DIY Rope Treatment Handout! Dyeing even Nylon!

Dyeing Nylon

Nylon is a polymer, which is a long molecule composed of many identical units, also known as polyamide. Nylon (synthetic fiber) can be dyed with either acid dyes (YAY) and disperse dyes (more like printing ink and annoying IMHO). Both require heat to fix the dye, which is an issue as heat also breaks down nylon, not enough to ruin clothing but maybe to challenge the suspend-ability of your rope.  However, sun-baking may be effective enough and presents a fiber-safer alternative as well as a fun experiment for you to try over the weekend.  NOTE: Some treatments like waterproofing prevent nylon from ‘taking’ dye.

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Acid Dyes

Nylon is a synthetic fiber, but its unique chemistry means that it can be dyed, easily and well, using the same acid dyes that are commonly used on wool and other animal fibers.  Acid Dyes come in powder for hot water dye processing, and produce vibrant colors on animal-protein fibers including silk, wool, feathers, and most nylons.  You can usually find Acid Dyes at Joann’s or Michaels.

-Dissolve dye and salt(1-2 Tb) in enough water to cover the rope you are dyeing

– Adding the material, heat it to a simmer for ten minutes

– Add vinegar (1/4 cup) and simmer another ten minutes

-Allow to cool gradually, and rinse out.

—Microwaving, baking, steaming, (maybe sun-baking) can be used as an alternative heat application:

-Soak the rope in a vinegar and water bath

-Dissolve the dye in a scant water and salt mixture

-Paint a generous amount of  the dye mixture no to the wetted rope

-Apply heat until dry


Fiber Reactive Dyes

Most fiber reactive dyes don’t dye nylon. However, they can be treated like acid dyes with the addition of an acid (such as vinegar) and with the necessary application of heat. When used with an acid dye recipe, a fiber reactive dye acts like an acid dye (but less predictable).

All Purpose Dyes

Most all purpose dyes, like Rit, contain two kinds of dye: ‘direct’ dye which does ok with cotton and hemp, and ‘leveling acid’ dye which dyes both wool and nylon (usually paler). However, with pure acid dyes on nylon you really get the color you intended, and you don’t waste money on the direct dye that can’t stick to nylon. But in a pinch these dyes are in many grocery stores and pharmacies.

Natural Dyes

Many natural dyes are acid dyes, used like above in a dyebath with vinegar or citric acid. Cochineal (insect) dyes nylon an intense red, Turmeric (seed) dyes nylon a medium golden yellow.  NOTE: most natural dyes tend to fade with time and sun exposure.

~ by Klawdya Rothschild on July 16, 2009.

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