Pigment block printing – a safe alternative to hazardous Azo dyes

February 16, 2016

Traditionally, block printing has always used organic vegetable and mineral dyes and while this is still the tradition in many rural villages in India, the process is slowly being phased out as it is very cumbersome, lengthy, and largely dependent on the weather. There has now been a steady shift towards the more economical and eco-friendly pigment block printing which is what we use for our quilts, dohars and cot sheet sets.  Baby Peppers catches up with Anushree Vajpayee, founder of Mohari, an online boutique specialising in hand block printed fabrics, and discusses the benefits of pigment block printing. 

Hand block printing is the oldest and slowest form of textile printing on fabrics and dates back to as old as the 12th century. The desired motifs are carved into teak blocks by a master craftsman and then soaked in oil for around 15 days to soften the grains. While the ancient craft of block printing using natural vegetable and mineral dyes is still being carried out in its true form in several parts of India, there has been a steady shift from natural vegetable dyes to the more popular Azo free pigment block printing.

Anushree explains that while Mohari specialises in niche printing techniques such as natural vegetable dyes, rapid dyes, plus also discharge techniques which is the intentional careful removing of dyes from a fabric or fibre, she has seen customer preference pander to pigment printing purely for its diverse range of benefits.

“Pigment printing process is the most commonly used printing technique in hand block printing. It can be done on almost any kind of natural or synthetic fabrics and the process is also far easier than others”, says Anushree.  “One of the reasons for its popularity is that a wide range of shades and hues can be created easily. Pigments are synthetic colours which are water insoluble, so they do not penetrate into fabrics. It can be used to paint on wood, textiles, stone, and a variety of other textures,” adds Anushree.

As pigments do not show any affinity to fibre, there needs to be an interaction created between pigments and the fibre through another medium. Anushree explains that “this is done through an external agent which is known as a binder paste which works as an adhesive and literally sticks the pigments in place to the fabric”. “Another huge benefit of pigment printing is that it is an eco-friendly process using environmental friendly pigment inks. The chemicals used for making the binder paste are of the highest grade and made with eco-friendly components so fabrics printed with them are safe to wear and skin-friendly especially for a baby’s delicate skin”, reassures Anushree.

Regardless of where a textile article is made, it is of absolute importance that safety takes priority over aesthetics. Producing safe and skin-friendly products is paramount to us, especially after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) recent report on the detection of carcinogenic aromatic amines in certain textile articles caused by hazardous Azo fabric dyes. The pigments used on our textiles come from industry leaders who are at the forefront of environmental, health and safety performance and ensure ecological sustainability.

Shop our hand blocked bedding range here

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