How to dye with Ceriops

Ceriops tagal is a traditional South Pacific island nation dye, derived from the bark of the mangrove tree. Our dye originates from FSC forests and is a waste product from the timber harvest. Its manufacture helps keep local village economies thriving while maintaining cultural importance and environmental stewardship.

Shop Ceriops tagal here.

We acknowledge that mangrove forests worldwide are under pressure from clear cutting, aquaculture, bamboo and palm grove planting and environmental impacts of industrial and agricultural activities. Unchecked development will threaten these vital forests. We only source the dye from our trusted partner, Threads of Life. Threads of Life works only with a Ceriops supplier under FSC guidelines.

The detailed instructions are provided by Threads of Life in Bali with some further annotations by us.

two people squatting behind dye pots with a large pieces of fabric suspended above them

Dye notes

  • The dye has a 30-day maturation or curing period to develop the color prior to dyeing.
  • The dye is not discarded after the dye process and can be saved and reused.
  • You can use a piece of copper pipe when boiling the dye if you don’t have a copper pot. Do not use copper sulfate mordant, which is toxic.
  • The dye is used at room temperature. Fiber is dipped repeatedly in the Ceriops bath to create the deep shades.

Initial preparation of the Ceriops dye:

Note: You will first create a storage vat of Ceriops dye that can be reheated and reused. Since the dye is reused, there is no weight of fiber to calculate. Instead, you simply repeat the dyeing until you achieve the desired color. However, long-term average ratio of weights of extract used to fibre dyed is 18%.

  1. The ratio of extract to water is 1:35 by weight. So, for example, 100 g Ceriops tagal extract is dissolved in 3.5 litres of water, which is 3.5 kg of water.
  2. Heat the water on a low heat in a copper pot (stainless steel or aluminium will also work, but the copper helps as a mordant) and slowly add the Ceriops extract, stirring as you go so that the Ceriops fully dissolves. 
  3. A sediment of undissolved extract will accumulate at the bottom of the pan, so keep heating and stirring until it all dissolves. 
  4. When the water is boiling and a foam develops on top, threatening to overflow the pan, turn the heat off. 
  5. Allow to cool and transfer to the storage vat.
  6. Leave the dye to mature for one month prior to using it.

Note: The storage vat can be a plastic or non-reactive container with a tightly fitting lid or cover. The boiling pan may be a stainless or copper pot that will be heated. The dyeing vat can be a plastic bucket or tub. Arrange your work area so that any drips from the dyeing vat can be collected and returned to the storage vat at the end of your work session.

A person stirring a large dye bath with a gloved hand


Traditional Indonesian mordant processes use symplocos, a plant-based alum accumulator as a local mordant. The fallen leaves contain the most alum and are collected by villagers, sorted, and ground into a powder. If symplocos is unavailable, you may also mordant with aluminum sulfate or aluminum acetate. If you would like to use Ceriops and iron, dye the fabric first in Ceriops to achieve the desired depth of shade and return excess dye to the storage vat. Then make a separate iron bath and dip the fabric in this iron bath. This avoids contaminating the Ceriops dye.

Preparing the symplocos mordant:

  1. Symplocos powder is used at 50% WOF (weight of fiber) and prepared in 20 times its weight of water. So if you are dyeing 1 kg of cloth, use 500 grams of Symplocos in 10 liters of water. 
  2. Add the Symplocos to the water and bring to the boil.
  3. Simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Leave to cool for 1 hour. 

Preparing the Ceriops dye vat:

  1. Stir the Ceriops in the storage vat and take some dye from the storage vat and return to the heating pan.
  2. Reheat the dye until the water is boiling and a foam develops on top, then turn the heat off. Allow the dye to cool.
  3. Transfer to a dyeing vat by filtering it through a stretched gauze cloth to catch any undissolved sediment. You can return the sediment to the storage vat.

Using the Ceriops dye with the symplocos mordant:

Note: At all points during the dyeing and drying process the dyed cloth must be kept out of direct sunlight as UV light will change the color achieved.

  1. Soak the cloth to be dyed in the symplocos vat for 5 minutes. Lift the cloth from the vat and hang (either above the mordant vat or over a collecting pan so that the mordant can be returned to the mordant vat) until dripping stops.
  2. Dip the cloth into the Ceriops vat for 5 minutes. Lift the cloth from the vat and hang (either above the dye vat or over a collecting pan so that the dye can be returned to the dye vat) until dripping stops. Repeat this 3 to 5 times until the desired color is achieved.
  3. After dyeing, return the unused Ceriops dye to the storage vat.


  • Ceriops may be overdyed with other dyes to create compound colors.
  • Ceriops is high in tannin (between 20-40% depending on the batch) and may be dyed without a metallic mordant but the traditional method includes using symplocos as a mordant.
  • It appears that the Ceriops color will change if exposed to direct sunlight. However, we have not done any sampling to understand what this change is.
  • If you are planning to try using iron to create the iron-tannin reaction, dye your fibers with Ceriops first, then immerse in an iron bath to avoid contaminating your Ceriops dye with iron.