Horrors in Home Dyeing (Oh no!)

Many of us play in the dye pot for fun, out of necessity, or for some combination of the two. A lot of people find dyeing scary, but eventually pick up the basics and think “hey, this isn’t too bad.” But there always lurks the possibility of something inexplicable gone wrong. Maybe the color you want, isn’t the color you get. Maybe you get the dreaded white core. Or maybe, worst of all, you’ve experienced the horror of all horrors……flocculent percipitate.

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The cloudy substance in the dye solution are flocculent percipitate.

It goes like this: you’ve soaked your wool, your dye pots are out, your measuring cups are out, the water’s been boiled, the dye has been measured, and you’re expecting smooth sailing to your final product. You add hot water to your dye paste and you stir, stir, stir, waiting for it to dissolve into a smooth solution. But you notice something odd: the dye solution isn’t clear.

Dun, dun, dun……the dye solution has the dreaded crud. Or, if you prefer, the correct scientific term for it is a flocculent percipitate. What’s that, you ask? It’s when the solution has a billowy cloud-like substance in it. This scary happening occurs most frequently with red dyes. In my dyeing experiences, I’ve noticed cloudy solutions most often with ProChem’s Bright Red 351.

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The guilty culprit.

What do you do after discovering a cloudy dye solution? Maybe you decide to pour it into the dye pot anyways, with the optimistic hope that a lot of stirring will help dissolve it. But be warned, in my experience, that never works. Instead, the flocculent participate won’t dissolve, and smudges of dye will appear on your wool undissolved. My tip to you is: don’t torture yourself with this. What I did to find a solution, was I turned to my scientific side.

I don’t know the exact chemical equation that leads to flocculent participate appearing in dye solutions. What I do know is that it is effected by the pH. Under very acidic conditions, cloudiness can appear, and you can help dissolve it by making the solution more basic. How do you do that?

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Our Savior!

In your pantry, you will likely find a box of baking soda. Add small amounts of that baking soda to your dye cup, mixing very well. You’ll notice there will be less and less of the cloudiness in the solution. If you wait about five minutes, and the solution remains clear, then you can move onto the next step of dyeing your wool. If the solution is still cloudy, then that’s okay too. Just add a little bit more baking soda, and it will dissolve.

Take note, when it comes to adding your vinegar: add it very slowly, in small amounts, and stir it well. Baking soda is a base (sodium bicarbonate to be exact), and vinegar is an acid, so there might be some bubbling. The bubbling isn’t something to worry about (all that is happening is the release of carbon dioxide), but it’s good to know to expect it!

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Bubbles in the dye solution after vinegar is added to the solution.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to leave it below in the comments for Ania. And have a happy Halloween!  

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