Thursday, August 1, 2013

Homemade Dye Spray Booth

My Dad gave me my first driving lesson without being allowed in the driver’s seat.  It was more a lecture demonstration on all the features of a car, especially the safety features.  He also showed me how to check the oil, antifreeze, water in the radiator and battery.  Last, how to change a tire.  I have to admit it was one of the most valuable afternoons I ever spent with my Dad.  I have to give the same credit to my Theater Department in grad school for giving its students, known for experimenting in their shops, a class on craft safety.   I recently found several videos online using fabric dye that made me apprehensive for anyone who had not been in my class.

Fabric dye is not just correlated with toxicity, it is a known carcinogenic.  This means that rather than an  acceptable concentration to stay below like with lead, mercury or cadmium, a few years of unprotected dye exposure builds from risk to eventuality of cancer.  Contact needs to be avoided all together.
In the segments I’ve seen recently, loose dried dye was sprinkled freely in the open.  Anyone who has cleaned up after using dye, especially in powdered form has seen drops of water hitting a surface kept scrupulously clean suddenly burst into color when it hits a spec of dye too small to the naked eye.  Unfortunately, this leads to a cancer risk.

Fortunately, there are measures that are easy and effective.  First, try to use liquid dye whenever possible.  Second, never use any utensil or container used for dyeing for eating or drinking.  Keep a set completely dedicated for dyeing.  And use a spray booth.

This is a contained workspace that captures stray particles or droplets.  If you don’t have access to an industrial shop equipped with one, no worries, it’s so easy make one and keep it around for all your projects it’s foolhardy not to do it.  All you need is a cardboard box big enough to mix and pour in, a couple of old towels or a roll of paper towels,  a mist water sprayer filled with ordinary water and a pair of gloves. 

  1. Cut the side off the box as shown below making sure to keep a lip at the bottom. 
  2. Line the bottom with toweling. 
  3. Spray the inside of the box with water covering all surfaces.  Also spray a towel or a strip of paper towels big enough to drape over the top, wet side facing the inside of the box and draping down over as leaving just enough opening to mix your dye. 
  4. Put on the gloves. 
  5. Place the container the dye is going to be mixed in the box fill with the desired amount of water and spray the inside of the container above the fill line. 
  6. If you have ignored step 4, Put on Gloves! Mix your dye bringing the measuring equipment and envelopes or containers of dye into the booth to open them smoothly near the destination container avoiding as little flyaway of dye particles.  
  7. Leaving measuring and stiring utensils inside the box, remove and use the liquid dye solution taking care to wipe any spills or droplets immediately.
  8. For cleanup, spray the inside of the box again fold the towels rolling the exposed surfaces to the inside and dispose of in a closed container like a plastic bag and dispose of or put in the wash separately from the regular wash.
For a reality check look at the inside of the draping towel at cleanup.  No matter how careful I’ve been, I’ve never found it to be without any marks of dye.  If you look carefully, even just tearing the corner off an envelope of dye gives off a little “smoke” of dye particles stirred into the air just by the motion of tearing.   My spray booth has also come in handy with spray glue and spray paint although I do that in a well ventilated area or outside away from intake vents.  It will contain paint droplets but not the fumes.

If you insist on needing to manipulate the dye other than using a dyebath, use your dyebooth to mix the dye into a medium like methyl-cellulose or agar agar.  Under no circumstances should you ever spray dye without a respirator with the correct cartridge that still has time left on it.  A particle mask will protect you only from larger particles that by the time the water droplet dries may be too small for the mask to filter out.  

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