a shelf life- so how does one know if the thiox or color remover they are using is fresh. what about Soda Ash? I was also told that my humid conditions (my studio is on the florida waterfront) could be causing my items to continue to oxidize. I have noticed that some of the pieces that I have "freshened" are not fading as quickly and maintaining their bright blue color longer.
  • With the rinse running green, I think that is good evidence that the reducing agent is still in the fabric. It makes even greater sense when you think that the folds are least accessible to the folds where the color is fading. This is making me thing they are definitely being reduced by the reducing agent laying in hiding within the fabric.
  • I recently attended Surface Design Conference where indigo was discussed. Seems that some actually boil their cotton dyed indigo as a last step. Others used the vinegar and ivory soap two step post wash, some re-cooked indigo in orvis paste like a post scour. I am new to dyes, but use the Maiwa organic recipes and vinegar post soak. So far only the light blue colors have a little yellowing on cotton. Silk color is holding.
  • Yes we keep getting more feedback that a little "post dyeing processing" works best if you are having trouble keeping the dye from fading. A wash with vinegar seems to be a common practice.
  • I know there has not been recent discussion on this topic, but I am hoping someone can revisit, and contribute any further information. I am a conservator of Japanese paintings, and used the pre-reduced indigo for the first time for a scroll mounting. I have used many different natural dyes in the past, as well as chemical, and was very excited to use an easier form of indigo. The fabric was a fine silk and the pale blue results were exquisite with the large scale 17th century ink painting.
    Imagine our dismay when, during a recent clean-up, we discovered trimmings from the finished scroll that had been left near a window were horribly faded in less than two months. A panicky check of the scroll (mounted face out on a drying board as is customary for several months) showed it had also lost its blue tones and "faded" to a pale greenish teal. The scroll was not exposed near a window, exposed only to our UV filtered work lights in our lab.
    I followed the directions in using the pre-reduced indigo with Thiox and soda ash, both pre-washed the silk, then rinsed thoroughly (several hours) after dyeing and used a vinegar rinse in the end.
    Because the scroll is a complex structure of silk and paper linings, further rinsing or other chemical tweaking at this point is not an option. The only option is to completely redo the scroll, with newly dyed fabric or to accept the greenish tone. My only other concern is will it continue to fade and revert to the original beige tones of the undyed silk? Any comments would be most welcome!
  • , CA. 94954

    Hello, I feel I must make you aware of non functional results from Jaquard Co. Indigo tye dye kit purchased f om you.

    If it was a one off I would probably chalk it up to experience, but when I see in this forum board several complaints about less than desired results going back to 2014, without resolution,I am questioning the effectiveness of this product.
    I purchased two kits to use in a craft class, and we had beautiful results, which then just about disappeared before our eyes ! Talk about heartbreaking. So either the dye is sub standard or the thiox is old ? , something is not right, then the suggestion of setting with vinegar, which is not the recommended method for indigo I find puzzling.
    So is this happening because this is a synthetic product ? Welcome a real solution.
    Sad Shibori crafter
  • First I would like to dispel a misconception that our dye is synthetic. No we do not use synthetic Indigo dyes. Ours comes from actual plants grown in the ground.

    Less than desirable results and fading before your eyes are not the same thing.

    Indigo is not a very washfast dye, we know this as jeans fade over their entire lifetime from washing.

    Indigo is not a very lightfast dye. Only very carefully preserved Indigo is available from antiquity and those have not seen UV light at all.

    Next I would ask is disappearing before our eyes accurate? I have never heard of this. The oxygen in the air keeps it blue. Without being exposed to a reduction agent, this seems impossible. The main hypothesis we have is that maybe some reduction agent is still in the fiber and is doing its job fading the dye when oxygen is not present when the fabric is folded in a closet or closed container with limited oxygen.

    A thorough rinsing should be all you need. A rinse with vinegar was suggested as a way to return the cloth to a neutral pH in case that was the culprit. We have been unable to repeat these results with Indigo young or old.

    I like keeping this thread going so we can get as much information as possible. If you could outline your procedure, that would be most helpful. A real solution is something we are committed to, but being able to reproduce these results makes us reliant on our customers for their experience.

    I for one have done lots and lots of Indigo dyeing and things I have dyed 4-5 years ago, are just fine and still beautiful. I am really interested in solving the issue though, so any new information you provide is extremely valuable. +--
  • I have had the unfortunate case of my shibori indigo dyed SILK disappearing before my eyes- ONLY on silk have I had this problem. Imagine doing an entire stitched piece and after 6 months of being in the studio, the pattern is barely visible. I have not had this problem on cottons or linens.
    I am using pre reduced indigo with thiox and soda ash. I am rinising items well.
  • This is so unusual. Chemically I cannot understand it. Indigo can fade in the sun, and it can be reduced to the green form and rinsed, but simply fading makes no sense to me.

    How long did it take to fade was it over the course of secs, min, or hours?
  • It was over a course of months. The item was a silk scarf from Dharma. It was scoured before shibori stitching. I completed an elaborate ori-nui pattern then wrapped on an arashi pole. I was very pleased with the pattern. After dyeing and rinsing it was a medium dark blue with alot of white. The scarf hung in my studio for several months; eventually getting lighter and lighter. I noticed it was a light turquoise and white and then after awhile I could barely make out the pattern. I eventually dyed over it.
  • I have new information on this strange phenomenon. We talked to a commercial Indigo dyer who dyes Indigo on a massive scale. This is not about the UV light, it is as we speculated that the reducer is still in the fabric.

    He said that commercially, they would never use a basic solution like the Indigo one for protein fibers as it is very hard on them. If you do, you should always rinse with vinegar to readjust the pH of the fabric after the dyeing process as some fellow dyers have suggested above. This not only protects the silk from weakening by the base, it also prevents the reducer from reactivating.

    He also said a very thorough rinsing was necessary as reducer can become trapped in the silk. As the silk is exposed to moisture in the air, it absorbs some of that water, which reactivates the reducing agent and causes the color to fade. This is also why the lines appear in the folded fabric. The moisture accumulates in the folds and allows the reducer to come back to life. The original poster said that the conditions were very humid and that indicates that this is what was happening.

    Rest assured, with this new information we will be altering the instructions. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. We would not be aware of this issue if you had not brought it to our attention.

  • Hi Jacquardmod,

    From your new information, only silk or any kind of fabric that need to be rinsed with vinegar to readjust the PH after the indigo dyeing process ?

  • Hi Nop,

    You would want to do this especially for any protein based fiber meaning anything that comes from an animal. hair based like wool, or Silk that comes from a caterpillar. This is because the high pH of the soda ash weakens the protein fiber. A vinegar rinse won't hurt cotton, but it can still help to maintain the color and keep it from fading.
  • Thanks for your suggestion, Jacquardmod
  • I've been using the pre-reduced indigo with stunning results on cotton and playing with the chemistry of the indigo vat is super fun. I inherited quite a bit of silk recently and I'm psyching myself up for doing some shibori on it however I wanted to ask, I've seen some conflicting prep methods around the net (googling can be sooooo dangerous!). Besides scouring the fabric, is there anything else I should be doing? I've seen mention of vinegar used as a mordant, hide glue added to the vat and other things which make no sense to me. Any jacquard tips?
  • Hi Chidyed,
    A lot of vat recipes for silk have gelatin or a thickener included. I’m not sure why. Maybe because the dye does not have an affinity to the silk (the way it does for cotton) and so the glue/gum helps it “stick” better to the fabric? I could see this working. When using silk, the colors you get are usually lighter than cotton, so this might be something to experiment with. It is not something I have tried myself.

    Vinegar is a good practice after you dye because it lowers the pH and basically stops any of the chemical reactions. It should also keep the silk from being damaged long-term. Vinegar beforehand, or in the bath is a bad idea because the Indigo reaction has soda ash in it and occurs at a high pH. Vinegar would lower the pH and would make the bath less effective.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for mentioning the hide glue. Interesting subject.
  • Hi Jacquardmod,

    I have the questions to your indigo product by the following

    1. Refer to the indigo dyeing instruction on this page, it suggests to start setting up an indigo vat in 5 gallon bucket but some sources
    advise to prepare the stock solution (concentrated indigo solution) in a small container first, can you tell me what is the difference between 2 methods ?

    2. How do you rate/measure your indigo for 60% reduced ? How to calculate the reduced percentage ?

  • 1. I have not heard of this, do you have a link for the instructions on making the stock solution in a smaller container?

    The reason you would make any dye in a smaller container would be to increase the solubility. Sometimes the dye dissolves better if you use some warmer water to dissolve the dye and then add it to your bath. This is not really as useful with Indigo because when you transfer it to the new container you are exposing it to more oxygen and that inactivates the dye. So, I would think that any added benefit from getting the dye in solution better in the small container would likely get cancelled out by the increased exposure to oxygen when you transfer the solution.

    2. This is largely a calculation based on surface area. If you crack open a blue crystal of pre-reduced indigo, the inside is the reduced green shade of the indigo. Because the dye is not vacuum sealed in CO2 or another gas to the exclusion of oxgen, the outer part of the crystal oxidizes to blue. Roughly 60% of the dye is inside the crystal and 40% of the dye is on the surface of the crystals and are blue because they are exposed to air. The hope is that the reduction agent is going to reduce that the rest of that 40%. It is really more of a measure of the surface area of the powder as opposed to measuring how much of the powder is reduced. The point of using pre-reduced of course is that you need much stronger reduction agents, which are more dangerous, if you want to reduce it yourself from the pure blue crystal.
  • Thanks for your explanation, actually there are a few online resources explaining a preparation of the concentrated indigo solution in a smaller container first. This is the example (see the page 3), welcome for the more opinion.
  • Hello Nop,

    Yes the process described here is not for pre-reduced indigo, it is for raw natural indigo that is completely oxidized indigo powder. Notice the Lye that is used here. That is a strong base that is necessary to get the Indigo to reduce to it's leuko form(the greenish soluble color). You do not need such harsh chemicals for our indigo because it is already 60% reduced.

    They do the reduction in a smaller container so that the chemicals are more potent and concentrated. This is unnecessary with the pre-reduced Indigo, so you can basically move to the next step. Does that make sense?
  • Hi Jacquardmod,
    Thanks for additional opinion.I disturb you one more issue, what is the difference between your pre-reduced indigo and synthetic indigo? Can we notice / separate with bare eyes ? From my information, both need an alkali chemical and reducing agent.
  • Ahh, our Indigo is pre-reduced and is synthetic. I am not sure if I said it wasn't earlier in this thread. Synthetic indigo tends to be smaller crystals, and are a very consistently dark blue color. Natural Indigo tends to be lighter somewhat greenish blue and are usually larger chunks of color.
  • Be informed, appreciate your support

  • I tried using your indigo dye kit but the color of the dye never turned the yellow/greenish color, although I let it sit for over an hour after mixing. I still dyed a few things but most of the dye washed out, so they turned out mostly white with some lighter indigo spots.
    I had gotten the kit a few years ago and did not use it right away, dose the dye expire? Or is there something else I may have done incorrectly?
  • Hi aj9,

    I got a similar call the other day. Did you have 3 powders to mix together? One of the older versions of the kit had only the dye and the reducer+soda ash in only 2 containers. We have learned since then that the kit has a much shorter lifespan if the ash and reducer are in the same package, so we have changed it. 3 separate powders come in the kit now, blue dye powder, reducer, and soda ash.

    Also, an older kit can have the dye exposed to moisture. If the blue dye was caked and chunky this could be the problem.
  • Hi,
    Some online articles said vinegar does not help to keep the indigo color from fading.
    So I am confused, do you still confirm this matter ? Or do you have the reliable information to explain ?

    Many thanks

  • Yes, the vinegar is not so much to prevent the fading, it is to prevent the high pH from damaging silk of wool which are susceptible to those conditions. The other idea is that the vinegar brings the pH down and that is not good conditions for the reduction, so that may help prevent fading, but that is a very minimal factor.

    What we have been finding is that fading is much more likely in high humidity environments and that is why we have trouble reproducing that issue here in CA where it is dry all the time. We get these reports from Houston and Louisiana which have very high humidity. Our working theory is that the water in the air is rewetting some leftover reducer in the fabric and that is causing the color to fade. This was confirmed by an Indigo specialist in the Denim industry. He said a really good washing and maybe multiple rinsings would prevent this. Washing in a detergent such as solar fast wash or synthrapol is highly recommended.

  • Thank you for the comment so do you also sell the color seal products to maintain an indigo color and is it good to use them ?
  • Hi, I am not sure what you mean buy color seal? Are you referring to a fixative? Indigo is a different animal and fixatives like the Idye fixative do not work well on it. Unfortunately, Indigo can both wash out and fade in UV. There is not a lot to be done about that other than washing in cold water, and keeping it out of long term UV exposure.
  • Thank you. My kit was one of the older ones and the powder had become cakey too.