Aloe Vera: Natural mordant for natural dye

Abu Naser Md. Ahsanul Haque

Aloe Vera, till now renowned for human health benefits as well as beauty products, is now proving its prospect as a substantial mordant for natural dyes!

There are evidences of dyeing textile materials with natural dyes since historic ages. But some key problems are yet to be solved for their wider use. One of the difficulties is, these dyes are mostly non-substantive and need to be applied on textile materials with the help of mordants. Generally, metal salts of aluminum, iron, copper, chromium or tin are used for mordanting of the fabric to help natural dye gets attached. Potash aluminum sulphate, ferrous sulphate or green vitriol, stannous chloride are well established mordant for the purpose. Meanwhile, these synthetic mordants are not as eco-friendly as the dye is and natural dyeing of fabric hence cannot be considered as ‘green dyeing’ entirely. That’s where Aloe vera can break through and offer the dyeing process to turn into fully green!

Aloe vera leaf
Figure 1: A piece of Aloe vera leaf
aloe vera mordant
Figure 2: Cotton (left) and silk (right) fabric dyed with turmeric by using aloe vera mordant

Moreover, ayurvastra or ayurvedic textiles which involve herbal medication through dyeing of fabric with natural powders and extracts, are gaining more importance now-a-days. For instance, Turmeric- the most popular natural dye does not only have coloring ability but also have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic and some other significant activities. A bed-sheet dyed with turmeric thus becomes an ayurvastra that can increase metabolism and helps to get rid of toxins when human skin comes contact with this fabric.

On the other hand, the aloe vera plant which is about 1-2 feet tall hold leaves that contain a slushy translucent gel and known around the world for incredible healing properties. The gel is composed of near 96% water, few organic and inorganic compounds, Different vitamins and eighteen types of amino acids. It has both antiviral and antibacterial quality and can treat almost everything from diabetes to constipation. Hence, the application of aloe vera in ayurvedic textiles can have a synergistic effect to reach a high achieving point.

In fact, the prospect of aloe vera as a mordant is not only a possibility now but also the reality. Two students of Daffodil International University, Md. Habibur Rahman and Safia Murshida had recently experimented with aloe vera as a mordant for dyeing of turmeric powder on cotton and silk fabric. They also had tried sodium alginate as another mordant, which is also a natural source and generally used as a thickener in textile printing. Their results can inspire the scientists who dream for a greener world as because, comparative color depth and fastness was obtained by both natural mordants. Though dyeing with natural dye has lot of controversy, but there is no doubt about their ecofriendly nature. If these dyes are preferred for their ‘green’ approach, why not make the process ‘greener’ by introducing natural mordants as well? It looks like that day is not far away!

Author: Abu Naser Md. Ahsanul Haque is Assistant Professor, Department of Textile Engineering, Daffodil International University