Tuesday, November 29, 2016

About Rust and Fabric and Finding Answers

Rust dyeing fabric is very popular right now and I have caught the bug.  Actually I’ve been using a rust dye printing method on fabrics for a few years now.  I have some questions that no one can seem to answer for me so perhaps someone out there in blog land can?

Apparently rust will eventually “eat” through fabrics.  I have not had that happen yet so one question is “How long does it take for rust to eat through fabrics?” 

I’ve read and been told several different methods that are suppose to neutralize the rust.  One is to soak in salt water.  Hhmm, doesn’t salt water promote rust?   If this were to work my only summation is that salt would help the pH factor.

The pH scale measures from 0 -14 the relative acidity or alkalinity of a solution.  Seven is considered neutral and anything below that is acidic and above is alkaline.  Protein fibers (from animals) like acidity and cellulose fibers (from plants) like alkalinity.

I am guessing that rust is acidic? And that using salt would bring the pH up to a more alkaline solution to soak the rusted fabric in? So if you are using a protein fiber that likes acid would salt matter to adjust the pH?  Or are we just brining the pH to neutral?

I have also been told that baking soda will neutralize the rust.  BUT wait, is it neutralizing the rust or the iron?  Again, my lack of chemistry knowledge prevents me from knowing.  I think baking soda is a mild alkaline so would it serve the same purpose as salt?

If it is the pH that we are adjusting wouldn’t a mild soap work? Soap is alkaline right?

I have some rust dyed fabric pieces that are about 5 years old and I see no signs of deterioration.  As an artist I think if holes did appear I would use them as a “flopportunity” to create a new design, perhaps by boro stitching or some similar technique.

I make items to sell and while I tell the buyers that eventually rust/iron on fabric might compromise it, I’d like to know that the fabric will keep it’s integrity.

If you are a chemist or have knowledge of the properties of rust/iron on fabrics I would be very happy to hear what you have to say on this subject.