Published on August 7th, 2011 | by Julie Finn


Review: Dharma Acid Dyes for Silk and Wool

Review: Dharma Acid Dyes for Silk and Wool

Don’t get me wrong–my girlies LOVE their play silks that we dyed with Kool-aid. You just can’t go wrong with a food-grade fabric dye that’s so washable and wearable, and that results in such lovely colors.

As the crafty perfectionist DIY momma, however, I looked at the girlies playing happily with their colorful play silks, and I wished for… more colors, perhaps. And predictable colors. That orange faded into a beautiful salmon pink, true, but I wanted real orange, and real yellow, and two kinds of blue–a rainbow of predictable colors, basically.

I did a lot of research before I spent my hard-earned money on Dharma Acid Dyes, and used them to dye my rainbow of play silks, and some felted wool Christmas trees, too. And how did I like the Dharma Acid Dyes compared to my homemade Kool-aid dyes? Well, let’s see…

Review: Dharma Acid Dyes for Silk and Wool

First of all, Dharma Acid Dyes are more expensive than simply using Kool-aid for dyeing. Based on my mathematical calculations (my Master’s degrees are in English and library science, but I did pass College Algebra…sort of), to dye the same four 30″x30″ play silks it costs 62 cents using Dharma Acid Dyes and the price of an envelope of Kool-aid using my Kool-aid dyeing method. Considering that I use coupons for the Kool-aid and haven’t even experimented with off-brands yet, obviously it’s much cheaper to dye silk with Kool-aid.

It’s also much easier to do the math for Kool-aid dyeing, in which you basically heat a pot of water, dump in a packet of Kool-aid, dump in some vinegar, dump in your fabric, and stir. The first time that I tried to figure out the correct amount of pigment and vinegar and water with the Dharma Acid Dyes, I had to use a calculator, then call my husband at work, where he got out his calculator, and we worked the math a couple of different times until we could agree on an answer. But you probably did better in your college math class than we did–at least I passed the FIRST time, Matt!

I’m also going to say that you can’t beat the Kool-aid dye when it comes to chemical safety. Even though I don’t actually feed my girls Kool-aid, I can’t deny that it is technically food, and you can’t get much safer than a food-grade fabric dye. And while I’m happy with the composition of the Dharma Acid Dyes, I certainly wouldn’t permit my children to drink them, and so you win again, Kool-aid!

The thing about Kool-aid, though, is that although it’s a safe fabric dye, it’s not an A+ fabric dye. The colors can be unpredictable, and although some colors are beautifully vibrant, other colors are beautifully pastel. If you just want to dye some play silks or felted wool toys with your kids, and the exact colors that you get are a secondary concern, then Kool-aid dyes are the way to go.

Dharma Acid Dyes, on the other hand, are more expensive and not as easy to use, but they do perform like the professional dyes that they are. If you have a specific color scheme in your head, such as the perfect rainbow play silks that I dyed with my girls this summer, or if you want to dye a lot of fabric and have it all come out identical, perhaps to sell or as the perfect matching Christmas gifts for a whole passel of cousins, then the Dharma Acid Dyes do remain affordable for amateurs and workable for dyeing at your kitchen stove, with color that’s predictable and full saturation.

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About the Author

I’m a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I’m interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it’s manifested–making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

6 Responses to Review: Dharma Acid Dyes for Silk and Wool

  1. Sheryl says:

    I can understand those that prefer a food grade dye, particularly when children are involved.  Wondered if you have tried the frosting dyes?  Food grade, easy  and you can purchase at nearly any grocery or cake decorating store.  There are so many brilliant & vibrant colors.  As a professional dyer, I too started out with Kool-Aid and frosting dyes, but now use Dharma’s.  Some things I dyed early on are not as light tolerant as Dharma dyes and the colors I can obtain with the professional dyes are numerous.  But the Wilton cake decorating dyes, even though may seem a bit pricey, go a long long way.  Just a smidge is all that’s needed.

    • Julie Finn says:

      I imagine you’d seriously want to up the amount of vinegar that you used if you were even attempting to dye silk and wool with a non-acidic dye like Kool-aid or a professional acid dye. We wash our play silks a LOT because my girls play with them in the mud, and the play silks dyed with Kool-aid definitely don’t retain their color as well, but you can always re-dye them if they fade, of course.

    • Ruth Silverman says:

      I am in the process of starting a business making 100% organic baby hats and I was wondering if the Dharma Dyes are 100% organic?

  2. Lovely child, a happy warm family.Acid Dyes for Silk and Wool Such as protein fiber is a good idea,Environmental protection.We provide many choices for Silk and Wool. http://www.fabric-custom.com

  3. Devon says:

    I think kool aid as a perfectly safe dye is a bit of a misconception. I believe there’s still an inhalation hazard with kool aid, same as with acid dyes. As far as I know there’s not safety concerns for finished fabrics (otherwise we’d have to stop wearing commercial clothing…) and all of the hazard is inhalation of dry pigment– for kool aid the same as for acid dyes.

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