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Resistance of Dyes to Fading

Jun 21, 2016 | Expert's Corner | 0 comments

All dyes fade much faster than pigment when exposed to bright light—sunlight and fluorescent light being the worst culprits. But some types of dyes fade faster than others.

The worst for fading are the natural vegetable dyes, such as walnut husks and berries. These were sometimes used centuries ago, but they were replaced in the late nineteenth century by “aniline” dyes.

These are usually acid or basic dyes derived from various chemicals. They quickly replaced natural dyes in the textile industry and then entered the woodworking industry. They are available to woodworkers today in powder form to be dissolved in a solvent, usually water.

In the middle twentieth century a new class of chemical dyes, called “metalized” or “metal complex” was developed. These dyes are usually packaged in liquid form and are more fade resistant than the powder dyes, but the range and richness of colors is somewhat inferior. These dyes are often marketed as fade resistant.

The left dye in the photo is Transtint metalized dye. The right dye is Lockwood analine dye. Both are water-soluble. I covered the top half of the panel and put it in a west-facing window for six months. You can see that both dyes faded (on the lower areas) but the analine dye faded more than the metalized dye.