Dying cotton clothes without shrinking them?
April 8, 2008 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to dye white shirts and dark blue shirts (both 100% cotton with a shelf bra that is 95% cotton/5% spandex) black without shrinking them?

I have some shirts that are white and some that are dark blue that I would like to dye black. All of the shirts are 100% cotton with shelf bras that are 95% cotton / 5% spandex. I have read about using fiber-reactive dyes that are supposedly "cold water dyes" but they still require very warm water. How warm can the water be before it starts to shrink the clothes? Are there any dyes that work in actual cold water? Any shared experiences would be helpful! TIA!
posted by flyingcowofdoom to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dylon Cold Water Dyes. But I have never had a shred of luck dyeing to black at home. A deep purple, maybe. But black just never works out like you want it to.
posted by kmennie at 5:37 PM on April 8, 2008

Procion Fiber Reactive dyes are generally used with 105 degree water, which is lukewarm. However, a hot water rinse is recommended- you may be able to use a warm water rinse if you don't mind doing it multiple times. If you've already washed and dried your clothes in a warm dryer, they probably won't shrink very much (and you definitely need to wash them before dying).
posted by oneirodynia at 6:10 PM on April 8, 2008

PS: specific information about Procion black dye at the bottom of this page. This stuff is really excellent for cotton, BTW.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:13 PM on April 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the helpful responses so far. I'd like to add that if anyone knows of a good company that will do the dyeing for me I am willing to pay a reasonable amount to have it done. I will do it myself if I must but I'd rather leave it to a pro.

posted by flyingcowofdoom at 6:46 PM on April 8, 2008

It's the drying that shrinks cotton, not washing, unless you use really hot water. The first time you wash a shirt, the 'shrinkage' is caused by the knit relaxing from the stretched and sized state it was in from the mill. Since you'll have already washed the shirts (without fabric softener!) to remove the sizing, your shirts shouldn't shrink any more. Having said that, I've found that the Procion dyes from Dharma work just fine in cold (aka straight from the tank in the utility room) water, although I've not tried for black.

A good black is hard to get. You need to use more dye than you'd need for any other color, and water temperature may have more of an effect than it does on other colors. Ask the folks at Dharma .
posted by jlkr at 4:10 AM on April 9, 2008

How black is "black" in your mind's eye? You'll have a difficult time dyeing it pure black, as other posters have said. In particular, the Lycra fibers will not dye to the same depth of shade as the cotton (if they take the dye at all) because they are a different fiber. On the white shirt, you might get a speckly grey look where the Lycra fibers are lighter than the cotton. Dyeing true black is difficult for the home dyer.

The dye process itself won't shrink the garments, but your rinsing process might. Procion requires a lot of rinsing until the water runs clear, especially if you use extra dye, and hotter water does strip more excess dye in each pass.

Do you have an old shirt in the same fabric that you can test, without ruining the ones you actually want to wear?
posted by catlet at 7:28 AM on April 9, 2008

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