Natural dyes are sensitive to pH
- Always use a pH neutral soap without tons of additives when washing your naturally dyed goods. Natural dyes are sensitive to pH, which is why some plants can make so many colours! If you use an alkaline or acidic soap on your product after it’s dyed, it can cause the colour to shift.
I recommend either Orvus Paste or Synthrapol. Orvus Paste is available at farm supply and co-op stores, along with many tack shops. Orvus Paste is recommend for and used by textile conservationists, and it is what I personally use not only in wool scouring and washing, but in caring for my own naturally dyed items. Synthrapol is available in smaller quantities from many supply shops that sell dyeing supplies, and is what I use for scouring cellulose fibres prior to dyeing.
Natural dyes can be sensitive to light
- Unlike man-made dyes, almost all natural dyes to some extent are sensitive to light. They can range from bleaching out dramatically, to a very slight, and almost imperceptible shift when exposed to lots of sunlight.
I endeavour to use only natural dyes that have excellent lightfastness so that your items won’t fade unexpectedly. Having said that, if you leave your goods out in direct sunlight for many weeks at a stretch, they will alter in colour. Keep your naturally dyed items out of direct sunlight when not in use.
But wait, can I not wear my knitted item out then?
- You totally can! A few hours here and there will not adjust the colour. Over years of wear, you may realize that the colour has altered slightly, but the word of caution about lightfastness is more about not leaving your items out in direct sunlight forever
Indigo, Logwood, and Lac want to be everybody’s best friend
- Just like a new pair of jeans, indigo and logwood can both bleed a bit for the first few wears/washes. Some people will experience colouring on their hands while they knit (this washes off easily with soap and water). I have a system where I let the dyed goods cure, rinse, cure, but even still these two are just so friendly that you in all likelihood will see some slight bleed. Lac, because it is highly sensitive to pH, can also leave slight staining on your hands when you work with it, although this will be minimal.
Also like a new pair of jeans, this will stop. All it means is to wash these items separately for the first few washes, or with other like colours. Some slight bleed while using your naturally dyed items for the first little bit isn’t atypical.
So how exactly should I wash my naturally dyed goods?
- Hand washing and laying flat to dry is best because it is always the most delicate manner of washing. All wools should be handled this way. Fill up a container or sink with cool or tepid water. Dissolve about 1/2 to 1 tbsp of pH neutral detergent. Place your item in the container and let soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove your item, and gently press out the water. You can either rinse under gently running water, or fill up the bucket and let soak (if using this method, do this 2-3 times to allow all the soap to soak out). Gently press again, and lay flat to dry.
If you have a washing machine that has a spin only cycle (make sure it does not introduce water at the beginning of this cycle), spin out your items on low spin to get extra water out. The centrifugal force will hold the item in place so it doesn’t experience friction (so it’s fine for wools), and if you live in a damper climate this can save you hours of dry time.
For cellulose fibres, again, hand washing and lay flat to dry is best, however if you’d like to use a machine use a pH neutral soap with minimal to no additives. Use cold water only, on the delicate/hand wash cycle, and low spin. To dry in the dryer, no-heat air dry is best, then finish on the line if not done by the end of the cycle.
Never dry in direct sunlight.
Do not use products containing hydrogen peroxide
- This includes OxiClean or any similar product – it will absolutely create splotches in your dyed goods.
I got a really bad stain, what do I do?
- When I have a stain I take either Orvus Paste or a neutral bar soap and rub it in. I let it sit for a bit, and repeat if necessary. Almost 100% of the time this will get the stain out, unless it’s something really pernicious and it’s been left for a while. Especially for cottons, some rubbing will be totally okay to get that stain out.