How to DYE Polyester fabric? 10 FAQs answered.

Last Updated on March 29, 2022 by Sarina

The problem with dyeing polyester without being an expert is that you can completely lose it – your sanity as well as the fabric/clothing. If it is a favorite garment, you can blame yourself for eternity because polyester dyed wrong is not a pretty sight – all blotched up and leaking. It may run when water falls on it if you use the wrong dye.

Today many of the fine garments you see that look really good may be made of synthetic fabrics like polyester. There are some polyester fabrics that look, shine feel and drape just like silk. It can be fine, lightweight, , flowy, and soft. Polyester is quick to dry, does not wrinkle easily, does not shrink,  and is comparatively inexpensive. Some denim contains polyester fabric making it all the stronger and more durable. There are many reasons why cloth manufacturers prefer polyester for their creations. But then there are also enough reasons why polyester did not rise up to the status of fabric like rayon – one of the reasons is its difficulty to be dyed,

Usually people want to dye polyester tights because that is one of the most common polyester clothing you will come across. Some may want to dye polyester blouses. You may also want to dye polyester sheets or curtains -most of the inexpensive curtains in the market are made of polyester. And after some time, the polyester becomes a little dull and you may want to brighten it up with some dye—completely understandable.

But let me start with this – polyester is a difficult fabric to dye. Here are those frequently asked questions.

What is the first consideration when dyeing 100% polyester? Why is Poleyster considered a difficult fabric to dye?

Polyester is a synthetic fabric, and it is considered difficult to dye in a non-industrial setup unless you have the right dye.
Synthetic fabrics cannot be dyed with the general all-purpose dyes used to dye other natural fabrics like cotton, linen, wool, or silk.  Polyester fabrics are not very absorbent – the fibers do not swell up in the water. So getting the dye to be absorbed and achieve even coloring is difficult. You need high-quality specialized dyes suitable for synthetic fabrics. Nothing else would do. They may not be available in all shops. So that is one difficulty

Using the wrong dye can result in running of colors, quick fading and an uneven color – all of them at once or one of them, which is enough to count as a dyeing disaster.

Which dyes are best suited for polyester fabric dyeing?

Disperse dyes are the types of dyes that are used to dye 100% polyester. In industrial dyeing, Polyester fibers are usually yarn-dyed with disperse dyes. It is also the dye used for transfer printing on polyester.

Reactive dyes are the preferred dyes used for dyeing natural fiber fabrics like cotton, wool, linen and silk. If your polyester-blended fabric is made of less than 35% polyester fiber, you can use this dye.

There is one problem, though. You can use reactive dyes and other dyes used for normal fabrics for fabrics with polyester content till 50% on one condition – that you do not mind a faded look. The polyester fibers will remain undyed and that will fade the color of your final product.

Rit DyeMore is the dye of Rit dyes for synthetic fabrics. You can learn more in detail about the Rit dye for synthetics and how to use it here.

Acid (anionic) dyes can also be used to dye polyester fabrics which is modified to be receptive to dyes.

Which dyes should not be used for dyeing polyester?

Coldwater dyes, reactive dyes, sulfur dyes, vat dyes -these are not suitable for dyeing 100% polyester.

How to dye polyester?

Polyester dyeing with disperse dyes requires three conditions – quality dye, very high heat and a closed vessel that will give you this heat or a carrier that will aid you.
Usually, polyester is dyed inside closed pressure vessels with disperse dyes with a boiling temperature around 130°C. Disperse dyes are not soluble in water. It needs heat to set.
If this kind of high temperature inside a closed vessel is not possible, you can dye in an open vessel at or around the boiling point of water – but in addition, you may have to use a special chemical to aid dyeing. They are called carriers. Commonly used carriers are methyl salicylate, ortho phenyl phenol, and biphenyl. Carriers are considered toxic so they are not recommended to be used much.

Another method is to heat the fabric, which is soaked with a dye solution to about 200°C for about 90 seconds in  a microwave. This method is used for polyester as well as other polyester blend fabrics.

Can I redye polyester?

Yes, if it is the same color, definitely. You can redye a light fabric to a brighter shade.

What about polyester blends?

Polycotton, poly-viscose, polyester -lycra are the most common blends.
Usually, the formula for deciding which dye to use with your blended fabric is this – look at the care label. If the care label says 35% or more polyester fibers in the fabric content, use the dye for synthetic fabrics.
If the polyester fiber is marked Less than 35%, you can go for the dye suitable for the other major fiber. For, eg. you will have to dye polycotton with cotton fibers 60% with fabric dye suitable for cotton. The result will be a lighter shade than if the whole fabric is made of cotton. Because the polyester fibers will remain undyed.
There is another method, though it can go wrong and get a botched look if you are not an expert; Blends are dyed like – first, the fabric is dyed with reactive dyes. This will dye the natural fibers but leave the polyester fibers undyed; This can then be dyed with dispersed dyes.
Do not use heat with polyester-lycra fabrics – When your dyeing involves heating, you need a fabric that can withstand heat. Polyester-lycra blended fabrics with elastane fibers are not the best for this. You cannot apply more than 40 degrees celsius heat on any lycra fiber fabric. So you cannot use dispersed dyes with these fabrics. In short, if you want to do a good job, do not dye polyester-lycra fabrics.
In the textile manufacturing process, polycotton blended fabrics are dyed with a process called Alkali shock process dyeing. In this, the reactive dye is used in fixed on the material using concentrated caustic soda. Cotton-polyester blends can be dyed with vat dyes.

What are the considerations when dyeing polyester curtains and bedsheets ?

I think it will be difficult to dye polyester fabrics that are of long yardage. And curtains and sheets are that. You will need a dedicated pot that can be heated to a temperature above 200 degrees, but I do not suppose you would have this kind of setup unless you are a professional.

Can a method like washing machine dyeing be used with polyester?

No, the dyes used with polyester need high heat to set. This is not possible inside a washing machine.

How to wash dyed polyester?

If you have used high-quality dye specially used for synthetic fabrics, you will not have to ask this question. The question is how to get it off, if you want to – it will be close to impossible without destroying your fabric with bleach or something. Even bleach is supposed to be ineffective against disperse dye color.
If you are using low-quality disperse dyes, the color may run or fade fast.

Any hacks to keep the dye color on polyester?

In the textile manufacturing process, a special process is used to make the polyester fabric more receptive to dyeing – alkali treatment. This increases the dye reception of polyester fabric. An alkalic substance is anything with a pH greater than 7.0. This is not possible at home. It requires controlled temperature and other conditions, and most of the dyed fabric you have probably already has undergone this treatment.
A thorough scoring of the fabric with dish washing detergent is encouraged before dyeing. 

Related posts: How to dye – general instructions; Using natural dyes; Types of fabric dyes.

How to DYE Polyester fabric? 10 FAQs answered.

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