Washing indigo fabric – a DIY tutorial for hand-dyed fabric

Hi, I wrote a post earlier this month about the indigo dyeing workshop I organized for the Bay Area Sewists, which you can read here. However, that post just focused on the dyeing part. That post got really long and then I realized that I didn’t discuss washing indigo fabric after it has finished oxidizing. So here’s that important bit of information.

Indigo dyed fabric - Bay Area Sewists meetup - CSews.com

When you take your fabric out of the indigo dye bath, it starts turning blue when it’s exposed to oxygen. It takes about 20 minutes for indigo dye to oxidize. When I took the Craftcation indigo dyeing workshop, we were told to rinse the fabric and then launder it. This will prevent the dye from “crocking” or transferring to something else, such as a white couch. 😉 You may need to wash your indigo dyed fabric more than once to prevent crocking.

I’m going to make a skirt with some of my indigo-dyed fabric and I don’t want to worry about ruining someone’s furniture when I sit down. So I called Dharma Trading, which sells a wide range of their own fabric dyes, including indigo and the Jacquard indigo dye kits. I was told to rinse the indigo-dyed fabric for 20 minutes under running water and then I could try washing it with hot water with Retayne. Well, it turns out Retayne is for commercially dyed fabrics and when I called my local fabric store Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, to see if they carried Retayne, I discovered that it not only carries Retayne but Synthrapol, which removes excess dye from hand dyed fabrics,” according to the label.

Synthrapol - for hand dyed fabric - CSews.com

So I needed Synthrapol. I got this 16 oz. bottle for $6.95 from Stonemountain. You can also buy a 16 oz. bottle on Amazon for $13.75 (affiliate link here). There’s also a 4 oz. bottle available as well.

The directions on the label says that when you wash your hand dyed fabric for the first time, wear gloves, add 1 teaspoon of Synthrapol per gallon of very hot water, wash for 5 minutes, rinse well and dry. You can also machine wash in the hot cycle and add 1-2 teaspoons per load to form 1/4″ of suds, run 8 to 10 minutes. Then run through complete warm rinse.

After that initial laundering, wash with warm water, not hot.

To recap, here’s the process for washing your hand dyed fabric for the first time.

Step 1: Rinse hand-dyed indigo fabric under running water for 20 minutes. I rinsed it in the bathtub but I didn’t want to run the water that long. We’ve been dealing with drought in California so I couldn’t bring my self to run the water that long. I rinsed for about 5 minutes. Squeezed out the excess water and then rinsed for another 5 minutes.

Washing indigo fabric - rinse for 20 min. under running water - CSews.com

Step 2: Washing indigo fabric in hot water with 1 teaspoon of Synthrapol. I use a Rubbermaid dish tub I got at a hardware store (15.25 quarts, 14.43 liters). It has convenient handles on the sides. You can get it on Amazon, too (affiliate link here).

Washing indigo fabric - for first wash, wash in hot water with Synthrapol - CSews.com

Step 3: Rinse in warm water.

If you want to machine wash your indigo dyed garment after this initial hot wash, I would recommend washing it with a color catcher – a dye-trapping sheet you throw in with your wash. It picks up stray color and prevents dye from depositing from one garment to another. I use the Shout color catcher, which you can find in the grocery store sold near the laundry detergent and dryer sheets. (Amazon affiliate link here.)

Keep in mind that the indigo color will fade as you wash it so wash with care. I think I’ll wash in cold water and line dry.

For a more in-depth explanation of how to prevent color transfer, bleeding, and fading, check out this post from the home and garden website Dengarden.

I still need to write Part 2 of my Indigo dyeing experiments. I’ll do that in September so stay tuned!

Tutorial - How to treat indigo-dyed fabric - hand dyed, Synthrapol, DIY - CSews.com