The Solution-Dye Process

In simple terms, solution-dyeing is a technique that reduces the use of water and chemicals when dyeing fabrics compared to traditional wet processes. The solution-dye process involves mixing the colour pigments in with raw or recycled polyester, before they are made into filaments. By dyeing the fibres without water, there is a reduction in chemical waste, energy usage and bi-products such as CO2.

Solution dying is a technique used to colour synthetic textiles such as acrylic, nylon and polyester. The solution dye process differs from traditional fibre or piece dyeing since it involves one less process step. In the solution dye process, pigments are added to the liquid polymer solution before synthetic fibres are extruded. Compared to traditional fibre dyeing – where colour is applied in a second process step; after fibres have been extruded. The solution process saves approximately 80% water, 20-30% dyestuff, 80% other chemical agents and it also requires less energy.

A comparison between the two techniques:

Solution Dye ProcessTraditional Dye Process
Fibres and filaments are coloured before knittingFibres and filaments are knitted first and then coloured, offering a larger selection of colours

Shorter lead time due to avoiding the dying process: buyers know precisely the colours before they order

Longer lead time due to the need to verify the colours first via lab-dips

Excellent colour fastness, resistant to multiple washing, great for bright colours, resistant to UV fade

Colour fastness depending on used material and other factors, but generally worse than the dope dye

No water is used during the dope dyeing process, chemicals and carbon is reduced, low energy use

Production is not environmentally friendly, with high water, CO2, chemical and power consumption

 

Brand Involvement

Big Agnes

Big Agnes is the first to introduce solution-dyed fabrics to the camping equipment category. Tents made with solution-dyed fabric drastically reduce water and energy consumption during manufacturing.

Solution dyeing of our tent fabrics reduces energy consumption by 80% and water use by 50% compared to traditional fabric dying methods. The result is better for the environment and the fabric improves the quality of our tents. Solution-dyed fly and inner tent fabric is used in 9 different 2021 tent models.

What does Solution-Dyed mean? Solution-dyed fabric is produced from yarn made from pre-coloured chips of nylon or polyester verses fabric made from uncoloured yarn which is then colored. Imagine a carrot vs. a radish. One is colored throughout and one is only coloured on the outside.

  • 80% reduction in energy required - Carbon savings but data TBD
  • 50% reduction in water required - Nearly 5 gallons of water saved on some tent models.
  • Estimated 45,000 to 80,000 gallons saved for 2021 season tent production alone.
  • Solution-dyed yarn is highly resistant to UV fade and shade changes.
  • Solution-dyed yarns and fabrics woven from them are uniform in color and typically don’t vary from lot to lot as they start with pre-colored chips
  • Shorter lead times for fabric production as the lab dip and approval process is removed and less fabric is wasted due to incorrect dye process.

Patagonia

Patagonia is primarily invested in solution dyeing for its environmental impact: This process can result in up to 90% water use reduction and 96% CO2 savings overall compared to a conventional batch dyeing process (using synthetic dyes), with considerably less chemicals released from the overall process.

We first started solution dyeing our luggage—the heaviest products by weight in our line. We’ve learned that heavier fabrics are more economical to solution dye because the supply chain is priced out by weight. The amount of pigment used is relative to the tons of pellets (the little plastic pieces used to make synthetic yarn) that are used. Essentially, it becomes more cost-efficient to solution dye fabric that is heavier because we don’t have to commit to as many yards—yarn manufacturers sell by weight not by yardage.

Currently, we are exploring solution dyeing with fleece fabrics which are also pretty heavy in weight. We can also make the solution dyeing process more cost-efficient by committing to our tried and true colors, like blacks and blues, which we can order in larger quantities.

One of our main goals is to reduce the amount of water used in the textile-coloring process.

96% CO2 savings when using solution dyeing compared to a conventional batch dyeing process.

Haglofs

Although synthetic fibres - essential for outdoor gear - have only been around for decades, they're commonly dyed the bright, appealing colours you like to see in your wardrobe using a process that's been around for centuries.

This process, where the fabrics are dipped in the dye, staining the outside of the fibres the right colour, was pioneered way, way before synthetic fabrics were invented. It's effective on cotton, wool, and so on. But when it comes to synthetic fibres, it's not right. Synthetic fibres don't soak up dye the way natural ones do. You're left with a fibre that's bright on the outside, and a pale white-beige in the middle: like a stick of rock.

Not only is this kind of dyeing inefficient, it's terribly wasteful. And this is why we at Haglöfs are interested in changing the way we do things. That's why we're trying out solution-dyed fabrics for suitable styles in our range.

Solution-dyed fabrics have the colour added to the material right at the very start - when the fibres are being created and spun. The raw material is the right colour from the word go. This means that if you snipped a solution-dyed fabric in half and peered at the cut end through a microscope, you'd see its colour all the way through the fibre - right through to the centre.

But what's best about solution dyeing is that it eliminates the need for baths of dye - slashing water consumption, one of the fabric industry's most wasteful areas. It's estimated that water-dyed fabrics produce waste water equivalent to half the volume of the Mediterranean Sea every single year. It also eliminates the need to treat all this waste water, saving other valuable resources as well as energy, and all but ending the risk of dangerous dyed water runoff or contamination of the local environment.

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