Natural Dyes: A Veritable Environmental Treasure Trove - APANAKAH

Natural Dyes: A Veritable Environmental Treasure Trove

"Naturally dyed" You've undoubtedly heard or read this word somewhere, but could you truly grasp what it means? Continue reading to see what it entails, how valuable natural dyes are, and why they're becoming rapidly popular in today’s time.

Natural Dyes: A Veritable Environmental Treasure Trove - APANAKAH

Where do natural dyes come from?

For thousands of years, natural dyes have played a significant role in our culture, serving both practical and aesthetic purposes. And as the name suggests, the sources of natural dyes can be found in nature. The majority of natural dyes or colourants are derived from plants, herbs, animals, biological sources, or minerals. The most widely used types of dyes, which produce the majority of natural dye production, are those made from plant sources such as roots, herbs, wood, berries, fruits, leaves, flowers, nuts, and seeds.

Up until the nineteenth century, natural dyes were the only source of colour for textiles, leather, basketry, and other materials. But this is where, in the latter half, the creation of man-made synthetic dyes led to a protracted decrease in the market for natural dyes on a large scale. Large-scale production of artificial dyes surged, which could be made more quickly than natural dyes and provide a larger spectrum of hues while also making the dyes more stable for widespread use and washing. Today, only a small number of the tens of thousands of natural dye creators have achieved commercial success.

Although the expertise of how natural dyes from plants and vegetables were created and used has mostly vanished in the modern day, we could still find such naturally-dyed products owing to the brands and local artisans who uphold their cultures and roots.

Why is it safe and crucial for us and the environment?

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Early in the 21st century, the fashion industry is seeing a rebound in the demand for natural dyes and their products. Consumers today are more concerned with the process and materials used to make their products.

Natural dyes are used commercially in response to worries about synthetic dyes which creates environmental and health damages. They are mostly used in the beauty and sustainable fashion businesses, as well as the arts, textiles, and crafting. Natural dyes are produced sustainably by using natural resources, making them an essential component of rural economic development. Natural dyes do not, however, compete with synthetic dyes in the majority of commercial uses since the latter are more readily available. Yet, the benefits of natural dyes outweigh those of synthetic dye production.

Let’s look at two major factors demonstrating how environmentally friendly natural dyes are.

100% natural and biodegradable

First off, natural resources provide us with vibrant pigmented hues, which are extracted from plants, herbs, fruits, and flowers. Then, in addition to being biodegradable, they are also significantly safer for human consumption and are preferred over artificial dyes since they are nontoxic and can be used as food colourants or substrates. Additionally, unlike synthetic dyes, natural dyes don't include any toxic chemicals and leave no waste.

Let's assume your new crop top from Apanakah accidentally ends up in the trash; it will eventually decompose having caused no adverse effect on the water, soil, or environment as it was made with completely natural materials.

Safe for health and skin

Natural dyes have been used for a variety of aesthetic and practical purposes, and they will continue to be. Numerous natural colourants also possess antibacterial properties, making them safer overall and for children in particular. Another intriguing benefit of natural dyes is that they can be used as pH indicators, are not poisonous or carcinogenic, and offer greater UV absorption in the materials they are used on. So, you can look chic while also protecting your skin from the sun's damaging rays by wearing your short kurta, midi dress, or a tank top that is dyed with natural colours.

By choosing naturally dyed clothes over synthetic alternatives, you can safeguard your health and the environment while also reducing your reliance on dangerous products.

Types of dyes and how they are made from locally available natural resources

Cooking and natural dyeing have a lot in common. There is always a great deal of diversity and individuality in the recipes and the final outcomes because every batch that is produced differs from the one before it.

Natural dyes are more expensive than synthetic dyes due to their source material and the time it takes to produce them. Colors are variable as well, since depending on the fruit or flower, the hues can vary, making it challenging to keep them uniform, especially from one crop season to another. This also makes it difficult to standardize a single recipe for the creation of natural dyes, since colour development depends on the various ingredients that are available and the various times that each requires. These minimal drawbacks, however, are justified given the positive effects they have on both the environment and human health.

Many plants produce vibrant, striking hues, but they fade quickly unless they are stabilized with a mordant (chemicals that fix a dye). In addition to providing a dye with an affinity, mordants often produce distinct hues and increase a dye's durability. Natural dyes are classified into three types: mineral dyes, substantive dyes, and adjective dyes. The type of natural dye will determine whether or not a mordant is required.

Natural dyeing isn't the kind of complex activity that takes a week and still doesn't work, but the most millennial news of all is that it is incorrect! After much experience, we've discovered that, once you know the techniques, organically dying fabric is actually fairly simple. First of all, since many of the dye ingredients are locally available, they are easy to find at your home or nearby.

Natural Dyes: A Veritable Environmental Treasure Trove - APANAKAH
  • Reds are one of the most prized pigments in the plant kingdom, and nature has abundantly gifted us with plants that produce red dyes. Plants and fruits such as lichens, henna, cranberries, beetroot, and dyer's madder, Rubia tinctorum, offer us red and pink hues.
  • Yellows are nearly as abundant as red dyes and can be derived from saffron, marigolds, pomegranate peel, turmeric, safflower, onionskins, and a variety of weedy blooming plants.
  • Greens are produced by rare plants, whereas plants that yield yellow or red dyes are common. To achieve soft pastel green hues, spinach, mint leaves, and lilacs are used. However, since ancient times, both harda (Terminalia Chebula), and indigo have been used in combination with yellow dyes to generate hues of green.
  • Blues and indigos are made from a variety of indigo dye-producing plants, the most common of which is Indigofera tinctoria, and there are at least more than 50 different species of Indigofera in India alone. The Greeks called this blue pigment "indikon," which translates as "an Indian produce," and it later became "indigo" in English. Foods like blueberries, blackberries, and black beans can also produce soft pastel tones.
  • Purples were historically considered the ultimate luxury dye and were solely used by royalty. Purple, violet, murrey, and similar colours were produced by dyeing the wool with woad or indigo in the fleece and then piece-dyeing the woven cloth with red dyes such as common madder. Madder could also produce purples when used with alum. Purples can also be obtained from lichens, mulberry mangosteen peel, teak leaf, purple orchids, and cabbage.


In conclusion, natural dyes offer a host of benefits for human use and are significantly better for the environment. Though natural dyes are more expensive than artificial dyes and have a few other disadvantages, these are definitely outweighed by their overwhelming positive effects. And we should take all reasonable steps to ensure that we are utilizing the nontoxic alternative, given how frequently toxic runoff and leftovers from the textile production and dyeing process wind up in our delicate oceans and the environment.
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