Cream of Tartar


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Cream of Tartar (COT) is a white powder often used in baking to help stabilize meringue. It is a byproduct from the sediment left behind in winemaking – another use for a waste product!

In natural dyeing, we use cream of tartar to acidify the dye bath to act as a color changer. It’s also used in mordanting to soften wool fibers. As well, I’ve read that it helps aluminum sulfate bind more strongly to the fibers. Depending on the dye, it will shift cochineal, madder and lac to brighter, redder colors. With madder, it will shift the hue to orange and with cochineal the color will become a bright red. It can inhibit the color development in logwoods and certain tannins, so we rarely use it with these dyes.

We can also use cream of tartar as an adjunct to mordanting wool. Its purpose is to assist the alum to bond with the wool and it also keeps wool fibers soft. Bear in mind that it will shift colors, and in some cases, can inhibit the development of certain shades.

From our Feedback Friday series:

Is cream of tartar’s only purpose in mordanting just to soften the fiber? If you are using high quality fiber then is it really necessary to use cream of tartar along with alum as the mordant?

Cream of tartar is acidic, and helps maintain wool fibers so they are less likely to feel rough or sticky with alum mordanting alone, which is why many dyers add it to their mordant process. Because of its acidity, it also shifts colors to brighter shades. It’s not a requirement to use it, but if you have problems with alum making your wool fibers feel sticky or rough, then COT may be helpful.

Could I put some in the wash with an itchy wool jumper to soften it?

You can experiment, but I think that the itch may come from the type of wool used in the sweater.

So is the fermentation process of cream of tartar different from wine, which is also fermented grape juice?? This is so interesting thanks for sharing.

Cream of tartar is a byproduct of grape juice or wine fermentation. It is a sediment that comes from the process, and the most commercial COT comes from wine-producing regions.

Is there a difference between this and what I can find in the grocery store?

It should be the same product. Check the label and make sure it’s pure Cream of Tartar with no other additive.

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250 gm, 500 gm, 1000 gm

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