From Kapok to Brown Dye

Slide4Tropical countries have the advantage of having the most bio-diverse flora and magnificent trees. However, not everyone knows that these trees are more than physically admirable but can also produce something that can literally color what our minds create – dye. Dyes produced from the Earth’s natural resources are called natural dyes.

Natural dye has been used in coloring our food, drugs, cosmetics, textiles, and many others for the longest time. Natural dyes are mostly safe and harmless, however some mix mordants to the product making it dangerous to the health and environment. Mordants are substances like aluminum, copper, iron, and chrome that helps natural dye stick to fabric.  Natural mordants are also available but not widely used at the present.

Natural dyes can produce at least 7 colors from different natural resources. Kapok tree, for example, produces the color brown once processed into a dye. Kapok trees are a common sight in the Philippines as it mostly survives in tropical regions. It can also be seen in tropical America, Myanmar, and Thailand to name a few. This tree grows rapidly and reaches up to 600 meters.  Its trunk is cylindrically-shaped and has noticeable roots spread up to 3 meters. The Kapok tree produces green capsuled-shape fruits and dirty white flowers.

The tree’s bark produces a reddish brown dye, while its fruit’s seed create a brown-colored dye; the flowers also produce yellow to red-colors. To extract color from these items, it has to be chopped to pieces and then soaked in water and boil it for an hour, note that the water placed should be twice as many as the materials inside. Simmer the mixture and stir it once in a while within the given hour and then add the mordant of your choice (others prefer to add mordant separately from the mixture and directly to the cloth by soaking it with water and simmering it for an hour).

After an hour, separate the plant material from the newly-created dye, placing the dye back to the pot. Put the cloth you wish to dye in the pot and simmer until the desired color is achieved. Put out the fire and squeeze the water out of the cloth as much as you can (if you do not want to get dye in your hand, using rubber gloves is advised) and then hang the fabric to dry. The last step is to wash the cloth separately from other laundry so that the excess dye color will not stick to other fabrics. It is also important to note that the pot used for boiling and simmering the dye should no longer be used for cooking.  (Reychell Abellana)


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