Dyes & the dyeing process

Treatments

Dyes & the dyeing process

Treatments

The problem with dyes

Textile dyeing has a high environmental footprint. This stage of garment production has three main issues:

  1. Dyeing requires a high volume of chemical inputs which can result in polluted wastewater outputs that harm ecosystems when improperly treated
  2. It relies on energy that usually comes from non-renewable sources to power the facility
  3. It consumes large volumes of water to fix the dyes to the textiles

Our approach

Today, there is no one magic solution that addresses all the issues with textile dyeing. We work with the best available dyes and dyeing techniques that address one or more of these problems to reduce our footprint as much as possible.

In parallel, we’re constantly searching for new solutions and partnering with innovators to scale the next generation of dyes that are kinder to the planet. Watch this space, we have exciting innovations coming soon and we can’t wait to share them with you.

The problem with dyes

Textile dyeing has a high environmental footprint. This stage of garment production has three main issues:

  1. Dyeing requires a high volume of chemical inputs which can result in polluted wastewater outputs that harm ecosystems when improperly treated
  2. It relies on energy that usually comes from non-renewable sources to power the facility
  3. It consumes large volumes of water to fix the dyes to the textiles

Our approach

Today, there is no one magic solution that addresses all the issues with textile dyeing. We work with the best available dyes and dyeing techniques that address one or more of these problems to reduce our footprint as much as possible.

In parallel, we’re constantly searching for new solutions and partnering with innovators to scale the next generation of dyes that are kinder to the planet. Watch this space, we have exciting innovations coming soon and we can’t wait to share them with you.

The problem with dyes

Textile dyeing has a high environmental footprint. This stage of garment production has three main issues:

  1. Dyeing requires a high volume of chemical inputs which can result in polluted wastewater outputs that harm ecosystems when improperly treated
  2. It relies on energy that usually comes from non-renewable sources to power the facility
  3. It consumes large volumes of water to fix the dyes to the textiles

Our approach

Today, there is no one magic solution that addresses all the issues with textile dyeing. We work with the best available dyes and dyeing techniques that address one or more of these problems to reduce our footprint as much as possible.

In parallel, we’re constantly searching for new solutions and partnering with innovators to scale the next generation of dyes that are kinder to the planet. Watch this space, we have exciting innovations coming soon and we can’t wait to share them with you.

What we look out for

We use the below criteria to evaluate the dyes and dyeing techniques available today:

Dyestuff: a dye is a colored substance that chemically bonds to the surface of a fiber.

  • Biobased, natural or synthetic dyes with high fixation efficiency and color fastness
  • Compliant with and/or approved by 3rd party textile safety certifications, such as STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® and GOTS

Dyehouses / Dyeing: the facility and process of dyeing textiles.

  • Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC compliant)
  • Recycled water systems
  • Powered by renewable energy
  • Transparency of processes and ingredients used
  • Dyeing methods which are more water and energy efficient (e.g. batch dyeing)
  • Fabric prepared with chemical inputs from the GOTS positive list (including chlorine-free bleaching)

Dyehouses / Dyeing: the facility and process of dyeing textiles.

  • Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC compliant)
  • Recycled water systems
  • Powered by renewable energy
  • Transparency of processes and ingredients used
  • Dyeing methods which are more water and energy efficient (e.g. batch dyeing)
  • Fabric prepared with chemical inputs from the GOTS positive list (including chlorine-free bleaching)

Dyes we're working with:

Poly-functional Reactive dyes

Reactive dyes are the most important and widely used dyestuff for coloring cellulosic fibers (like cotton and linen, as well as human-made semi-synthetics like lyocell, viscose and modal).

Ready for the science bit?

Reactive dyes are synthetic (human-made) compounds made of 2 main parts: the color part (called the chromophore) and the part that binds to the fiber surface.

Reactive dyes covalently bind to the cellulose molecules in the fiber. Covalent bonds are the strongest types of chemical bonds (after the bond of love), which is why they are one of the most permanent dyes. Think of them as super sticky.

What’s so bad about that? 

Well firstly, synthetic reactive dyes are made from fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources. The current standard method of dyeing (called aqueous dyeing) also uses water, and this, combined with super sticky reactive dyes can be problematic if mismanaged:

  • In the water-based dye bath, a dye molecule will either bind (stick!) to the fiber and color the fabric, or to a water molecule (in a process known as hydrolysis).
  • Dye molecules that have reacted with water are very difficult to remove from a dye bath, making the treatment of wastewater chemically intensive and expensive. This is also the reason why dye baths cannot be reused.
  • When improperly treated, dye-filled wastewater released into the environment prevents sunlight from getting to underwater organisms who need sunlight to survive, causing major environmental damage.

To reduce the amount of dye in our wastewater, we use dyes with greater binding efficiency (called polyfunctional reactive dyes). This means our dyes are more likely to stick (bind) to the fibers (where we want them!) and less likely to react with the water molecules. This means less dye-filled wastewater (effluent) is released as polluting waste. As a result, we’re also able to use less dyestuff to achieve the same shade of color, and reduce water and energy consumption, as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the dyeing and washing-off process.

This aligns with the green chemistry principle of pollution-prevention—reducing overall waste by using fewer inputs (ingredients) upstream.

 We know it’s complex and the current solutions aren’t perfect.

We are committed to reducing our consumption of non-renewable reactive dyes, and are working on diversifying the types of dyes we use. We partner closely with new innovators as well as our existing supply chain partners to improve the dyeing process and inputs wherever we can, with our ultimate goal to turn the unimaginable into reality!

Natural dyes

Natural dyes are derived from nature and made from renewable sources.

What are they made from?

These natural colorants are extracted from a wide variety of origins including plants, minerals and fungi, to name just a few. Dyes made from plants, vegetables or food waste are classified as botanical dyes. Dyes made from minerals found near the Earth's surface, such as hematite, are known as mineral dyes.

Why are natural dyes better for the planet?

Natural dyes have some inherent environmental advantages over synthetic dyes. They are sourced from renewable origins that can be replenished responsibly, including food waste and inedible plant sources. They also offer a great alternative to synthetic dyes which rely on non-renewable fossil fuel origins.

It’s not that simple though

Natural dyes do present technical and environmental challenges of their own, which make them tricky to work with.

  • Their use is mostly limited to natural fibers (e.g. cotton, linen, wool etc.). This makes them incompatible with popular synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester.
  • Shades can also be difficult to keep consistent, which can lead to a lot of waste where uniform tones are required. Repeating dye batches to achieve the same shade wastes water, dyestuff and energy every time the process is repeated.
  • They have poor color fastness when exposed to water and light. Put simply, this means the color doesn’t hold onto the fiber tightly, and will fade over time. As a result, these dyes usually require the addition of metallic mordants (such as iron and tin).

What is a “mordant”? 

A substance that combines with the dye to fix it to the fiber. Some metallic mordants can be toxic, especially when released as a part of the waste water, counteracting the environmental benefits of the dyes!

Despite all these challenges, we see an exciting future for natural dyes.

They help to encourage a shift towards more renewable and responsible systems of production. We launched two collections in 2020 using natural botanical dyes and are working with exciting innovations in this space, coming to you soon!  

EarthColors® by Archroma

Did you know that in conventional garment production across the textile industry, cotton is often colored using sulfur dyes derived from fossil fuels? Fossil fuels are a non-renewable and rapidly depleting resource, meaning once they’re gone—they’re gone for good. Extracting them is also polluting and harmful to the environment because they release carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) when they’re burned to produce energy, trapping heat in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

Instead, EarthColors® by Archroma are made using renewable, non-edible waste products leftover from the food and herbal industries (such as nut shells and leaves), which are then turned into colorful dyestuff. By repurposing waste, these high-performance natural-based dyes help reduce the reliance on fossil-fuel based resources and support the transition to a circular economy.

Key benefits (compared to conventional sulfur dyes*):

  • 600x less of a negative impact on natural resources
  • 350x less impact on water footprint of the dyeing process
  • 700x less harmful to human wellness
  • 400x less of a negative impact on climate change

* Statistics based on LCA screening of EarthColors® by Archroma plant based raw material vs. fossil-fuel based raw material used in conventional sulfur dyes.

EarthColors® by Archroma dyestuffs are ZDHC, bluesign® and GOTS approved. They have also received the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute's Platinum Level Material Health Certificate.

Our dyehouse partners

As well as choosing the right dyes, we are also partnering with dyehouses who use better methods to power their machinery, reduce their water consumption, treat wastewater more responsibly and reuse this resource as much as possible.  

Here are some examples of the practices used for our core products such as organic and recycled cotton:

  • We work with several dye houses that employ a range of responsible technologies to further reduce the environmental footprint of our dyeing.
  • To responsibly treat and dispose of wastewater, it is either: filtered and then transferred to on-site biological water treatment facilities, before being sent to specialized Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants, or filtered and sent directly to the Municipal Treatment Plants. This ensures that none of the wastewater enters the local environment without having gone through a rigorous treatment and cleaning process.
  • Our main dyehouse partners are partially to fully powered by renewable energy through solar panels, wind energy and dams. For their remaining purchased energy, they source from wind, dams (hydro-electric power) and solar.
  • Our main dyehouses also capture and reuse the hot steam and heat from the dye wastewater to heat other processes - reducing energy consumption elsewhere within the facilities.

What we look out for

We use the below criteria to evaluate the dyes and dyeing techniques available today:

Dyestuff: a dye is a colored substance that chemically bonds to the surface of a fiber.

  • Biobased, natural or synthetic dyes with high fixation efficiency and color fastness
  • Compliant with and/or approved by 3rd party textile safety certifications, such as STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® and GOTS

Dyehouses / Dyeing: the facility and process of dyeing textiles.

  • Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC compliant)
  • Recycled water systems
  • Powered by renewable energy
  • Transparency of processes and ingredients used
  • Dyeing methods which are more water and energy efficient (e.g. batch dyeing)
  • Fabric prepared with chemical inputs from the GOTS positive list (including chlorine-free bleaching)

Dyes we're working with:

Poly-functional Reactive dyes

Reactive dyes are the most important and widely used dyestuff for coloring cellulosic fibers (like cotton and linen, as well as human-made semi-synthetics like lyocell, viscose and modal).

Ready for the science bit?

Reactive dyes are synthetic (human-made) compounds made of 2 main parts: the color part (called the chromophore) and the part that binds to the fiber surface.

Reactive dyes covalently bind to the cellulose molecules in the fiber. Covalent bonds are the strongest types of chemical bonds (after the bond of love), which is why they are one of the most permanent dyes. Think of them as super sticky.

What’s so bad about that? 

Well firstly, synthetic reactive dyes are made from fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources. The current standard method of dyeing (called aqueous dyeing) also uses water, and this, combined with super sticky reactive dyes can be problematic if mismanaged:

  • In the water-based dye bath, a dye molecule will either bind (stick!) to the fiber and color the fabric, or to a water molecule (in a process known as hydrolysis).
  • Dye molecules that have reacted with water are very difficult to remove from a dye bath, making the treatment of wastewater chemically intensive and expensive. This is also the reason why dye baths cannot be reused.
  • When improperly treated, dye-filled wastewater released into the environment prevents sunlight from getting to underwater organisms who need sunlight to survive, causing major environmental damage.

To reduce the amount of dye in our wastewater, we use dyes with greater binding efficiency (called polyfunctional reactive dyes). This means our dyes are more likely to stick (bind) to the fibers (where we want them!) and less likely to react with the water molecules. This means less dye-filled wastewater (effluent) is released as polluting waste. As a result, we’re also able to use less dyestuff to achieve the same shade of color, and reduce water and energy consumption, as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the dyeing and washing-off process.

This aligns with the green chemistry principle of pollution-prevention—reducing overall waste by using fewer inputs (ingredients) upstream.

 We know it’s complex and the current solutions aren’t perfect.

We are committed to reducing our consumption of non-renewable reactive dyes, and are working on diversifying the types of dyes we use. We partner closely with new innovators as well as our existing supply chain partners to improve the dyeing process and inputs wherever we can, with our ultimate goal to turn the unimaginable into reality!

Natural dyes

Natural dyes are derived from nature and made from renewable sources.

What are they made from?

These natural colorants are extracted from a wide variety of origins including plants, minerals and fungi, to name just a few. Dyes made from plants, vegetables or food waste are classified as botanical dyes. Dyes made from minerals found near the Earth's surface, such as hematite, are known as mineral dyes.

Why are natural dyes better for the planet?

Natural dyes have some inherent environmental advantages over synthetic dyes. They are sourced from renewable origins that can be replenished responsibly, including food waste and inedible plant sources. They also offer a great alternative to synthetic dyes which rely on non-renewable fossil fuel origins.

It’s not that simple though

Natural dyes do present technical and environmental challenges of their own, which make them tricky to work with.

  • Their use is mostly limited to natural fibers (e.g. cotton, linen, wool etc.). This makes them incompatible with popular synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester.
  • Shades can also be difficult to keep consistent, which can lead to a lot of waste where uniform tones are required. Repeating dye batches to achieve the same shade wastes water, dyestuff and energy every time the process is repeated.
  • They have poor color fastness when exposed to water and light. Put simply, this means the color doesn’t hold onto the fiber tightly, and will fade over time. As a result, these dyes usually require the addition of metallic mordants (such as iron and tin).

What is a “mordant”? 

A substance that combines with the dye to fix it to the fiber. Some metallic mordants can be toxic, especially when released as a part of the waste water, counteracting the environmental benefits of the dyes!

Despite all these challenges, we see an exciting future for natural dyes.

They help to encourage a shift towards more renewable and responsible systems of production. We launched two collections in 2020 using natural botanical dyes and are working with exciting innovations in this space, coming to you soon!  

EarthColors® by Archroma

Did you know that in conventional garment production across the textile industry, cotton is often colored using sulfur dyes derived from fossil fuels? Fossil fuels are a non-renewable and rapidly depleting resource, meaning once they’re gone—they’re gone for good. Extracting them is also polluting and harmful to the environment because they release carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) when they’re burned to produce energy, trapping heat in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

Instead, EarthColors® by Archroma are made using renewable, non-edible waste products leftover from the food and herbal industries (such as nut shells and leaves), which are then turned into colorful dyestuff. By repurposing waste, these high-performance natural-based dyes help reduce the reliance on fossil-fuel based resources and support the transition to a circular economy.

Key benefits (compared to conventional sulfur dyes*):

  • 600x less of a negative impact on natural resources
  • 350x less impact on water footprint of the dyeing process
  • 700x less harmful to human wellness
  • 400x less of a negative impact on climate change

* Statistics based on LCA screening of EarthColors® by Archroma plant based raw material vs. fossil-fuel based raw material used in conventional sulfur dyes.

EarthColors® by Archroma dyestuffs are ZDHC, bluesign® and GOTS approved. They have also received the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute's Platinum Level Material Health Certificate.

Our dyehouse partners

As well as choosing the right dyes, we are also partnering with dyehouses who use better methods to power their machinery, reduce their water consumption, treat wastewater more responsibly and reuse this resource as much as possible.  

Here are some examples of the practices used for our core products such as organic and recycled cotton:

  • We work with several dye houses that employ a range of responsible technologies to further reduce the environmental footprint of our dyeing.
  • To responsibly treat and dispose of wastewater, it is either: filtered and then transferred to on-site biological water treatment facilities, before being sent to specialized Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants, or filtered and sent directly to the Municipal Treatment Plants. This ensures that none of the wastewater enters the local environment without having gone through a rigorous treatment and cleaning process.
  • Our main dyehouse partners are partially to fully powered by renewable energy through solar panels, wind energy and dams. For their remaining purchased energy, they source from wind, dams (hydro-electric power) and solar.
  • Our main dyehouses also capture and reuse the hot steam and heat from the dye wastewater to heat other processes - reducing energy consumption elsewhere within the facilities.

Poly-functional Reactive dyes

Reactive dyes are the most important and widely used dyestuff for coloring cellulosic fibers (like cotton and linen, as well as human-made semi-synthetics like lyocell, viscose and modal).

Ready for the science bit?

Reactive dyes are synthetic (human-made) compounds made of 2 main parts: the color part (called the chromophore) and the part that binds to the fiber surface.

Reactive dyes covalently bind to the cellulose molecules in the fiber. Covalent bonds are the strongest types of chemical bonds (after the bond of love), which is why they are one of the most permanent dyes. Think of them as super sticky.

What’s so bad about that? 

Well firstly, synthetic reactive dyes are made from fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources. The current standard method of dyeing (called aqueous dyeing) also uses water, and this, combined with super sticky reactive dyes can be problematic if mismanaged:

  • In the water-based dye bath, a dye molecule will either bind (stick!) to the fiber and color the fabric, or to a water molecule (in a process known as hydrolysis).
  • Dye molecules that have reacted with water are very difficult to remove from a dye bath, making the treatment of wastewater chemically intensive and expensive. This is also the reason why dye baths cannot be reused.
  • When improperly treated, dye-filled wastewater released into the environment prevents sunlight from getting to underwater organisms who need sunlight to survive, causing major environmental damage.

To reduce the amount of dye in our wastewater, we use dyes with greater binding efficiency (called polyfunctional reactive dyes). This means our dyes are more likely to stick (bind) to the fibers (where we want them!) and less likely to react with the water molecules. This means less dye-filled wastewater (effluent) is released as polluting waste. As a result, we’re also able to use less dyestuff to achieve the same shade of color, and reduce water and energy consumption, as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the dyeing and washing-off process.

This aligns with the green chemistry principle of pollution-prevention—reducing overall waste by using fewer inputs (ingredients) upstream.

 We know it’s complex and the current solutions aren’t perfect.

We are committed to reducing our consumption of non-renewable reactive dyes, and are working on diversifying the types of dyes we use. We partner closely with new innovators as well as our existing supply chain partners to improve the dyeing process and inputs wherever we can, with our ultimate goal to turn the unimaginable into reality!

Natural dyes

Natural dyes are derived from nature and made from renewable sources.

What are they made from?

These natural colorants are extracted from a wide variety of origins including plants, minerals and fungi, to name just a few. Dyes made from plants, vegetables or food waste are classified as botanical dyes. Dyes made from minerals found near the Earth's surface, such as hematite, are known as mineral dyes.

Why are natural dyes better for the planet?

Natural dyes have some inherent environmental advantages over synthetic dyes. They are sourced from renewable origins that can be replenished responsibly, including food waste and inedible plant sources. They also offer a great alternative to synthetic dyes which rely on non-renewable fossil fuel origins.

It’s not that simple though

Natural dyes do present technical and environmental challenges of their own, which make them tricky to work with.

  • Their use is mostly limited to natural fibers (e.g. cotton, linen, wool etc.). This makes them incompatible with popular synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester.
  • Shades can also be difficult to keep consistent, which can lead to a lot of waste where uniform tones are required. Repeating dye batches to achieve the same shade wastes water, dyestuff and energy every time the process is repeated.
  • They have poor color fastness when exposed to water and light. Put simply, this means the color doesn’t hold onto the fiber tightly, and will fade over time. As a result, these dyes usually require the addition of metallic mordants (such as iron and tin).

What is a “mordant”? 

A substance that combines with the dye to fix it to the fiber. Some metallic mordants can be toxic, especially when released as a part of the waste water, counteracting the environmental benefits of the dyes!

Despite all these challenges, we see an exciting future for natural dyes.

They help to encourage a shift towards more renewable and responsible systems of production. We launched two collections in 2020 using natural botanical dyes and are working with exciting innovations in this space, coming to you soon!  

EarthColors® by Archroma

Did you know that in conventional garment production across the textile industry, cotton is often colored using sulfur dyes derived from fossil fuels? Fossil fuels are a non-renewable and rapidly depleting resource, meaning once they’re gone—they’re gone for good. Extracting them is also polluting and harmful to the environment because they release carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) when they’re burned to produce energy, trapping heat in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

Instead, EarthColors® by Archroma are made using renewable, non-edible waste products leftover from the food and herbal industries (such as nut shells and leaves), which are then turned into colorful dyestuff. By repurposing waste, these high-performance natural-based dyes help reduce the reliance on fossil-fuel based resources and support the transition to a circular economy.

Key benefits (compared to conventional sulfur dyes*):

  • 600x less of a negative impact on natural resources
  • 350x less impact on water footprint of the dyeing process
  • 700x less harmful to human wellness
  • 400x less of a negative impact on climate change

* Statistics based on LCA screening of EarthColors® by Archroma plant based raw material vs. fossil-fuel based raw material used in conventional sulfur dyes.

EarthColors® by Archroma dyestuffs are ZDHC, bluesign® and GOTS approved. They have also received the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute's Platinum Level Material Health Certificate.

Our dyehouse partners

As well as choosing the right dyes, we are also partnering with dyehouses who use better methods to power their machinery, reduce their water consumption, treat wastewater more responsibly and reuse this resource as much as possible.  

Here are some examples of the practices used for our core products such as organic and recycled cotton:

  • We work with several dye houses that employ a range of responsible technologies to further reduce the environmental footprint of our dyeing.
  • To responsibly treat and dispose of wastewater, it is either: filtered and then transferred to on-site biological water treatment facilities, before being sent to specialized Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants, or filtered and sent directly to the Municipal Treatment Plants. This ensures that none of the wastewater enters the local environment without having gone through a rigorous treatment and cleaning process.
  • Our main dyehouse partners are partially to fully powered by renewable energy through solar panels, wind energy and dams. For their remaining purchased energy, they source from wind, dams (hydro-electric power) and solar.
  • Our main dyehouses also capture and reuse the hot steam and heat from the dye wastewater to heat other processes - reducing energy consumption elsewhere within the facilities.

Watch this space

This is just the start. We’re working on more material innovations, impact initiatives and expanding our product range. Check back for our latest updates.

Last Updated : 07.21.2021