Dye FAQ


Are your dyes lightfast?

First of all, there is no concrete definition for “lightfast”. When dealing with dyes, it’s complicated because lightfastness of a particular dye is also dependent upon what it’s applied to and the concentration of the dye. What this means is that a particular dye, when applied as a solution to bare wood might have better lightfastness than the same dye, when used in a dilute concentration as a toner. That said, let’s put lightfastness into perspective.

Our Homestead dyes (TransTint® Liquid Dyes & TransFast® Water-soluble Dye Powders) are fade-resistant and can be expected to be reasonably lightfast when used in conditions of normal, indoor ambient light or indoor manufactured lighting conditions. Prolonged or intermittent exposure of dyes to strong sunlight from overhead skylights or windows (like picture windows or bay windows) may fade the dye, just like it will on textiles like fabric and carpeting. You should avoid using blue, purple, and violet dye colors that are exposed to a strong source of sunlight.

All our other dye colors should perform fine in most indoor situations, however, the best performers we offer are the TransTint® Dyes (except the color blue). Our TransTint metallized dyes offer the best lightfastness you can get with a dye stain.  However, they are not rated for exterior use.

If you are unsure of the lightfastness of a dye in any given situation, remember that pigment based stains offer the best lightfastness. Another option is to glaze over the dye with a pigment based colorant to protect the dye underneath or use a finish with an UV absorber to protect light sensitive substrates.

The color of the TransFast water dye powder isn’t the color I want.

The “dry” powder color does not represent the color when the dye is dissolved and applied to the wood.  We suggest referring to the color chart on our website to view an approximation of the final color of TransFast Water-soluble Dyes (shown on maple).

Does dye have a shelf life?

In powdered (TransFast) or premixed liquid concentrate (TransTint) form, dyes have an indefinite shelf life as long as they are kept in a cool, dry area. Once a dye is mixed with solvent (either water or alcohol) and stored in a plastic or glass jar, it should keep at least 6 months. However, experience has shown us that most dyes will keep for years with the exception of the TransTint colors blue and red, which will gel after 6 months once mixed with water. If the dye has gelled, or if there’s a precipitate at the bottom, try adding a bit more solvent (hot water or alcohol). If that doesn’t re-disperse the dye, dispose of it.

Do I have to use distilled water to dissolve my dye?

For yellow and very dilute colors, it’s not a bad idea, particularly on oak, cherry, mahogany and other tannin-rich woods. For darker colors, it’s not necessary.

After I use a water-soluble dye – it doesn’t seem to stain the deep pores. What’s the problem?

Water has a very high surface tension so it doesn’t get down into the pores. You can always apply a pigment stain to color the pores, or seal the wood, then apply a pigment stain (Bartley Gel Stains are perfect). This will put the stain only in the pores. Or color and fill the pores with a grain filler after sealing.

When I use an alcohol dye, the pores get dark circles around them. What went wrong?

Using straight alcohol, like denatured alcohol to dissolve the stain sets up surface tension disparities between the quick drying dye at the surface and wet dye still in the pores. This causes the wet dye to want to “crawl” out of the pore. It’s also a problem with very figured wood like maple and cherry. To solve the problem, add some lacquer retarder like Butyl Cellosolve to the dye mix. Or spray the dye (don’t wipe it).

Another trick – use a 50/50 mix of lacquer thinner/alcohol when using TransTint Liquid Dyes.

The dye dried to a totally different color than when I put it on.

Dyes contain no binder, so when the carrier evaporates, it no longer “wets” the wood, giving it a deep, rich look. The dye will revert pretty much back to its original color when you apply coats of finish.

You can “check” the color of water and alcohol dyes by wetting the dyed surface with naphtha or mineral spirits. If it’s still not right, wipe another color over it until it’s the color you want. More info on this is contained in the “Hand Applied Finishes” DVD.

Are dyes toxic?

The dyes we sell are not poisonous, but some are harmful if they are swallowed or ingested. Refer to the MSDS for each individual dye here.

Care should be taken to store mixed dyes in appropriately labeled containers and keep these securely out of the reach of children and pets.  Also, babies are very attracted to brightly colored objects so keep an eye on dye-saturated rags and dispose of them properly.

Due to current regulations, TransTint and TransFast dyes are not suitable for food preparation surfaces, toys or infant furniture for children under the age of 12.