STANDARD FIBERREACTIVE DYES
Although fiber reactive dyes have been around for several
decades, they are just now coming into use among silkscreen
printers. They are permanent dyes. Unlike inks, they do not
rest on the fabric or coat the fabric; they chemically unite
with the molecules that make up the fabric. They become
part of the fabric and have no tactility.
Standard Fiber Reactive Dyes can be used for any dyeing
application. Fabric can be dipped, sprayed, selectively
immersed in a dye bath (as in tie dyeing or batik) or painted.
For the purposes of silkscreen, sodium alginate must be used as a thickener. Without a thickener, the
water-based dyes will simply pour through the silkscreen. Enough of the sodium alginate must be added
to bring the dyes to a consistency comparable to that of silkscreen inks.
Standard Fiber Reactive Dyes can be used, with modifiers, on any natural fabric and on 50% polyester
fabrics. Different modifications of the dyes are used for silk, since silk does not react to the dyes in the
same way that cotton or linen reacts.
In order for the dyes to penetrate the fabric evenly, it is necessary to wash all the impurities, such as
starch and sizing from the fabric's surface. Synthrapol is mixed with the wash water as a detergent to
intensify its cleaning. After the dyeing process, synthrapol is used again to remove excess dye from the
fabric's surface. Without this cleansing, darker dyes can easily spread to the lighter printed areas. Adding
table salt, or sodium sulfate, will discourage dye transfer.
Before dyeing, presoak the fabric in a sodium carbonate solution for about 15 minutes. This will help fix
the dyes by adjusting the alkaline value of the water. Alternately, the sodium carbonate can be added
directly to the dye mixture.
Once the fabric to be printed has been washed and prepared, the dye, available in powder form, is mixed
with warm water. Enough dye must be mixed with the water to create the color hue, or tone, that is desired.
The shelf life of the dyes, once they are mixed with water, is relatively short. Mix as much dye as is
needed for no more than a week. The mixed dyes should be refrigerated during storage.
Just before using the dyes, stir in a small quantity of sodium carbonate to activate the chemical
reaction. This activation of the dyes is essential in the process. Within hours of this mixing, the dye will
begin to lose its strength. When storing mixed dyes, do not add the sodium carbonate until the dye
mixture is ready to be used.
Wear a mask when mixing the dyes. The powder is very fine and will slightly irritate the lungs if
enough is inhaled.
Urea -- 1 tablespoon per cup
4 teaspoons of dye per cup
Sodium carbonate -- 1 cup per gallon
Sodium sulfate solution [or table salt] -- 1 cup per gallon
It is a good idea to mix a solution of urea and water to soak the fabric. Urea holds the moisture in the
fabric and allows a longer time for the dyes to react with the fabric. The fabric must remain wet for the
chemical reaction to occur. It is best to keep the fabric wet for a full day before washing. Although the
procionic dyes do not need heat setting, the chemical reaction can be hurried by steaming the fabric
instead of waiting the several hours that would otherwise be necessary.
Maintain the moisture level during any heat setting.
Washing the fabric after dyeing is best done first in cold water. Subsequently wash with warm water.
Washing immediately in warm or hot water may cause unfixed dye to weakly attach and wash out in
A complete line of colors in procionic dyes is available from Standard Screen Supply. Also, all the
additives and modifiers needed to create a procionic dye mixture are available.
The dyes will stain the skin. It is best to work with gloves. However, if the hands are stained, they can
be cleaned using industrial-grade hand cleansers.