To Dye or Not to Dye

By Elisa Sellam, Sushil Hada 9 December, 2013

Sellam & Hada from Birla Cellulose explains how spun dyed viscose fibres can save water & reduce pollution, Sellam & Hada from Birla Cellulose explains how spun dyed viscose fibres can save water & reduce pollution, Sellam & Hada from Birla Cellulose explains how spun dyed viscose fibres can save water & reduce pollution

Water is saved in the bleaching, dyeing & printing processes; 30 litres of water saved per metre of fabric
More savings downstream as scouring, pre-treatment & washing are eliminated: 84 litres/kg viscose processed
As the conventional dyeing process is avoided, effluent load can be reduced by around 50%

Dyeing is a water intensive process plus it generally seen as being bad for the environment due to the chemicals used and effluent discharged in the dyeing process. So if there is limited water, the question can literally become to dye or not to dye?

In the traditional textiles dyeing process, the yarn/fabric once produced is dyed further down the process chain. During the traditionally piece dyed VSF (Viscose Staple Fibre) process the dye chemicals attach themselves to the surface of the yarn/fabric being unable to penetrate to the core of the fibres. Hence, with repeated washing, abrasion and exposure to light, the colours fade which results in excessive water consumption as repeated washing required to remove the unfixed or faded colour.

What if there was a solution that would use less water in the dying process AND gives lasting colours despite repeated washing?

“pigment dyes are injected into the mix before the fibre is finally made …

… eliminates the need for conventional piece dyeing & saves ~30 litres/metre of fabric processed”

Enter Spunshades: vibrant, heavy metal-free shades of dope dyed viscose fibre. In contrast to the traditional dyeing processes, Spunshades are manufactured with a technique that places colour pigments in the fibre itself when it is being made/spun – Spundyed.

During the manufacturing process of Spunshades, pigment dyes are injected into the mix before the fibre is finally made.

This eliminates the need for conventional piece dyeing and saves about 30 litres of water per metre of fabric processed. Hence Spundyed VSF is a great product for water conservation.


Where water is saved: Conventional piece dyed vs Spundyed

The differences between the conventional piece dyed and the Spundyed processes are highlighted in Table 1 below:

Conventional & Spun Dyed Processes

As can be seen in the chart below, in the traditional textiles dyeing process, large amounts of water is consumed by the bleaching, dyeing & printing processes taking up 62% of the total water consumption.

Conventional Dyeing Processes Water Consumption

For 1000 kg of product, the conventional dyeing process requires around 48,500 litres up to 418,500 litres of water. The wide variability in the range reflects dyeing using a batch process or a continuous process – the ranges for each process are set out in Table 2 below:

General Water Consumption in Conventional Dyeing Process

Since the fibres are already in their dyed form, in the case of Spundyed VSF, the processes of bleaching and dyeing are not required, reducing the washing cycles needed to wash the product after each particular process resulting in a double saving. This is the main area where water is being conserved.

In addition, because the process for Spundyed VSF is short, the amount of steam required for particular processes such as bleaching, mercerization, washing and drying is also reduced.

There are downstream savings too …

There are also significant savings in wet processing costs benefiting the textile value chain.

“…downstream textile processes also conserve water through the elimination of  … scouring, pre-treatment and washing saving 84 litres/kg of viscose processed”

With the use of Spundyed VSF, downstream textile processes also conserve water through the elimination of processes like scouring, pre-treatment and washing, saving 84 liters of water per kg of viscose processed.

Finally, as the dyeing operation is not required for Spundyed VSF products, not only is less water required to process the fabric, 50% of the effluent load is also reduced, contributing towards better environmental pollution control.


“as the dyeing operation is not required for spun dyed VSF products … 50% of the effluent load is also reduced”

The process of injecting the dyes into the fibres ensures that the colour is deep seeded inside each and every strand of the fibre, which results in the longevity of colours for apparels and textiles. Spundyed VSF has industry leading levels of colour fastness for wash/rub fastness and light fastness.

So it’s when it comes down to limited water & dyeing, we believe the question should not be “to dye or not dye” … it is “how you dye” that matters.

Further Reading

  • Fashion Update! Brand Winners & Sinners – With the new Phase III Textiles Investigative Report released by 7 China NGOs, we look at who has managed to stay on top since April 2012
  • Materials Sustainability in the Higgs Index – Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Sousa & Young on the inclusion of Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index in the Higg Index and how it can help brands and suppliers make choices in raw material inputs that minimise their water & environmental impacts
  • China NGO’s Tell Brands to Stop Greenwashing – Many brands say they are producing sustainable products but are in reality greenwashing. Lisa Genasci follows up on the 49 global fashion brands named using polluting factories in China
  • Toxic Presents: Be Careful What You Open – GAP year student Hugo Plunkett discovers potentially unwanted gifts under our Christmas tree. Beware of toxic fashion from your favourite high street shops in London to Germany
  • The Environmental Cost of Clothes – With clothing retail prices ever-lower and textiles being the 4th largest polluter in China, find out more about the industry’s global challenges around water consumption and pollution
  • No Chemicals Please – With over 45,0000 synthetic chemicals produced, used and discharged in China’s waterways, Greenpeace’s Ada Kong explains the chemistry of textiles and your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals


Elisa Sellam
Author: Elisa Sellam
Elisa Sellam graduated with a masters in International Trade & Languages in France, 1998. She started her career as a Sales and Sourcing Fabric Executive in Germany at Klopman International GMBH Dusseldorf, a multinational corporation specialized in work wear and protective wear. Elisa went on to work in Hong Kong for another multinational German company, International Delton Fabric Ltd., where she occupied the post of Senior Sales and Fabric Sourcing for five years. During that time, she gained access to a broad number of garment and fabric factories throughout Asia and built up a valuable network of retailers and buying offices across Asia, Europe and USA. She then took the post of Sales and Sourcing Fabric Manager at Elysium Textile Co Ltd, with head office in France for 6 years during which, she strengthened her sales, purchasing and sourcing skills. Since October 2012, Elisa has been employed by Aditya Birla Group, a $40 billion conglomerate, where she holds the post of Business Development Manager.
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Sushil Hada
Author: Sushil Hada
Sushil Hada is a gold medalist post graduate in organic chemistry from Krukshetra University. For 22 years, Sushil has worked for Grasim Industries Ltd in numerous roles such as fabric processing head, quality assurance head and research & development head, where he developed various innovative products. In 2004, Sushil joined TRADC (Textile Research & Application Development Centre), Birla Cellulose, who are patenting the process technology for Lyocell knit fabrics and Pills free stable knit fabric which he has personally developed. He has a vast experience in textile processing having been involved in the development of process technologies for products such as Viscose, Modal & Lyocell and their blend. Sushil is currently responsible for technical services, process perfection and product development at a R&D center serving globally for Birla Cellulose’s base product. He is a life member of the Textile Association of India.
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