FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: Water-saving tips when mordanting and scouring

Every week, we are emailed with questions from our natural dye community asking simple and complex questions that we thought might be worth sharing. Of course, all of your burning questions are answered by natural dyer in chief, Kathy Hattori, Founder of Botanical Colors.

I am wondering if I can put my mordant directly into my scouring pot. It would save a lot of water, time, and energy!

The scour process is not normally where you can save water or energy as its purpose is to clean the textile, and dirty scour water should be discarded or used as non-food gray water. There are many other areas where you can save time and ingredients in the standard natural dye process. Here’s where you can reuse and save water, mordant baths and dye baths.

1. Reuse your tannin bath in the tannin step if using a tannin-alum mordant process for cellulose fibers. You can reuse both the tannin and the alum baths multiple times. Recharge the bath with 50% more ingredients for each time you reuse it. An added plus is both of these processes are done with room temperature water, so there is no need to reheat the baths.

2. Aluminum acetate may be recharged at 50% if you wish to reuse it again for multiple times. Post-baths of wheat bran or calcium hydroxide may also be reused but be aware that wheat bran water will start fermenting quickly.

3. Hot aluminum sulfate baths may be reused. Let it cool so you don’t shock the wool, recharge with 50% more aluminum sulfate, add fiber and reheat.

4. Dye baths may be reused as well. It’s best to let the dye bath cool to about 100 degrees, recharge it with dye, or use it as is, and then heat it up slowly.

5.  Other dye techniques using steaming, air curing or eco-printing also use minimal water and are an option.

You might also want to read:

3 Tips to Lower Water Use When Natural Dyeing

Using Less Water & Energy to Get Color