Urea use
  • Please, someone tell me if using Urea will help keep my colors bright. I'm using the Pro.-mx dye with Soda Ash, but some shirts become dull after the initial wash-out. Help!
    Thanks, New Tie-Dyerimage
  • Urea will help to retain moisture, that's all. Your dye on the fabric must stay slightly damp until it has bonded to the fabric, or the dye reaction will cease. It takes a number of hours for the dye reaction to complete; allow it to run at least overnight if the temperature is 70°. If the fabric dries out before sufficient time has passed for the reaction to complete, that is one possible cause of pale colors. However, if your climate is very humid, or if you wrap your garments in plastic, urea is unnecessary.

    There are many other possible reasons for the dye to become dull after washout. Here are some of the possibilities:
    [*]not keeping the dye reaction warm for long enough: be certain that it is 70°F at a minimum and allow the reaction to run overnight or longer (some people say up to 48 hours!), or place the shirts in a warmer place for faster reactions (80°F to 90°F is great)

    [*]not using enough dye: some dye will always wash out, so you must use more than "looks" right, and also, of course, dye looks darker when it is still wet

    [*]not using 100% cotton shirts: polyester will not take any dye that works on cotton

    [*]failing to pre-scour fabric or garments before dyeing: wash in HOT water with a detergent such as Synthrapol, plus some soda ash to boost cleaning

    [*]using stain-resistant, water-resistant, or permanent-press fabric: these surface treatments prevent the dye from fully reaching the fiber

    [*]accidentally forgetting to use the soda ash : once a friend of mine mixed up her bags of white stuff, and accidentally substituted urea for soda ash

    [*]buying sodium bicarbonate by accident instead of soda ash: read the fine print on the label if you buy it from a hardware store

    [*]using hard water without softening it: if your water is hard, you must add sodium hexametaphosphate, which Jacquard Products sells under the name Calgon; do NOT use liquid Calgon from the grocery store, which contains polycarboxylates instead of hexametaphosphate

    [*]leaving clothing that has been soaked in soda ash too wet: wring out the excess moisture, or spin it in the washing machine without rinsing, so that the shirts are still damp with soda ash, but not so sopping wet that they dilute the dye you then apply to paleness
    When you're done dyeing, wash your shirts out once in cool water, either with no detergent at all, or with only Synthrapol; then wash out at least twice in HOT water (140°F or above) for the greatest effectiveness. When you are dyeing with a fiber reactive dye such as Procion MX dye, washing out after a proper reaction will remove only the excess, unattached dye; it is not the cause of pale colors when dyeing.

    Tie-dyeing is very easy once you get it right, but sometimes you may find yourself doing something wrong that results in inadequately bright colors.

  • Thanks! I think the temperature -while-reacting may be my problem. I leave the shirts in my workbuilding overnight in zip-lock bags, but the temp. gets down around 68-50 deg. in N.C. this time of year. I'll bring them indoors from now on.
    Thanks again, Tom C.