Mordants in natural dyeing (part 2)

This is a continuation of part 2 on the use mordants in natural dyeing. In this part I am focusing the use chrome and copper. Part 1 of the post on the use of mordants like alum, iron and tin are here Mordant in natural dyeing (part 1)

Mordants are great to use in natural dyeing as it gives a bigger colour spectrum from just one type of plant dye.

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It is normally used to sadden the colour turning blue to green. Use after bath mordant with alum so as to adjust the colour to ones liking. It can also be used as pre-bath which is before the fabric goes in the dye bath. By using with citric acid it will increase in uptake of dye. It does not make protein fibres feel harsher like iron.

Again it creates sulfuric acid when heated with water. So always heat in well-ventilated area and lid. Always use gloves and use utensils when handling copper.

The colours create with copper are less lightfast compared to alum. Meaning the colour fade less when to wash and rinse.

To get copper instead of buying soak some copper pipes or copper pennies in white vinegar for a week and up one month then you get cooper naturally.

Some add copper items like coins into vat dye. This is process is called incidental mordant which purpose is to create a colour change agent. However, one can never tell the exact amount of copper so the result varies.

mordants use in natural dyeing


It tends to add a golden hue to the colour and tends to be quite colour fast. It will cause too much harshness to protein fibres.

Chrome is quite toxic as it can cause dermatitis and carcinogenic. However, it is still not very clear how carcinogenic it is and it’s also used on synthetic dyes today. I would just it with caution like one does with synthetic dyes. Mask and gloves in an open-air environment.

Always pour mordant treated dye bath water into sewer or wastewater that will be treated and not into waterway or storm drain.

As always separate your dye pots from cooking never use them for cooking again.

Always clean the dye pot (whatever it is made of ceramic, aluminium or other types of metal) properly after using a mineral mordant as one wouldn’t like an explosion to happen the next time you start using the dye pot again wouldn’t you?

There are other types of less harsh natural occurring or found mordants around like soybeans, rhubarb leaves, acetic acid and tannins. I would say they are mordants as such but they are auxiliaries that can help the uptake of natural dyes.

mordant natural dyeing
using mordant in natural dyeing

4 thoughts on “Mordants in natural dyeing (part 2)”

  1. Pingback: Mordant in natural dyeing (part 1) - Maker gardener

  2. Pingback: Natural (plant-based) mordants in fabric dyeing - Maker gardener

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