A frequently asked question I receive is “can I wash my naturally dyed textile?” The question is not surprising. It almost seems like magic, that plants give such rich and intense colours. So it is not a crime to believe that these colours won’t last long. With this post I do not want to promise you the blue of the sky (we say in German) but I do want to give you a good advice how to care for your textile and keeping that bright colour alive and vibrant. (continues below picture)
First I want to start with taking some wind out of your sail and tell you that natural dyes are indeed more sensitive than commercial dyes to most washing detergents. Which makes sense since commercial dyes are chemical components created to (best) last forever and to resist the aggressive detergents. But before you loose your passion over this, let me explain you why. Today (Year 2020) most detergents are spiked with SLS / SLES, Phosphates, Formaldehyde, Chlorine, Ammonium Sulfate, Dioxane, optical brighteners and many more. They come in mostly low quantity but fulfill their purpose so well that we can not imagine washing our clothes with just soap and water.
As bad as it is enough that those chemicals find their way into the detergent we choose to clean our laundry - some of these characters are fairly harsh on natural dyes ( also on our skins but that might be another topic) I usually skip this topic since I do not want to limit your purpose of your naturally dyed textile. But to talk about a few of these toxic friends I believe it would bring a little more clearance and understanding of natural dyes. My favourite of all must be the group of optical brightener. Which seemed like a blessing to all saddened white t-shirts or blouse is actually not fulfilling the task it claims it would do. Optical brightener are not making a fabric brighter. They simply coat the textile with a reflective substance to let us believe that now our t-shirt is white again. The substance which covers the fibre to make the colour more reflective does not work quiet well with natural dyes and turns them in muted & grey-ish colours. If chlorine joins the game I give the natural dye a live spam of a handful of washes and it will be 3-4 shades lighter than originally. To give you an answer in case you are reading this blog article because you accidental smeerd some
blackberry jam on your naturally dyed table cloth... I firmly ask you to not try to bleach out those stains. The best way is always to act as quick as possible. So the times when my grandma jumped up from the table to grab some salt because my grandpa dropped some red wine and I wondered - why the heck this has to be so stressful and quick... well this should be you. Add water as qick as possible and let the cloth soak that the pigments won't settle (you should make sure you just not apply a little water or rub it it. you should best wash it immediately. In gerneral are natural dyes with a high content of tannin or Indigo especially dye fast. They are the champions of the wash resistant scala. Moving to the less resistant ones which will be most of the flower dyes. It is always good to use dye plants which have a strong history in the natural dye world. Keep in mind that before 1856 there was no such a thing as synthetic dyes. Some dye plants have a strong history in traditional fashion and therefor represent a very good resistance during washes.
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with the textiles dyed by atelier.von, it is of course extremely important to me that you have a long lasting pleasure form my dyed textiles. How ever I can not control - watch over you using the right laundry detergent.
I generally recommend:
- wash your textiles only if needed
- 40°C - short program or hand wash
- natural & ph neutral washing detergent
I hope this little guide could help you. If you have any question send me and email and I will be able to help you with your specific problem / wash- accident.