Soil Health

Colors brighten up our lives. Colors in our clothes have benefits beyond style, helping us camouflage or draw attention to ourselves in traffic. However, the textile dyeing process can be chemical and water intensive. Traditional methods can require high water inputs and produce large amount of wastewater.

Innovations in the cotton industry are helping to reduce the resources needed not just to grow cotton, but also to prepare, dye, and finish cotton textiles.

How Does Cotton Innovation Help Reduce Water in the Preparation Process?

Cotton experts and researchers are working together to help dyeing and finishing cotton be more water-efficient. These collaborations have resulted in some exciting advancements.

The traditional cotton preparation process uses harsh chemicals and a lot of water. However, innovative developments in enzyme technology have led to bio-based enzymes used for scouring and bleaching, and have enabled enzymatic biopolishing to be combined with dyeing. This eliminates the need for caustic chemicals while dramatically reducing water consumption. A recent collaboration between Cotton Incorporated and DuPont Biosciences (now part of IFF), for example, resulted in a product called PrimaGreen: a textile enzyme collection that performs at a lower temperature.1 When using PrimaGreen, reductions can be seen in water use by 70%, steam by 33% and energy by 27%. These efficiencies reduce total costs of manufacturing inputs by an average of 66%2 and improve sustainability.

How Does Cotton Innovation Help Reduce Water in the Dyeing Process?

Cotton experts have worked with researchers and industry for years on the process of cotton cationization. This process eliminates the need for salt in the dyeing process and at the same time increases the level of dye exhaustion. Cationic cotton requires 33% less dye, 100% less salt, 50% less alkali, 20% less time and at least two fewer rinse baths to create a shade.3

Similarly, a recent initiative by Spanish denim mill Tejidos Royo commercialized a waterless, indigo foam-dyeing technique. The new process, called Dry Indigo, when compared to the traditional slasher indigo (or sheet dyeing) process can reduce water usage by up to 99%; use 89% fewer chemicals; reduce energy usage by 65%; and eliminate water discharge. The foam-dyeing technique requires significantly less water – thereby significantly reducing energy needs.4

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