More on Wash Fastness

As much as I enjoy obtaining refined and unique marks from the plant material on fabric I cannot but brood over the Wash Fastness aspect, especially when it comes to wearables.

The common advice that can be most often found regarding washing and caring for naturally dyed textiles, is to hand wash it in cold water, or use a gentle cycle in the washing machine.

In my practice with natural dyestuffs I tend to meticulously run my own experiments to see how the same recipe/regularity works for me. Well, the moment I got my very first satisfying dyed pattern on a wearable item I immediately put on considering cap:

How long a garment treated with the natural dyes will serve before the increasing color fading from the multiple washes finally gives it an unappealing look?

Provided, of course, that the garment has been properly treated with mordants, as well as that the dyeing process has been carried out aptly.

07 08 09

For the silk accessories and such, the washing matter does not look as much uncertain as for the sportswear for instance. 

I really would have doubts as for a jersey T-shirt and a gentle washing cycle… Well, maybe I am just too lazy to consider a hand-wash, or is it just that I know that you cannot give a quality wash to a jersey T-shirt without presoaking it, which will definitely affect the natural dyes. So, why not give a try to a conventional washing then?

Still wearing the same considering cap, I got a dyed jersey shirt:





I decided to wear it on a regular basis from the moment I finished working on it last September, and throw it into the washing machine with the rest of my light-colored laundry; I used my usual detergent, Persil most of the time, for cotton fabrics.

These are some close-ups of the shirt pattern right after dyeing:

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And now after three months and 15 to 18 washes, this is what I end up with at this moment:

01 02 03 04 05 06

Not sure how much obvious it really is from the pics, but the background color retains its corn-colored hue; while the bluish marks from the tannins have shifted towards brown color, as the result of their exposure to the high Ph of the washing powder.

Well, at this point my shirt still works for me. Which is fine. I’ll keep my further records on the gradual color shift and/or loosing color of this item.

Determining the point when the T-shirt starts looking toneless will surely give the better idea about the general shelf-life of my naturally-dyed clothes, which is essential info to be labeled on my naturally dyed collection.

So, dear colleagues, and what advice do you label your naturally dyed wearables with?

12 responses to “More on Wash Fastness

  • Gala Lo

    Лен,как хорошо бы сделать такую же х/б футболочку своими руками! Но это ,наверное,недоступно для отсталых слоев населения? Посмотрела твои посты,потом открыла шкаф и,осматривая внушительную стопочку белых футболок,задумалась… А внутренний голос так гадливо посмеивается:-Не смеши людей! Не получится!

    • theimportanceofprocrastination

      Галочка, приезжай – сделаем и научим! Лучше делать под руководством, если самостоятельно, иначе не одну стопку сперва извести придеться! Присылай футболку/ки – сделаю. Или у меня есть готовые – выбирай!

  • mazzaus

    Thanks for contributing to our understanding of fading with natural dyes. I have been considering an experiment like this for some time but haven’t done it. I feel newly encouraged to try it out! I have only washed leaf-printed items like my tablecloth, quilt and bags a few times so far.

  • grackleandsun

    I agree with what has been said so far. 1) Accepting that the piece will change and fade over time as part of the beauty of the piece and 2) synthetically dyed fabrics (especially cotton) fade every bit as much with washing and sun as (properly mordanted) naturally dyed fabrics do. We accept that our jeans and t-shirts will fade over time. Look at how quickly black dyed garments fade—I can vouch for this as my work uniform is black and all fades to various shades after being washed. It’s just part of the deal, I think.

    Perhaps with the handwash/delicate wash instructions, add the instructions to use a pH neutral washing soap and simply explain that this will help preserve the original colour better. Do you think that would help?

  • inselfrau

    I think is important for buyers to understand the difference…and…is never really so colourfast like(good quality) industrial dye.But.To decide for the more natural slow textile is also a philosophy,lifestyle….to accept the circle of the natural product.Yes,is washable under special conditions,yes,has a lifetime,yes is without industrial chemicals,harmless for you.That for you accept as well the other side….after a time the colour is fading.But after so many times you would may be as well wearing out your industrial dyed t-shirt..Still experimenting and keen to listen to experience from professional dyers….

  • Deb

    This is an interesting post. I have never eco dyed a functional piece like a t-shirt, probably due to my love of black t-shirts, but I should give it a try.

    Here is another interesting thought on wash fastness. Test your dyed t-shirt against a commercially dyed t-shirt and see what the results look like under the same number of washes. I know some of my children’s t-shirts look awful after just 5 or 6 washes. The eco dyed t-shirts may be holding up fairly similar to some commercially produced products. This would be an interesting experiment.

    • theimportanceofprocrastination

      Hello Deb,
      Thank you a lot for adding to the idea of this post! And yes, I think you’d enjoy dyeing some functional piece, it’s a great fun to watch the result after a while!

      See, to run a sufficient test to compare commercially produced products washfastness with naturally dyed one, you need to know what type of dyes were used for dyeing those products, as there are more than one dye type used in the industrial production and these dyes already have different washfastness qualities.
      But in general the idea is great! Though I see it rather as a research under chemical lab conditions.
      Thank you for your feedback!

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