Dyeing Polyester Fabric with Disperse Dyes

Polyester fabric is a popular choice in the textile industry due to its durability, wrinkle resistance, and vibrant color retention. To achieve these vibrant colors, polyester fabric is often dyed using disperse dyes. In this article, we will explore the process of dyeing polyester fabric with disperse dyes, the properties of disperse dyes, the different methods of application, and the factors that influence the dyeing process.

What are Disperse Dyes?

Disperse dyes are colored, unsaturated organic chemical compounds that are capable of giving color to a substrate, such as textiles. Unlike other types of dyes, disperse dyes are free from ionizing groups, have low water solubility, and are suitable for dyeing hydrophobic fibers like polyester. These dyes have substantivity for hydrophobic fibers and are not influenced by the negative charge on the surface of polyester fibers.

History of Disperse Dyes

The history of disperse dyes dates back to 1922 when Green and Saunders developed a solubilizing group attached to an amino group, creating a dye named “ionamine.” However, this dye did not yield satisfactory results in dyeing. In 1924, Baddiley and Ellis produced sulpho ricinoleic acid (SRA), which served as a dispersing agent for dyeing acetate fibers. Later, it was discovered that SRA was also capable of dyeing nylon, polyester, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers. In 1953, this dye was officially named “disperse dye.”

Properties of Disperse Dyes

Disperse dyes possess several unique properties that make them suitable for dyeing hydrophobic fibers like polyester:

  • Disperse dyes are nonionic, meaning they are free from ionizing groups.
  • These dyes have low water solubility or are insoluble in water.
  • Disperse dyes are organic coloring substances specifically designed for dyeing hydrophobic fibers.
  • They are primarily used for dyeing man-made cellulose ester and synthetic fibers, especially acetate and polyester fibers.
  • The dyeing process with disperse dyes requires the use of carrier or dispersing agents.
  • Disperse dyes exhibit fair to good light fastness.

Classification of Disperse Dyes

Disperse dyes can be classified based on their chemical structure:

  1. Nitro Dyes
  2. Amino Ketone Dyes
  3. Anthraquinonoid Dyes
  4. Mono Azo Dyes
  5. Di-Azo Dyes

Application Methods of Disperse Dyes

Disperse dyes can be applied using various methods, depending on the desired result and the specific dyeing requirements. Some common methods include:

  1. Method N: This is the normal dyeing method, where the dyeing temperature ranges from 80-100°C.
  2. Normal NC Method: This method involves dyeing at normal temperature with carriers. The dyeing temperature is again around 80-100°C.
  3. Method HT: High-temperature dyeing method, with a dyeing temperature of 105-140°C.
  4. Method T: Thermasol dyeing method, where the dyeing temperature is high, ranging from 180-220°C. This method is continuous in nature.
  5. Pad Roll Method: This is a semi-continuous dyeing method.
  6. Pad Steam Method: This method is a continuous dyeing method.

Dyeing Mechanism of Disperse Dye on Polyester Fabric

The dyeing process of hydrophobic fibers like polyester with disperse dyes involves the transfer of dye molecules from a liquid solvent (water) to a solid organic solvent (fiber). Disperse dyes are added to water along with a surface-active agent to create an aqueous dispersion. Due to their insolubility, disperse dyes have a higher affinity for the organic fiber than the inorganic dye liquor.

When heat is applied to the dye liquor, the energy of the dye molecules increases, accelerating the dyeing process. The heat also causes the fiber to swell, allowing the dye to penetrate the fiber polymer system. Once inside, the dye molecules are held by hydrogen bonds and van der Waals’ force.

The dyeing process can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Diffusion of dye in the solid phase into water, aided by dispersing agents and increasing temperature.
  2. Adsorption of the dissolved dye from the solution onto the fiber surface.
  3. Diffusion of the adsorbed dye from the fiber surface into the interior of the fiber.
  4. Equilibrium dyeing is reached when the dye dispersed in the bath is balanced with the dye dissolved in the bath and the dye adsorbed on the fiber.

Effect of Various Conditions on Disperse Dyeing

Several factors can influence the dyeing process when using disperse dyes on polyester fabric. Two significant factors are temperature and pH.

Effect of Temperature

Temperature plays a crucial role in dyeing with disperse dyes. For high-temperature dyeing methods, a temperature above 100°C is required to swell the fiber. However, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to dye sublimation and a loss of fabric strength. In carrier dyeing methods, swelling occurs at temperatures of 85-90°C.

Effect of pH

Maintaining the correct pH is essential for successful disperse dyeing. The dye bath should be acidic, with a pH range of 4.5-5.5. Acetic acid is commonly used to adjust and maintain the pH level. The correct pH ensures satisfactory dye exhaustion and prevents color instability and inferior fastness.

Dyeing Methods: Carrier Dyeing, High Temperature Dyeing, and Thermosol Dyeing

There are different methods for dyeing polyester fabric with disperse dyes. Let’s explore three popular methods: carrier dyeing, high-temperature dyeing, and thermosol dyeing.

Carrier Dyeing Method

The carrier dyeing method involves the following steps:

  1. Preparation of a paste of dye and dispersing agent, followed by the addition of water.
  2. The dye bath is heated to 60°C, and all the necessary chemicals and the fabric are added. The bath is kept at this temperature for 15 minutes without raising it further.
  3. The pH of the bath is controlled using acetic acid, maintaining a range of 4-5.5.
  4. The temperature of the dye bath is raised to 90°C and maintained for 60 minutes.
  5. The temperature is then lowered to 60°C, and resist and reduction cleaning are performed if necessary. Reduction cleaning is done to improve wash fastness.
  6. After reduction cleaning, the material is thoroughly rinsed and dried.

High-Temperature Dyeing Method

The high-temperature dyeing method follows these steps:

  1. Preparation of a paste of dye and dispersing agent, followed by the addition of water.
  2. The pH is controlled by adding acetic acid.
  3. The dye bath is maintained at a temperature of 60°C for 15 minutes.
  4. The temperature is then raised to 130°C and maintained for 1 hour to allow the dye to diffuse and adsorb onto the fibers, achieving the desired shade.
  5. The dye bath is rapidly cooled after dyeing at 60°C.
  6. The fabric is hot rinsed, and reduction cleaning is performed if necessary.
  7. Finally, the fabric is rinsed again and dried.

Thermosol Dyeing Method

The thermosol dyeing method is a continuous method of dyeing polyester fabric with disperse dyes. The process involves the following steps:

  1. The fabric is padded with a dye solution using a three-bowl padding mangle, following the recipe mentioned above.
  2. The fabric is dried at a temperature of 100°C in a dryer, utilizing infra-red drying methods to evaporate water from the fabric without causing the migration of dye particles.
  3. The fabric is then passed through a thermosol unit, where thermo fixing is performed at a temperature of approximately 205°C for 60-90 seconds, depending on the fiber type, dye, and desired shade. This process fixes about 75-90% of the dye onto the fabric.
  4. After thermo fixing, the unfixed dyes, along with any thickener and other chemicals, are washed off with warm water.
  5. Reduction cleaning or soap wash is performed if necessary.
  6. The fabric is thoroughly rinsed and dried.


Dyeing polyester fabric with disperse dyes is a complex process that requires careful control of various parameters such as temperature, pH, and dyeing method. Disperse dyes, with their low water solubility and affinity for hydrophobic fibers, are an excellent choice for achieving vibrant and long-lasting colors on polyester fabric. By understanding the properties, classification, application methods, and dyeing mechanism of disperse dyes, textile professionals can optimize the dyeing process and produce high-quality dyed polyester fabrics.

Dyeing polyester fabric with disperse dyes requires expertise and an understanding of the various factors that influence the dyeing process. By following the recommended methods and controlling the temperature and pH, textile professionals can achieve vibrant and long-lasting colors on polyester fabric. It is important to select the appropriate disperse dye and apply the dye using the most suitable method for the desired result. With careful attention to detail, dyeing polyester fabric with disperse dyes can result in beautiful and durable textiles.

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