dyeing fabrics for baby clothes

10 02 2010

looking to dye fabric for making baby shoes and clothing, but not sure what to use that is safe and not harmful for this purpose?  look no further.

when dying baby clothes, you’ve got to be more careful than when dying clothes intended for adults. ‘cause adults just don’t try to eat their clothing as often as babies do.  some nervous ninny moms will tell you that there are absolutely no baby-safe dyes, but that’s just not true. anything sold commercially for use by babies has to pass rigorous safety tests, and there are plenty of brightly colored baby clothes out there.

now you may be tempted to use naturally occurring organic dyes, but this isn’t a great idea for baby clothing because they’ll fade significantly after a couple of washes.  due to their molecular structure, all dyes that last well through repeated washings must be ‘fixed’ by a heavy metal compound—which means they can potentially expose a baby to lead, chrome or other dangerous substance.  sounds scary, but don’t fret…commercial dyes are treated so the risk is minimal. and any dye which is safe for a baby is also a good choice from an environmental perspective, because its heavy metal components are bound in place and won’t be shed from clothing after use.

the best commercial dyes to use are fiber-reactive dyes in liquid form. these work by staining the fibers of the cloth you’re working with, rather than by ‘painting’ it, so they can’t be scraped or licked off. dylon and procion both make dyes of this type. you can write to either company and ask for a safety guide which will aid you in choosing the right options, or you can ask your local fabric store for advice.

no matter what dye you use to make babies’ clothing, you should always rinse thoroughly afterwards. once the clothing has dyed, place it on an ironing board between two white sheets. press on it with a hot iron and see if any color has transferred to the sheets. if it has, you’ll need to rinse the clothing again, this time in hot water, and repeat the process until you’re sure there’s no excess dye remaining.

never use powder dyes to make babies’ clothing as they’re far more volatile, harder to get rid of, and can easily escape into your work room where they can be transferred back onto clothing after you’ve washed it. they can potentially give you a wider range of colors, but they’re not worth the risk. don’t do it.

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