Rust Dyeing Q & A

Rust Dyeing Questions and Answers by Kimberly Baxter Packwood © 2001

Q. Can I use salt water instead of vinegar to oxidize the metal?
A. Yes. Vinegar causes metal to oxidize faster than salt water.

Q. What is the fastest way to rust fabric?
A. I place my vinegar wetted fabric into a plastic bag with rusty objects, I then place them in a sunny location that is warm. I will have adequate rust on my fabric in about 24 hours, depending on the level of rust I am seeking.

Q. Will the fabric rust through?
A. It depends on how far you allow the rusting process to proceed. You can rust the fabric to the point that the fabric will develop holes. If you do not want holes immediately then you need to stop the rusting process and neutralize the fabrics.

Q. I rusted my fabric, but I want more rust on the fabric, can I rust my fabric again?
A. Yes. I would neutralize and rinse the fabrics before proceeding with any further rusting applications.

Q. Can I over dye the rusted fabric?
A. Yes. If you are using natural dyes the iron from the rust can act as a mordant, saddening the natural dye colors. An example would be khaki from Osage Orange which gives golden to brassy yellows.

Q. How do I stop the rusting process?
A. You will need to neutralize your fabric with salt water or even soda ash to raise the pH of the fabric. Periodically, at least once a year, you will have to neutralize your fabrics as once the rust has bonded with the fibers it will continue to rust indefinitely.

Q. Is rusted fabric archival?
A. No! You can promote the longevity of your piece by periodically neutralizing the fabrics. However, neutralizing the fabric will not create an archival fabric.

Q. I Rusted my fabric for a quilting project but my needle will not go through the fabric, what am I doing wrong?
A. Try the rusting techniques on a loser weave fabric. The rust, when oxidizing, is to some extent, creating a layer of metal oxide onto the fabric. If your fabric has a tight dense weave this layer of metal oxide is denser as well, making it difficult to needle.

NOTE: If the metal oxide is thick, and chunky, on the fabrics surface I would not recommend using your sewing machine as the oxide particles can cause problems with your machine.