How to Make Iron Water

How to Make Iron Water

Iron and iron water is a handy and versatile ingredient to keep around if you are a regular natural dyer.

 The iron can be added to bundle dyes and after you have unwrapped the bundles, the colours can be shifted by dipping the fabric into the iron water bath. This will darken the colours. 

I also use the iron water as a pre mordant for leaves that I will later use in eco printing. This helps significantly with achieving clearer prints on cellulose fibres.

 There are many variations and versions of iron water recipe. This iron water recipe is a lot weaker than many I have seen. From my experience, when iron water looks very rusty, it may eat away at the fabric especially wool.  There is less chance to achieve charcoals, greys and blacks on fabric when the iron water is too rusty. The fabric will simply look rusty!

Once you have made the iron water, it is best to leave the bucket at least overnight. If you wanting to print leaves, place your leaves in the iron water solution. When the iron water solution changes to a grey or black, this is a good sign and will give prints on cellulose fibres such as cotton and linens without much effort. This will take at least three days. 

Water from our taps contain traces of iron and manganese. When these elements combine with oxygen and become less soluble forms. They have changed from a colourless, dissolved form to a coloured solid form.
The oxidised forms remain in the water, giving it a black tint and attaching itself to the leaves and fabric that is left soaking in the solution. 


 Iron water 

 Materials needed : 

 A bucket or pot

some metal pieces it could be iron, a can, some nails

any vinegar



Gather some metal objects and things that you can find, including nails, rusted metals. Place in a bucket. In this image the metal objects weigh around 100grams. 

Add vinegar, here I have added white vinegar from the supermarket. Pour the vinegar in the bucket and make sure the objects are submerged in the liquid. 


Next, fill the bucket with water a little more than half way. The ratio should be around 1:4.

I added a bunch of the eucalyptus and will allow it to soak in the water until it turns grey in colour and eventually black. This is when the leaves are perfect to use as leaf prints on cellulose fibres such as cotton and linens. 

This is an iron water bucket that was made in early January 2021. I keep adding and removing leaves for bundle dyes. I also leave fabric in this bucket for when I want to create greys and blacks on cottons and linens. 



Some dyed fabric that has been left soaking in the iron water bath to shift the colour or to achieve dark charcoal greys.

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