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How to Dye Synthetic Fibers?


Aubusson tapestries; dying wool by hand
Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images
Question: How to Dye Synthetic Fibers?
"My wife threatened to dye my bike shorts pink if I didn't take out the trash. I told her that they were spandex, so she couldn't dye them if she tried. Can you settle this one?"
Answer: Synthetic fibers can be difficult to dye, because they are substances that have been man-mad in a laboratory, then mass produced in factories. These materials vary greatly in their chemical makeup, so a specific dye may be required for each type of material.

Nylon can by dyed with an acid dye, just like protein fibers (such as wool and cashmere). [How to Dye Nylon]

Polyester can be dyed using a lot of heat. Crayola fabric markers (find them online) can be rubbed onto paper, then ironed onto polyester. Dip-dying polyester, on the other hand, should only be attempted by professionals or hobbyists that have a lot of experience with dying fabric.

Acrylic is difficult to dye and should only by dyed by professionals.

Rayon (viscose) is a processed cellulose fiber, and can be dyed with fiber reactive dyes, just like natural cellulose fibers. [How to Dye Rayon]

Spandex can not be dyed at home.

Combined fabrics can make dying more complicated. Nylon/Cotton blends, for example, can be dyed using an all-purpose dye, because these dyes contain both acid dyes (fr the nylon) and fiber reactive dyes (for the cotton).

More Questions About Dyeing Clothing

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