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Natural Dyes Vs. Toxic Dyes: 10 Differences You Must Know

Clothes made without colour consideration are not garments to be excited about. The hue of the clothes plays a crucial role in their sizes, styles, cuts, and shapes. That’s why...

Clothes made without colour consideration are not garments to be excited about. The hue of the clothes plays a crucial role in their sizes, styles, cuts, and shapes. That’s why there’s been so much popularity of colour experts in the fashion industry who help you define the skin undertone and pick the most suitable colours for you according to your skin tone, eye colour, hair colour and features. If colours didn’t play a vital role in fashion, there wouldn’t be any Pantone colour of the year selection. So it’s evident that fashion can’t be sustained without colour. 

Now, as the fashion industry is becoming increasingly conscious of its environmental impact, it stands at a crossroads, with sustainability at the forefront of consumer concern. The pivotal points in this debate revolve around the dyes used in textile production. If you wonder what dye is, it’s a liquid element used to train and paint fabrics. While the texture of dye remains almost the same for all sorts of textile dyes, the products and ingredients used in them heavily vary. Based on these components, dyes can be of two types: natural dyes and synthetic dyes. Natural dyes and synthetic dyes represent two opposing ends of the spectrum, each with its own set of characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks. Intrigued to explore all about dyes? Simply scroll down the blog to explore the nuances of natural dyes versus synthetic dyes, their differences and why you should choose clothes made of eco-friendly fabric dye as found on Virgio.

What Are Natural Dyes?

Sourced from the lap of nature, natural dyes are the best form of fabric dyes. Any colour that is derived from natural sources, such as plants, insects, and minerals, is in its purest form and clothes made of it pose no threat to human skin. The concept of colouring textiles or fabrics using eco-friendly colours dates back to more than 4000 years ago. So the idea of flaunting colourful clothes without harming nature has always been popular among human beings. 

Types of Natural Dyes

As the source of natural dyes is pretty varied, it’s safe to say that the production of natural textile colours encompasses a wide range of substances to create different colours. The three most common types of natural dyes are:

1. Plant-based Colours

Simplest to extract, these natural dyes come from boiling, washing, drying or powdering bark, roots, flowers, fruits and leaves. The common colours you can get following these processes are green, red, orange and yellow. It’s the type of natural dye that’s simplest to create. Even without any specialised tools, one can simply use the tools found at home to get these natural textile dyes. Easy, no? 

2. Animals-based Colours

The insects around us we always ignore or are scared to come close to, are the primary source of natural fabric dyes. Murex sea snails, lac, shellfish, kermes, and cochineal - are some of the leading sources of sustainable textile colours. Purple and red are the common colours that you can extract from these animals or insects.

3. Minerals-based Colours

If you want to maintain your colour dyeing process as sustainable as possible, then mineral dyes might be the best for you. But be sure that it’s not a modern invention; rather, the concept of mineral textile dyeing was introduced during 2600 B.C. The best quality of this fabric dye technique is no matter the fabric type, this dye nicely sits on it and stays there for an extended period. When you choose this type of fabric dye, you also reduce energy and water consumption along with being ecologically friendly. 

4. Microorganism-based Colours

From plants to parasites and bacteria - even the smallest of lively elements can be perfect for extracting natural dyes. While mushrooms and lichen are popular sources of eco-friendly fabric dyes, the information on dyes created from components found in the microbial world is scarce. But not non-existent! Serratia, staphylococcus SP, and Pseudomonas are the most well-known microorganisms used in natural dye creation. 

What Are Toxic/Synthetic Dyes?

In contrast to natural dyes, toxic or synthetic dyes are manufactured using chemical compounds derived from various inorganic sources. Easy to prepare, cheap, brighter, and long-lasting, these dyes dominate the modern textile industry. With a whopping 10 million colour choices, using synthetic ingredients makes it easier to produce a wide range of vivacious colours. While coal tar is the most common ingredient behind synthetic dyes, sodium chloride, mercury, benzene, chromium, copper, lead, and another handful of chemicals played a role in the introduction of this textile dye. Since its introduction in the 19th century (1856), synthetic dyes have won the hearts of clothing manufacturing companies. 

Types of Synthetic Dyes

As chemicals play a leading role in the production of synthetic dyes, creating various types of dyes using a variety of elements is nothing extraordinary. Let’s find out the types of synthetic dyes: 

1. Azo Dyes

One of the most common types of synthetic dyes, azo dyes offer a broad spectrum of vibrant colours. Easy to produce, low risk of fading over time, and affordable, azo dyes colour the fabrics without necessitating mordants. But it’s also best to avoid clothes coloured by this dye as it’s known to be highly toxic, and if it enters the human bloodstream, the risk of growing tumours, allergies and various other health concerns is not impossible. (1)

2. Disperse Dyes

Used primarily for dyeing synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon, disperse dyes are water-insoluble. 

3. Reactive Dyes

These dyes form a covalent bond with the textile fibres, resulting in excellent colour fastness and wash-fastness. There are more than 15 types of reactive dyes that have been used in the textile industry for decades.

4. Fluorescent Dyes

Who wants their clothes to leak colours and stain other wardrobe essentials? No one, right? To ensure that textiles retain their hues, dyeing them using fluorescent dyes can be a great move, thanks to its lower risk of colour fading.

5. Vat Dyes

Water-insoluble, vat dyes might take some time to let fabrics flaunt their gorgeous shades, but once they are ready, one doesn’t need to worry about the clothes losing their vibrancy.

And that's not it! As you go deeper into the discussion of synthetic dyes and their types, you might explore a completely new set of information on this type of dye. There are more than 15 synthetic dyes examples and production techniques, chemicals used and processing heavily vary. While here we’ve listed 5 primary sorts of synthetic dyes, you can find out details about sulphur dyes, metal complex dyes, nitro dyes, oxidation dyes and others during research. 

Top 3 Benefits of Natural Dyes

When eco-friendly fabric dye is the topic of discussion, surely natural dyes receive the most attention. Wondering why? Let’s take a look at their advantages: 

1. Eco-Friendly

Natural dyes are derived from renewable resources and are biodegradable, minimising environmental impact. The easy extraction process of these colours also reduces the carbon footprint of organisations or brands colouring clothes using natural dyes. 

2. Non-Toxic

Unlike synthetic dyes, natural dyes are usually non-toxic as they come from nature and pose minimal health risks to workers and consumers.

3. Unique Aesthetic

Instead of dispersing the hues uniformly, natural dyes yield subtle variations in colour throughout the garment. It helps create a distinctive and organic aesthetic loved by artisans and fashion enthusiasts.

Top 3 Benefits of Toxic/Synthetic Dyes

Synthetic dyes haven’t reached their current state of popularity just as a hoax. They are also beneficial to clothes manufacturers. Let’s take a deep dive into the benefits of synthetic dyes: 

1. Wide Color Range

Synthetic dyes offer an extensive palette of colours, including vibrant and intense hues not easily achievable with natural dyes.

2. Cost-Effectiveness

Synthetic dyes are more affordable compared to natural dyes, making them economically viable for mass production.

3. Colour Fastness

Synthetic dyes often exhibit superior colour fastness, resisting fading and bleeding even after repeated washings.

Disadvantages of Natural Dyes

Both natural and synthetic dyes indeed have their advantages and disadvantages. While we’ve already explored the benefits, it’s time to unearth the negatives of natural dyes:  

1. Limited Colour Range

There’s no denying that natural dyes offer a more limited range of colours compared to synthetic dyes. You can only mix a few colours and achieve a colour palette that doesn’t satisfy the mass needs. 

2. Prone to Fading

Natural dyes do not offer the same level of colour fastness as synthetic dyes and can fade in no time if left under sunlight. 

3. Longer Dyeing Process

Dyeing with natural dyes typically requires longer processing times and may involve additional steps such as mordanting to ensure colour fastness, which increases production costs.

Disadvantages of Synthetic/Toxic Dyes

It’s time to take a sneak peek into the cons of synthetic dyes: 

1. Environmental Pollution

Synthetic dyes lead to water pollution and soil contamination due to the release of toxic chemicals during the dyeing process.

2. Health Risks

Exposure to synthetic dyes such as azo dyes has been linked to various health issues, including skin irritation, respiratory problems, endocrine disruptions, and even cancer.

3. Lack of Sustainability

The production and disposal of synthetic dyes contribute to resource depletion and environmental degradation, undermining long-term sustainability.

Natural Dyes Vs. Synthetic/Toxic Dyes: Which One Wins?

While both natural and synthetic dyes have their merits and drawbacks, the growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility has prompted a renewed interest in natural dyes. While the effect of dyes on the environment is non-negligible, choosing naturally dyed clothing, as found on Virgio, lets consumers support eco-friendly practices, promote artisanal craftsmanship, and reduce their ecological footprint. Being a clothing brand that takes the topic of sustainability with great concern, we do not play with our naturally dyed textile quality. All our clothes appear pretty, vibrant and uniform, with the added benefit of eco-friendliness. 

Why Should You Invest In Naturally Dyed Clothing?

While we’ve already discussed how beneficial natural dyes are for the environment, here we are to shed light on the reasons behind investing in Virgio’s naturally dyed clothing in a bit extra detail:

1. A Stunning Colour Palette

Does the greenery in the garden soothe your eyes better, or does the green you see on screen? The natural green, right? In the same way, naturally produced shades appear more harmonious to eyes that synthetic dyes are no match for! 

2. Natural Dyes Can be Insect Repellent

It’s a benefit that synthetic dyes can never offer. As natural dyes are made using plants, their medicinal properties remain in the dye, and they turn regular cloth into insect-repellent ones! So, get rid of mosquito bites by slipping on Virgio's clothes. 

3. Protection from UV Rays

Such is the charm of natural dyes that they can even replace sunscreens. The UV absorption quality of naturally dyed clothes is better than that of synthetic dyes. Putting on dark clothes dyed with natural dyes keeps one safe from the harmful influence of UV rays. 

Final Thoughts

The choice between natural dyes and toxic dyes extends beyond mere aesthetics to encompass broader considerations of environmental impact, sustainability, and ethical responsibility. While you’re falling head over heels for naturally dyed clothes, Virgio eliminates the hassle of scouring the web for non toxic and naturally dyed clothing for women and unrolls the finest collection of eco-friendly garments at your fingertips. Don't let time slip through your hands; hop on our online store to check out what we’ve in store for you!


What are some examples of dyes?

The best examples of dyes include natural dyes such as indigo, madder, and turmeric, as well as synthetic dyes like azo,, disperse, reactive, and more.

What is the difference between natural dyes and chemical dyes?

While natural dyes are made from natural sources such as plants, insects, and minerals, chemical dyes are manufactured using synthetic compounds derived from petroleum and other chemicals.

How are natural dyes better than artificial dyes?

Natural dyes are biodegradable, non-toxic, and environmentally sustainable, whereas artificial dyes contribute to pollution, pose health risks, and are not sustainable at all.

Are natural dyes non-toxic?

Yes, natural dyes are non-toxic and non-allergenic, but this may not be true for synthetic dyes, as some are reported to contain harmful chemicals and cancer-causing carcinogens.




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