FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Thu Oct 24 10:30:31 EDT 2013

Natural dyes from common (and a few uncommon) ingredients: A new video by the American Chemical Society

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2013 — From crimson red to lavender to mustard yellow, vibrant hues can be coaxed from common — and a few uncommon — ingredients to add color to fabrics. The American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) Bytesize Science series explains the chemistry behind natural dyes with a new episode filmed at the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn. The episode is available now on

“The process of this is taking natural things from the earth like fruits and vegetables, different roots … and taking the color from them and translating them into a fiber,” says Sahara Johnson, an intern at the Textile Arts Center. In the video, she demonstrates how to dye material using ingredients from the grocery store — plus one color source that’s a little harder to get, a bug found on cacti. Johnson pours chopped red cabbage into one large metal pot. Into another, she adds cochineal bugs, which have been used for centuries for their red pigment.

As Johnson dyes white silk lavender and pink in the pots of colored water, the video explains the chemistry of the different dyes and how acidity can change their colors. Acidic lemon juice, for example, can turn a bowl of cabbage dye from purple to red, but adding baking soda, which is basic, transforms it into a blue-green hue.

Subscribe to Bytesize Science on YouTube for more videos that uncover the chemistry in everyday life.

For more entertaining, informative science videos and podcasts from the ACS Office of Public Affairs, view Prized Science, Spellbound, Science Elements and Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.

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The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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Red cabbage and other natural sources of dyes are the topic of a new Bytesize Science video.
Credit: Kirk Zamieroski, American Chemical Society
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