Sweet colour pun, am I right?!
Today’s blog will feature the benefits of traditional herbal dyes, used in all Cotton Seeds Australia linen. We also highlight why conventional modern dyes, even those marketed as ‘eco-friendly’, should be avoided, particularly for your baby’s bedding.
What are herbal dyes?
Herbal dyes are derived from plants and minerals found in nature, whereas "normal" dyes used in the textile industry are synthetic. Some believe that using natural dyes to colour cotton was India’s unique gift to the world. Certainly, indigo – the most commonly known natural dye – was found on the banks of the ancient Indus river and can be traced back to the Indus valley civilization.
Image: Ancient Moorish painting, Outside an Indian Dye House Source: Pinterest
Herbal (plant) dyeing is not a new process and has been used for centuries, extracting colour from herbs, flowers and roots and transferring it to cloth. Herbal dyes are made from all natural plant- or clay-based materials. Therefore, the colours used are often those colours that are found in nature. Plant-based dyes also fade more naturally, giving the cloth more character as it ages.
Image: Ancient dyeing vats in the city of Fez. Source: Zady/Shutterstock
Synthetic chemical use in modern dyes
The reason that conventional modern dyes are bright and long-lasting is because potent chemicals are used (between 2000-8000 different chemicals throughout the various stages of dyeing) to imbue the dyes with these hardy, yet artificial, characteristics – much like preservatives used in the food industry.
A Cambridge University report also found that an average t-shirt will use 16-20 litres of water during the dyeing process; up to 80% of the dye is retained by the fabric and the rest is flushed out
The global textile industry discharges 40,000 – 50,000 tons of dye
into the water system
Even dyes labelled as ‘eco-friendly’ typically use harsh fixing agents to make their cloth colourfast. Water consumption as part of the modern dyeing methods is also immense and unsustainable in many instances.
While the synthetic dye industry has made efficiencies and improvements in the last twenty years or so, the reality is that much of the global fabric dyeing industry (as part of garment production) takes place in developing countries. These can sometimes be regions where health and safety regulations are not well monitored or enforced, and workers are directly exposed to the harsh chemicals used in dyeing, working without protective equipment. Obviously, after a few years of exposure, working around these poisonous chemicals can be damaging to their health and wellbeing.
Benefits of herbal dyes
Herbal dyes are far superior when it comes to promoting human health benefits and protecting your baby’s delicate skin. While this alternative to chemical dyes may not be suited to large-scale production, working with and using natural dyes means that local economies benefit. Plants can be grown organically or sourced locally, and the overall carbon footprint of a garment can be negligible.
Source: Artisans of Morocco
Natural dyes are also much easier on the soil and water than chemical dyes, which tend to pollute the environment as part of the waste process. Water discharged by textile mills contains chemicals including formaldehyde, chlorine, lead, and mercury.
Fair trade organisations around the world are encouraging the revival of natural plant-based dyes, promoting the return of ancient artisanal skills and improving livelihoods of traditional craftspeople and their communities.
All-natural fabrics and dyes are a luxury product, not suitable for mass consumerism, which means your Cotton Seeds Australia product is a beautiful and unique item. And, it is GOTS certified organic.
How can we make a difference?
We at Cotton Seeds believe that there should be no compromise on your child’s health. Therefore, we have chosen to work with a supplier of herbal dyed cloth to provide you with a safe, pure and all-natural end product. Our supplier uses a patented herbal dying technique that results in comparable colourfastness to conventional dyes, but without the use of chemicals.
As a consumer, you can make a conscious choice where possible, to choose those products that are GOTS certified and those that promote wellness for you and your family. In doing so, you will also be choosing to support an environmentally friendly fashion industry and promoting the health and safety of garment workers around the world.
Thanks for taking the time to read about the wonderful cyan-ce of colour! (Another awesome pun, thank you very much!)
Much love to you and your little ones,
If you would like to prolong the colour vibrancy of your herbal-dyed fabric, please follow the recommended washing instructions:
Hand Wash or Mild machine wash separately in 40 degrees.
Dark colors may bleed, should be washed separately
Mild Detergents/Natural Detergents Only
Do not scrub
Dry reverse in shade
Iron on reverse – but only if you really love ironing!