Washing and Scouring Instructions

Handwashing advice

For the things you dyed:Holding a dyed scarf

Woohoo!  Awesome job dyeing fabric, you!!  I hope you had fun.

If it is wool or silk or a delicate fabric, spray it with water with about 10% vinegar in it to restore the pH.

Ideally, you will hang your newly dyed fabric up for at least 48 hours so that it has time to fully oxidize.  I know it’s hard to wait that long but it’s worth the wait. 

The first time you wash your indigo dyed fabric, in addition to your regular detergent, add a half a teaspoon or so of Blue Dawn Dish Soap or Synthrapol. Wash it at the highest heat that you feel the fabric can handle. Indigo loves heat. If it’s a delicate fabric, put it in a net bag first.

But wait! What if I batiked it with the gnarly wax recipe you use? How do I get the wax out? 

Good Q. Hang it up for the 48 hours if you can stand the wait, Then, I highly recommend you boil that mess out. You’ll need a pot that you won’t use for food ever again. Also, the pot should only be used with indigo as indigo tends to spread. The pot that you buy (hopefully from a thrift shop) can be cheap and awful. Aluminum is fine, enameled stuff is good too. Don’t invest lots of money into it. Also pick up a big metal spoon or set of tongs.

Okey dokey, get the water boiling and add some Dawn Blue Dish Soap – about a teaspoon or so – and add the fabric. Agitate and stir  it around in there a bit and then weight the fabric down at the bottom of the pot or at least so it doesn’t break the surface. Using the spoon that you stirred with should do it. 

Take the pot off the heat and let it cool. The wax will rise to the surface and solidify. It will take over night – maybe even longer – though luckily for me,  I live in Wisconsin. If it’s winter, go ahead and put it outside. Patience is for suckers.

Remove the wax and toss it (or save it to use again later*). Take your fabric out and rinse with hot water. If there is still wax on it, repeat the process but you should be able to get the wax off after one time. It’ll depend on how much fabric you boil at once. It’s best not to crowd your fabric.

*If you decide to reuse your wax, put in on some newsprint or paper towels until it is dry. Never add water to your wax, especially when it’s hot.

You should still wash it following the washing instructions above.

Enjoy your works of art!

If you have bought something that I dyed, it has already gone through the above process.  Here’s how to wash it from now on:

If it’s a sturdy thing – like a napkin or dishtowel – wash with like colors and dry in whichever way you would normally dry something.

If it’s delicate, put it in a mesh bag and wash – by itself or with like colors – on the most gentle cycle that your washer offers.  Hang or lay flat to dry.

Prepping Fabric to dye:

Maybe you are checking in here because you have your own indigo dye and aren’t sure how to prepare your fabric before dyeing.  Good idea! Just a quick reminder that indigo dyes natural fibers only.  If you have something with a very small percentage of a synthetic – like under 10% – that’s probably fine.

There are a couple ways to prep fabric but one thing that indigo does NOT require, is a mordant.  So…don’t so that. Feel free to google “mordant” for more info. Because I mostly dye with indigo, I don’t do it so I’m not the best person to ask about it.

For PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabric: Simply wash your fabric on the highest heat you think it can handle (I’m sensing a theme here), adding your regular detergent and Arm N Hammer Washing Soda

For wool or silk or regular (not PFD) fabric or thrifted clothes or regular clothes and, really, almost everything that isn’t PFD (some people would argue even PFD fabric should get this treatment but I think that’s overkill, please see the quote at the top of this page), a good scour will make your fabric more in the mood to be dyed. 

To scour fibers of any kind, bring a large pot of water to a boil then turn off the heat.  Add a big squirt of Dawn Dish Soap and carefully add about a cup or so of Arm N Hammer Washing soda.  The Washing Soda will increase the temperature of your water so it’s apt to boil over. I recommend adding it a little at time.

Stir it up well and then add your fabric, opening it as you lower it in so more of the surface gets wet.  Stir it every 15 to 20 minutes and leave it covered for at least an hour.  Sometimes I just leave it over night and let it cool.  The water should be stinky and gross.  If the water is dark brown, repeat the process.  Otherwise, rinse your fabric well and you’re ready to rumble.

Please be careful not to felt your wool!

If you normally use dryer sheets, DO NOT dry your prepped fabric in your dryer, just hang it to dry or don’t dry it at all.  Drying it before dyeing isn’t needed and BOOM! you’ve cut down on your wait time.  Get your hands in that vat!!!


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