In the design industry, terms like “solution-dyed” often show up on product labels with no description or definition. While designers and decorators know what they mean, homeowners and consumers generally do not. Read on to learn more about the difference between “solution-dyed” and “piece-dyed” fabrics and fibers.
When synthetic fibers (such as acrylic, nylon and polyester) are made, the liquid chemical solution that makes up the fiber is forced through tiny holes in an item called a spinneret, extruding long fibers – think of water being forced through a shower head. However, without any dye being introduced to the mix, these fibers are white. There are two different ways that fibers are colored, and each method produces fibers with different characteristics.
One way to color fibers is to dip them in a vat of dye after they are extruded. This method is great for achieving bright colors, and allows manufacturers to create smaller quantities of dyed fibers. In this method, the dye penetrates just the outer surface of the fiber. Think of a radish: the interior is white, but the exterior is red. This is the same way a “piece-dyed” or “yarn-dyed” fiber is colored. Most fabrics and carpet fibers today are dyed in this way.
The other way to dye fibers is to add the dye to the liquid fiber solution BEFORE the fibers are extruded. This allows the color to be mixed into the solution thoroughly, bringing the color all the way through the fiber once it is extruded. In this instance, picture a carrot: unlike a radish, which has color only on the outside, a solution-dyed fiber has color all the way through the fiber.
What difference does the dye method make? A lot, if you are looking for a colorfast fabric or carpet! Solution-dyed fibers are some of the most colorfast in the industry. Since the color goes all the way through the fiber, it is nearly impossible to fade or bleach the color out of the fabric or carpet. Solution-dyed fibers can typically be cleaned with a mild bleach solution, making them perfect for restaurant and healthcare settings where stains and germs can be an issue. But, in addition to commercial spaces, solution-dyed fabrics and fibers also make wonderful solutions in residential spaces.
Many outdoor fabrics are made with solution-dyed yarns. Not only does this keep the sun from fading the fabrics almost immediately, but it also allows homeowners to clean the cushions and pillows with bleach if stains or mildew occur. (Be sure to consult the manufacturer before using bleach on any fabric!). Solution-dyed fabrics can also be perfect in high-traffic areas such as breakfast nooks, or family room furniture – no more worrying about stains!
One downfall with solution-dyed fabrics, at least historically, is that the colors are typically not as bright and clear as their yarn-dyed counterparts. In the past colors were kind of bland – lots of neutrals with a few jewel hues mixed in. As you can see from the Kravet Soleil fabric below, however, they have come a long way! There are many bright and fun solution-dyed fabrics on the market today.
Solution-dyed carpets are also very easy to clean and maintain, making them great for residential use. Carpets featuring solution-dyed yarn will always declare this on the product information, as it is most definitely a selling feature.
Check the labels of any fabrics and carpets you are considering for your home. Now that you know what solution-dyed fibers are and what they can do for you, use that knowledge to pick the appropriate fabrics and flooring for each space in your home.