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Dyes and pigments

Disclaimer: This document provides guidance and is not a legally binding interpretation and shall therefore not be relied upon as legal advice.

Textile chemicals - Dyes and pigments

Textile dyes and pigments are chemical substances used to colour fabrics. The main difference between both is that dyes are soluble in water and pigments are not.

Nowadays there are more than 10,000 textile dyes and pigments.
Colouring or the fixation of a dye to fabric fibres is a complex chemical process.
Not all the dyes and pigments themselves but additional, auxiliary chemicals are necessary for dying textiles.
No single class of dye can dye all fibres, an overview dyes classes and the possible fibres is shown in the table below:


Suitable type of dyes and pigments

bast (linen, flax, hemp, jute, ramie)

acid, direct, (disperse), reactive, vat, solubilized vat


azoic, basic, direct, mordant, oxidation, reactive, sulfur, vat

elastomers (Glospan, Lycra)

acid, disperse, reactive, (wool), vat

polyacrylonitrile (Acrilan, Courtelle, Orlon)

basic, disperse, pigment

polyamide (nylon, Perlon, Rilsan)

acid, disperse, mordant, pigment, reactive

polyester (Dacron, Terylene)

disperse, pigment

polyolefines (Meraklon, Prolene)


polyvinyl chloride (Envilon, Thermovyl)

basic, disperse

secondary acetate



acid, basic, direct, mordant, (reactive), (solubilized vat)




direct, mordant, pigment, reactive, sulfur, vat, solubilized vat


acid, basic, mordant, reactive, (solubilized vat)

wool blends (wool-cotton, wool-viscose, etc.)

acid, direct, mordant, reactive

Chemical risks

Textile dyes and pigments from all classes can be toxic and banned or restricted by legislation.
Not all hazardous dyes and pigments commonly used in the textile industry are restricted, but they might be mentioned in Restricted Substances Lists (RSLs) from retail branch organisations and NGO's.

Dying of textiles is common, make sure you know the dying methods and manage production processes.
For the chemical risk assessment of materials this is essential information from your supply chain.

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