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Tie-dyeing is a fun activity that can spice up clothes with colorful patterns. Although kits are available in stores, nature provides dyes that can be extracted from items found in one’s yard — for example, acorns and rust. In ACS’ Journal of Chemical Education, researchers present a “green” process for tie-dyeing cotton with renewable resources and wastes that undergraduate students can easily do under minimal supervision. The activity links together science, art and sustainability.
For thousands of years, materials found in nature have been used as dyes and mordants, which are substances that help affix compounds to fibers. And brown-colored tannins from acorns can bind to orange-colored iron mordant, generating a dark blue, or almost black, color on fabrics. So, Julian Silverman and colleagues wanted to show how these natural dyes can be used in tie-dyeing to produce designs of white, brown, orange and bluish-black colors on cotton napkins.
The resulting patterns depended on how the napkins were wrapped in rubber bands and the order in which they were soaked in an acorn dye bath and dipped in a rust and vinegar solution. Even though all of the dyeing solutions are safe to dump down the drain, the researchers say that gloves, lab coats and goggles will keep the dyes from staining skin or other clothing.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Manhattan College School of Science.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS’ mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and all its people. The Society is a global leader in promoting excellence in science education and providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a leader in scientific information solutions, its CAS division partners with global innovators to accelerate breakthroughs by curating, connecting and analyzing the world’s scientific knowledge. ACS’ main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
IMAGE CREDIT: Adapted from Journal of Chemical Education 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.2c00086