• I've done some custom work for one of my Etsy buyers who has presented me with a new challenge, which is basically to UN-dye a dyed shirt. The shirt she'd ideally like to use, though, only comes in natural (unbleached creamy white), so I'd have to dye it before doing the un-dyeing. (She's sent me a link of a similar design she'd like.)

    I do think it's wonderful that the Procion MX dyes are so colorfast that using bleach to un-dye (like make a cloud or spatter pattern) won't work, and I know that RIT dyes WILL work for this, but I'd rather use something that - except for bleaching - is more colorfast than RIT.

    This lady has been lots of fun to work with when creating custom jobs, so if I can accomodate, I'd certainly like to.


  • Procion dyes are not necessarily more bleach-resistant than Rit dye. They are a lot more wash-resistant, last many times longer, and are far easier to apply since they do not require scalding hot water, as all-purpose dye does. Some colors will discharge well with bleach or other chemicals, some will not. Your choice of specific dye color is the key.

    Among each class of dye, some dyes will discharge more readily than others. The results will be different if you use a reductive-type discharge (e.g. Jacquard Color Remover, which contains thiourea dioxide, or Rit Color Remover, which contains sodium dithionite) than if you use an oxidative bleach (such as ordinary household chlorine bleach). For a review of the different chemicals you can use, see this page: "What chemicals can be used to remove dye?". Also see "How to Tie Dye on Dark Fabric".

    You will want to select one or more dyes that have been observed to discharge well. A fairly recent post on the Dye Forum on my site linked to a lovely example in which Procion blue MX-R on silk discharged with a reductive discharge to a nice contrasting gold color. (This is the dye that Jacquard Products sells as Procion MX 072 medium blue: see my chart of "Which Procion MX colors are pure, and which mixtures?" to convert generic names to brand names, and vice versa.) My page of "Which Procion MX dyes discharge the best? Which are good at resisting chlorine bleach?" gives an overview of various published information on how well various Procion MX change color when discharged. It's far from exhaustive and would benefit from submissions of other dyers' experiences, but it should help to get you started. What color do you want to dye the shirt before discharging?

    For a dischargeable black, my favorite dye is Remazol reactive black 5. This is the fiber reactive dye that is found in Jacquard Products' Red Label Black 759, as well as Dylon Permanent 12 Black and PRO Chemical & Dye's Liquid Reactive Dye Black. It is similar to Procion dyes, not to Rit dyes. The Jacquard Red Label and ProChem Liquid Reactive dyes can be set with soda ash or trisodium phosphate, following the usual Procion MX recipes but making sure to hold the wet dyed fabric in a warm place for the dye reaction during the "batching" step. The Dylon Permanet dye already contains trisodium phosphate in the dye mixture and can be used according to the instructions on the back of the package.

    Let me end with a warning: do not use chlorine (hypochlorite) bleach on the shirt unless the shirt is 100% cotton (or linen or hemp), because non-cellulose fibers are badly damaged by bleach. You can safely use reductive discharges such as Jacquard Discharge Paste or Jacquard Color Remover or Rit Color Remover, though. If you use chlorine bleach, use an anti-chlor treatment afterwards to neutralize the damaging effects of the bleach; this is not necessary for reductive discharges, though, which are completely removed by ordinary washing.

    The stitching at the seams will stay the original color after dyeing, because ready-made shirts are almost invariably sewn with polyester thread. Keep this in mind while designing your project. It's usually not a big problem.

  • WOW. Lots of stuff to think about when I do - or attempt to work out - this custom order.

    I did get a jar of the dye remover today and I did notice the relatively high temp it should be at in order to work, even on cotton. If I wanted to do something like, say, spattering with a toothbrush to make something like stars on a navy sky or white specks on a maroon shirt, how would I keep the temp up? Or would it work at a lower temp, just not as well?
  • Which dye remover do you have? You might need to get a different one for that application.

  • I got the Jacquard dye remover. I also have (I think) some RIT dye remover as well.