Dyeing Greener Fabrics (2023)

Dyeing Greener Fabrics (1)

Underneath the layers of brilliantly coloured fabrics, textile dyeing is one of the major pollutant causing industry globally. What the industry needs is a new approach towards dyeing with environmental sensitivity at its core.

By Debarati Das

Who doesn’t like a wardrobe full of colourful clothes!! But while choosing the right shade of the garment, how much thought do we put into the amount of environmental damage that the pair of faded blue jeans or the scarlet dress has caused?

Among various industries, the dye industry is a major pollutant causing industries. So much so, that several countries across the globe have started taking strict action against environmental pollution caused by textile dyes. China recently shutdown several factories that produce synthetic dyes used by the textile industry. India, the second largest textile market, is taking cognisance of the water pollution caused by the industry and is putting in waste water treatment in place. Similarly, other countries too are bringing in stringent rules to curb textile dyeing pollution.

However, the need here is to bring a massive change in the root cause of this global predicament- the ‘Dyes’. There is a need to make the dyes and the dyeingprocess more environment friendly.

(Video) How Fabric is Dyed in a Massive and Eco-Friendly Way

Industry Insight

Theglobal textile industryis nearly a $3 trillion business but while it weaves radiantly coloured fabrics, it is also the cause for huge amount of environment pollution. According to the World Bank, textile-dyeing accounts for up to one-fifth of the world's industrial water pollution. To put the plight in numbers:

Approximately 10 to 15 percent of the dyes used during the dyeing process are released into the waste water.

About 40 percent of the globally used colourants contain organically bound chlorine which is a carcinogen.

Cotton, one of the most popular fabrics, takes up only about 75 percent of the dye and the dyed fabric is washed over and over to ensure colorfastness, resulting in huge amount of wastewater. About 200 liters of water is used to produce just 1 kg of fabric.

Heavy metals present in textile industry effluents include chromium, arsenic, copper and zinc, which are not biodegradable and hence affect the aquatic, flora, fauna and human lives alike.

The industry has to make a collective effort in making dyeing process eco-friendly, safe and yet affordable.


Weaving Sustainable

Let’s be realistic. Demand for clothes is never going to go down, courtesy- the ever rising population, rising fashion trends and increasing disposable income. However, to solve this problem, dye makers across the globe are looking at new technologies and methods that would make textile dye sustainable while minimising the environmental risks.

Here are some of the latest innovations that are being accepted by the industry:

Going Digital: One of the major concerns about the textile industry is the amount of water wastage that happens in the process where fabrics have to be washed over and over again till the colours sticks to the fabric. Manufacturers are therefore switching from dyes to pigments. Intech Digital, a company that specialises in digital printing on textiles, makes large-scale printers that use special versions of ink-jet printheads designed to work with textile inks. Digital printing can be done on a range of fabrics including cotton and other cellulosic fabrics like rayon and uses and wastes much less water than traditional methods.

Steadfast Colours: If you still want to stick to the traditional dyeing methods, then how do you solve the issue of eliminating the wastage of water? By making the dye stick to the fabric faster. Huntsman has a line of polyreactive dyes for cotton called Avitera that bonds to the fiber more readily and saves water and energy by 50 percent. Three reactive groups are attached to the dye formula’s chromophore compared with the one or two reactive groups common for cotton dyes. As a result, compared to the seven hours for conventional dyeing process, Huntsman’s dyeing process takes about four hours. Avitera dyes are also free from p-chloroaniline (PCA), a hazardous chemical used as an intermediate in the manufacture of azo dyes and pigments. Today, several international brands restrict the use of PCA and other amines from colourants. “Huntsman Textile Effects introduced AVITERA® SE to help the industry address its most pressing economic and environmental sustainability challenges. We continue to develop this technology to help textile mills and brands achieve cost-effective production, improved textile products and minimal environmental impact,” said Paul Hulme, global president, Huntsman Textile Effects.

Nip it at the seed: Cotton is the most commonly used and the most comfortable fabric for daily wear. But cotton is also the raw material which causes maximum amount ofenvironmental damages. ColourZen came up with a pre-treatment technology that would solve most of the problem right in the seed. In conventional cotton dyeing, salt is used to negate the charge on the surface of the cotton. ColorZen technology uses a quaternary ammonium compound to permanently attach a positively charged amino site on the cellulose molecule that makes for a natural attraction between dye and fiber. The pre-treatment is done on raw cotton fiber right from the field after the seeds are removed. With this pre-treatment, there is a 50 percent reduction in dyestuff, 97 percent dye retention, 90 percent less water, 75 percent less energy, and 90 percent fewer auxiliary chemicals.

Dyeing Blues: We all have a pair of blue jeans. But each pair of blue jeans creates a havoc in the environment before it reaches your wardrobe. Synthetic indigo, that gives the blue hue to the jeans, releases unreacted chemicals downstream of manufacturing. In its unreduced form, indigo is not soluble. And hence manufacturers produce indigo using aniline as a key raw material.

(Video) Make a Vegetable Natural Dye Using Carrots

To counter the dangers of aniline, Archroma developed a technology for prereducing indigo to prevent aniline from carrying through as a contaminant. According to Archroma, finished textiles coloured with the dye contain a nondetectable amount of aniline compared to competitor dyes that contain up to 2,000 ppm of the chemical.

“The company became concerned after seeing published reports that about 400 metric tons of aniline per year escapes the dyeing process from 70,000 metric tons of indigo. Two-thirds of the escaped chemical ends up in wastewater, on workers, and in the air, while one-third stays on the denim that goes to stores,” said James Carnahan, global sustainability manager for textiles, Archroma.

Natural Colours: Archroma patented new method of creating natural shades from high-performance dyes which are synthesized from non-edible agricultural or herbal industries waste such as leaves or nutshells. These natural shades can be used for cellulosic based fibres such as cotton, viscose, linen, bamboo, kapok, etc.

Archroma has tied up with several garment manufacturers including jeans manufacturer, G-Star RAW, and travel and adventure apparel brand- Kathmandu, where the patented EarthColors are used.

Archroma’s line of EarthColors include Dark Plum, Asfalt, Mazarine Blue, slate blue, burnt olive and burlwood rose, etc which are made from the non-edible parts of nutshells, almond shells, rosemary, saw palmetto, bitter orange, beetroot and saw palmetto.

“Creating sustainable solutions is a journey: EarthColors was more than five years in the making and the project is still evolving in our laboratories. With the planet reaching the limit of its resources, we need to offer more sustainable options to the consumers. That is why we spare no efforts to develop groundbreaking innovations in the deep belief that we can make our industry sustainable. It’s our nature,” said Manel Domingo, R&D head for special dyes at Archroma, who developed the EarthColors technology.

On the other hand, Colorifix developed a dyeing technology where genetically modified microbes are used to produce stable colours. Colorifix’s range of colours are produced naturally by organisms such as microbes, plants, animals and insects. Microorganisms engineered with advanced synthetic biology methods convert agricultural by-products, such as sugar molasses, into colorants suitable for textile dyeing. According to Colorifix, the process enhances the microorganisms’ natural ability to directly transfer the colour onto fabric, saving water and energy. The process uses ten times less water than traditional dyeing methods and no heavy metals, organic solvents or acids. “Our investors are passionate about our mission towards the environment and will certainly help us on the long road to changing a global industry,” said Dr Orr Yarkoni, CEO, Colorifix.

(Video) Dyeing Fabric with Spinach

While damages cannot be undone, textile manufacturers, dyes manufacturers and apparel brands are collectively taking cognisance of the grave danger that is being done to the environment and trying to make amends. “Almost everyone has a pair of jeans in their closet. As a key player in this market, G-Star RAW takes responsibility to lead by example in promoting sustainable denim innovation. We would like to invite others to join us towards cleaner and more ethical denim production globally,” said Frouke Bruinsma, corporate responsibility director of G-Star RAW.

Probably, it is time for the consumers to join this equation and put an extra effort to check the sustainability quotient of the apparel they buy.

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Is there environmentally friendly dye? ›

Azo-free dyes are free of nitrogen based compounds that release aromatic amines. Azo dyes are organic compounds that contain heavy metals. These contain toxic and carcinogenic substances, so dyes that are free of heavy metals, are used to produce eco friendly and sustainable textiles.

How do you darken green fabric? ›

In general, adding more blue will make the colour darker, while adding more yellow will make the green lighter/warmer.

What is the most sustainable color? ›

The study found that a blue shade similar to Walmart's logo and green were perceived as more environmentally conscious than other common logo colours such as red.

What is sustainable dyeing? ›

We aRe SpinDye dyes recycled materials from post-consumer water bottles or wasted clothing before they are spun into yarn. Their technology melts color pigments and recycled polyester together without the use of water, which reduces overall water usage by 75%.

Is Rit dye safe for the environment? ›

In fact, we develop our products to be safe for you, your home, your pets and the environment, and thus would never harm any animal in the process.

What is non-toxic dye? ›

A low-impact dye is a dye that has been classified by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 (an international certification process) as eco-friendly. Generally, low impact dyes do not contain toxic chemicals or mordants (which fix the dye to the fabric), require less rinsing and have a high absorption rate in the fabric (~70%).

Is natural indigo dye toxic? ›

Pure, natural indigo has been traditionally used topically for a wide variety of ailments, renowned for its “antiseptic, astringent and purgative qualities,' Balfour-Paul writes. But it is toxic if ingested in large enough amounts.

Can you dye clothes that are already colored? ›

Yes, colored and printed fabrics can be dyed. It's a method called overdyeing.

Can I dye a green dress black? ›

The best way to dye fabric black is to fill a large container with hot water and add black fabric dye. Use more dye for a darker black, or add a 1/4 cup of salt per 1/2 pound of fabric you're dyeing to make the final color more vibrant.

How do you dye fabric green naturally? ›

The most common way to achieve green naturally is by combining either a yellow and blue dye or by modifying a yellow dye with iron, this saddens down the yellow, shifting it through mustard, towards green. Yellow can also be modified with copper usually resulting in a brighter neon type green.

How long does grass dye last? ›

Lawn paint is harmless to humans and pets, is colorfast when dry, and won't contaminate the watershed. It'll last for 2 to 3 months, depending on how quickly your lawn grows and how often you mow it.

How do you make sage green dye? ›

Mixing Yellow, Blue, and Red to Make Sage. Combine 2 parts yellow paint with 1 part blue to make a basic green. Mix the paint with a palette knife or paintbrush in a bowl or on a plate. Stir smoothly and thoroughly to evenly distribute the colors.

How do you dye fabric with plants? ›

Dyeing Fabric with Plants - YouTube

What Colour is eco green? ›

The hexadecimal color code #69be94 is a shade of green-cyan. In the RGB color model #69be94 is comprised of 41.18% red, 74.51% green and 58.04% blue. In the HSL color space #69be94 has a hue of 150° (degrees), 40% saturation and 58% lightness.

Is blue or green a better color? ›

Study Suggests Green is Good; Blue is Better.

Why does green represent sustainability? ›

Going green means using environmentally friendly products and services. Sustainability means using products or services in a way that does not damage the future generations' resources. Hence, while a final product may be green, its manufacturing or production process may not be sustainable at all.

What is waterless dyeing? ›

 Waterless dyeing is the process by which dyeing is perform without water. It is the process that used no water and requires less energy than traditional methods of dyeing, while still achieving impressive colors in solids and prints. Waterless dyeing process required less process, time, chemicals, & auxiliaries.

Is vat dye eco-friendly? ›

Reducing agents used for both vat and sulphur dyes are non-ecofriendly and due to their use in high percentage of sulphur content during dyeing causes lot of pollution problem. Almost the whole amount remains as non-biodegradable salts in the process house effluents.

How toxic is Rit dye? ›

Rit is non-toxic and contains no harmful chemicals. However, it is not a vegetable or food-grade dye so we do not recommend it for toys that children will chew on.

Can I dump Rit dye down the sink? ›

Yes! Rit products may be safely flushed through both sewer and septic systems.

Which is better Rit powder or liquid? ›

There is no difference in terms of color or dye performance. The liquid dye is already dissolved in water and more concentrated than the powder dye. So you only need to use half as much when using the liquid dye.

Are reactive dyes eco-friendly? ›

In summary, fibre reactive dyes such as our Dylon fabric dyes do not contribute to environmental pollution, and don't require huge amounts of land to produce. Making them a great choice for those that want to balance vivid long-lasting colours with the minimum of environmental impact.

What is a fiber reactive dye? ›

What are fiber reactive dyes? They are chemical dyes specifically formulated to work on natural fibers, specifically cellulose or plant fibers such as cotton, linen, bamboo and hemp but also silk (a protein fiber).

Is bleach for hair carcinogenic? ›

Cancer. When using bleach or hair dye properly, it should not cause cancer or brain damage. Because a lot of research done on hair dye and cancer is contradictory and inconclusive, colouring hair is unlikely to increases your chances of cancer.

Is RIT indigo Real indigo? ›

Lack of authenticity since a Rit Indigo Dye Recipe is a “faux” Shibori indigo dye. Authentic indigo is a plant-based material which was used in the origins of the Japanese dyeing technique.

Why is indigo dye expensive? ›

Only a few centuries back, this mysterious dyestuff was so exclusive that only royalty and the aristocracy could afford it. It was imported with great difficulty from far-off colonies, which earned indigo a status similar to that of tea, coffee, silk or even gold.

Does Levis use real indigo? ›

Natural indigo is finicky, and for the jeans Levi's produces on a mass scale, the company uses primarily synthetic, the industry norm.

Can you tie dye a lime green shirt? ›

You can tie-dye colored shirts, but the results will be different than with white t-shirts. The color and saturation of the shirt's color will impact how the dye shows up.

Does Rit dye bleed? ›

Placing unbound fabric into the bath could result in dye bleeding into the white areas. If you are working with fabric that was ombré dyed or dip dyed, Only place the dyed part of the garment into the bath. If you submerge the entire garment, dye could bleed into other areas.

Can I dye red fabric green? ›

As an example, if you were dyeing red fabric, we would recommend adding some green dye to your dyebath. Since mixing red and green makes black, adding a green dye to your dyebath will counteract the red on the fabric.

Can I leave Rit dye overnight? ›

If you are using a commercial dye like Rit or Dylon, leaving your material in the dye overnight will help you use less product overall since it takes less dye to achieve a deeper color.

Is Rit dye colorfast? ›

There are many colors and you can easily mix them to get custom colors. The downside with Rit compared to fiber reactive dyes is the colors are less intense and not as colorfast. It is important to use hot water to activate Rit dye and get the most vibrancy.

Is there a spray dye for fabric? ›

Fabric spray paint introduces stunning color effects while maintaining a fabric's softness and flexibility. Fabric spray paint is available in a broad array of colors and finishes and offers a multitude of opportunities for creative expression.

What naturally dyes things green? ›

Green from Indigo and Natural Yellow Dyes. One of the easiest ways of making green is to combine indigo and turmeric, known locally as kunyit. Turmeric needs no mordant and is the brightest of the naturally occurring yellow dyes. It is golden yellow and when overdyed with indigo produces a lovely green.

What can I use to dye something green? ›

Mix 1 cup of salt with 16 cups of water and bring to a boil (or ½ cup of salt with 8 cups of water). Simmer your fabric in this solution for one hour prior to dyeing. (If you are making a plant/veggie based dye, mix 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water and follow the same process). When done simmering, run under cool water.

What is a natural mordant? ›

Mordants are metallic salts that facilitate the bonding of the dyestuff to the fibre. Cellulose fibres also require a tannin in order to bond well.

Can you dye grass green? ›

Rather than constantly trying to replace grass that died from drought or cold weather, dye grass green yourself by pouring dye into a sprayer attachment and attaching it to a garden hose until the season permits natural regrowth. One application of lawn dye can last for months and food coloring will not harm plants.

What can I spray on grass to make it green? ›

LawnLift Ultra Concentrated Lawn Paint instantly transforms dead and dormant lawns into green lush lawns. Perfect for dead and dormant lawns, pesky pet urine spots, fertilization burn, frost damage, incest and rodent damage, drought conditions.

How long does green grass last? ›

Painted grass usually retains its color two to three months and sometimes much longer. However, frequency of mowing, type of grass, weather, and rate of new growth all affect the color. In some cases, the color may fade in two to three weeks.

What two colors make light green? ›

How do You Make Light Green Color? You can create a bright vibrant light green tone when you mix a large amount of light yellow with a small amount of blue.

How do you make pastel green? ›

Pastel green is pale, delicate shade of green. To make pastel green paint, first mix blue and yellow together. Next, stir in some white paint to lighten the color—there's no exact ratio for how much white paint to add, just keep mixing until you reach pastel green's soft hue.

What colors make olive green? ›

Olive green is dark yellowish-green color. The olive green color hex code is #BAB86C. To make the color olive green, first mix one part blue paint into three parts yellow paint to create a shade of green. From there, adding a touch of red will deepen the hue to make olive green.

How do you dye fabric with leaves? ›

Pick up a few leaves from the ground, arrange them on fabric, roll into a bundle, then steam. The heat transfers the pigments and images onto the fabric, creating an ethereal design, an explosion of color and pattern.

How do you dye fabric with flowers and leaves? ›

Wring out any excess water and lay the fabric flat. Arrange your petals, leaves and flowers onto one half of the fabric to create your desired design, spacing out similar colours. You can also choose to add a few rusty bits of metal into the bundle itself, which will help the colours to adhere.

What are some eco-friendly ways to dye your hair? ›

Try the following natural hair dyes if you're looking for alternative ways to color your hair.
  • Carrot juice. Try carrot juice if you want to give your hair a reddish-orange tint. ...
  • Beet juice. ...
  • Henna. ...
  • Lemon juice. ...
  • Coffee. ...
  • Sage. ...
  • Chamomile tea.
3 May 2017

Is synthetic dye environmentally friendly? ›

Synthetic dyes do not only harm people – even more so, they destroy the environment (and thus also people all over again)! The biggest problem is that synthetic dyes need a lot of water to be produced and applied to the cloth.

Is there a natural hair dye? ›

Natural hair dyes contain plant-based ingredients rather than harsher chemicals. The dyes included in this article feature ingredients such as henna, rhubarb root, and indigo powder as alternatives to chemicals. Coloring the hair is more common than some people may realize.

Is hair dye toxic to the environment? ›

Why is hair colour bad for the environment? Most commercial hair dyes have chemical ingredients that end up in the waterways once they're washed down the drain. Most contain ammonia, which is harmful to aquatic life, even in low concentrations.

How do you cover GREY hair with coffee? ›

Simply take one cup of coffee and mix it with one cup of water. You can also add 2-3 spoons of coffee powder and allow it to dissolve. Let the coffee powder dissolve completely and then apply on your hair. Allow it to sit for an hour and wash off with cold water.

Does black hair exist? ›

Black hair is the darkest and most common of all human hair colors globally, due to larger populations with this dominant trait. It is a dominant genetic trait, and it is found in people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. It has large amounts of eumelanin and is much more dense than other hair colors.

How can I turn my GREY hair black naturally? ›

Mix 2-3 tsp of onion juice, 1 tsp of lemon juice and 1 tsp of olive oil. Massage into the scalp and hair and wash off after half an hour. An effective solution for greying hair, onion also promotes hair growth. It increases the enzyme, Catalase, thus darkening the hair.

What are the disadvantages of synthetic dyes? ›

Some of these dyes are toxic, carcinogenic and can cause skin and eye irritation. Many carcinogenic and allergic synthetic dyes are banned now. Many dyes, though not banned yet, may not be completely safe. Most synthetic dyes are not biodegradable; they accumulate on lands and in river causing ecological problems.

Which is better natural or synthetic dyes? ›

Natural dyes are safer than synthetic dyes because there are less chemicals. Using natural dyes helps to save water as well as pollutants because plants that grow abundantly can be used, which eliminates the process of production that would take place when making synthetic dyes.

Why natural dyes are better than synthetic dyes? ›

Indeed, the natural dyes are better products, simply because they do not contain chemicals harmful to health. As such products are healthier and more reliable than the chemical synthetic dyes. The veggies dyes are used for centuries in the high cultures of humanity, proof of kinship with men.

Does coffee really dye your hair? ›

Coffee is a super versatile and incredibly effective all-natural beauty ingredient. Dying your hair with coffee is a great way to achieve that classic dark shade of brown. It is a natural, safer, and cheaper alternative for hair colouring that only requires one ingredient: coffee! And voila, you're done.

How can I cover grey hair without dying it? ›

You can simply use an eye shadow, eye powder, liquid liner, or mascara that matches your hair shade to cover gray roots. It is best to use a high-quality product that won't stick to your hair but will only come out when you wash it.

How do you hide grey hair from brunettes? ›

What's the best way to hide gray hair on brunettes?
  1. Switch up your part.
  2. Headband.
  3. Braids.
  4. Pull your hair up.
  5. Tinting spray.
  6. Full-color service.
  7. Transitioning to gray.

Does hair color pollute water? ›

How do hair dyes harm the environment? These dye chemicals threaten the environment because when people wash commercial hair dyes they end up in our water supply system through sewages and end up in different bodies of water like rivers, streams, and the world's oceans that are harmful to aquatic life.

Is hair dye toxic to fish? ›

Ammonia is another harmful chemical to the environment found in hair dye. Even a low concentration of ammonia can be harmful to aquatic life. Ammonia is widely known to be toxic to fish at high levels, where it can build up in internal tissues and blood and ultimately result in death.


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