Hands-on: BioDyes - Alternatives for the dyeing industry


The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world, in which one the most environmentally disastrous processes is the dyeing of fibers and textiles of the clothes we wear. Chemicals are released daily in rivers and nature destroying the environment around us to satisfy the colour demands that we create as designers, industry and consumers. Very few options are being explored in this fast changing fashion, clothing and textile industry, and the list of chemical treatments is only expanding. Programs like DETOX from GreenPeace are trying to get attention to this issue, trying to identify the real environmental costs we are paying and asking for more research in this field to substitute chemicals and procedures with less harmful ones.

But what are the options nature has been offering us and we haven't explored yet? In the last couple of years there has been a strong movement in opening up knowledge in microbiology, that has lead to the opening of Open WetLabs, Biolabs and a movement towards biohacking. Programs like our own Biohack Academy at Waag Society or BioAcademy from Academany are changing the rules of this game making this knowledge accessible to a broader public.

At the TextileLab Amsterdam we have been exploring traditional knowledge in natural dyeing and bacterial dyeing, with the aim of combining our heritage and the new possibilities in biotech to find alternatives for this pressing problem.

In this lecture we look at the possibilities this emerging technology can bring us, and question together why this industry hasn't been deploying this solutions industrially.


Cecilia Raspanti - TextileLab Amsterdam / FabLab Amsterdam @Waag Society


Textile dyeing with bacteria

for this section of the program you will need per participant:

  • ±50×50 cm of silk chiffon or ready to dye cotton fabric
  • Janthinobacterium lividum
  • glycerine (a couple of drops)
  • alcohol
  • LB broth (lennox)
  • petri dishes
  • inoculator loop
  • camping gas+holder
  • incubator
  • gloves
  • autoclave bags for sterilisation
  • 500 ml glass bottle with lid
  • cooking stove
  • pressure cooker / autoclave

Natural dyeing

for this section of the program you will need per participant:

  • ±50×50 cm of ready to dye cotton fabric
  • ±30 meters of wool yarn
  • cooking stove
  • cooking pots
  • large spoon (preferably metal)
  • water
  • vinegar
  • sodium carbonate
  • turmeric fresh or in powder
  • dried hibiscus flowers
  • dried madder root
  • copper liquor
  • iron liquor
  • ph reading strips/tool

Bacteria killing

- Attached the step by step procedure to inoculate new plates but also growing them on textiles. (We could load this in the wiki materials, but its just not that pretty. it was made more as a nerd to nerd steps plan to confirm procedure)

- How to make the medium if you don't have it ready made: http://biohackacademy.github.io/bha4/cultivation-media/nutrient-agar/

​​- To kill them: * wear gloves * take all textiles out of petri dishes and place them in an autoclave bag * take all petri dishes and place them into a bag * put enough water in the pressure cooker, if you use the same pressure cooker i guess ±10 cm * close it, boil 10 min * turn it off leaving pot closed until the steam is gone * throw away autoclave bag with petri dishes * wash all the textiles with washing up liquid



  • Lecture 12:00 to 13:00
  • Hands on 15:30 to 20:00