Nothing lasts forever, including dyes.  before you begin writing your pysanky, check out your dyes.  If you have made fresh ones, you should be fine.  If you have older dyes, it is best to check them out before you begin writing.

First, try to recall when you last used them.  If it has been a month or more, they could probably use some vinegar.  Add a tablespoon to each jar of dye that requires vinegar to work.

Second, while you are opening the jars of dye, check each one for

  1. 1.Smell:  dyes should have no scent or a vinegary smell.  If there is a rotten smell, the dye has gone bad, and it is best just to chuck it and make a new batch.

  2. 2.Dye volume:  water evaporates.  If the volume is less that what it should be, top up with a bit of water.  If the volume is too low, it may not cover the eggs completely when you try to dye.

  3. 3.Moldif there is mold floating on top of the dye, it should be removed.  Straining the dye with filter paper (e.g. coffee filter) and then bringing it to a boil may get rid of the mold.  The jar should also be thoroughly washed and disinfected, or the dye poured into a new, clean jar. Mold, in small amounts, should not damage the dye.  But it often recurs. It is usually simpler just to mix up a new jar of dye.

  4. 4.Slime: this is usually due to mold in the dye liquid.  If there is just a tiny amount, and the dye still works, you may be able to filter it out, or just ignore it and keep dyeing.  If there is a lot–toss out the dye and make a new batch.

  5. 5.Particulates: granular substance at the bottom of the dye jar can be due to two things–excess dye which has fallen out of solution, or the dye forming new molecular structures with some substance (like the acetic acid in vinegar) which are less soluble and fall out of solution. If the dye works, and the particles do not interfere with your dyeing, leave it alone. 
    If the dye no longer works, try heating it to see if the granules will redissolve.  If this resolves the issue, fine; if not, toss the dye and mix up a new batch.

  6. 6.Gel:  a true gel (as opposed to slimy mold) occurs when acid/vinegar gets added to dyes which cannot tolerate it, such as UGS orange.  If the dye still works, and the get does not interfere, ignore it.  If the gel interferes with dyeing, make a new batch; use distilled water, and be careful to 1) fully dry eggs between dye baths and 2) fully rinse any spoons between colors of dye.  Well water or even city water might be slightly acidic; spoons can transfer small amount s of vinegar from one dye to another, and the cumulative effect can be gel formation.

Remember: dyes are inexpensive, and your work has value.  If a dye is old or bad, toss it.  For about a dollar, you can make yourself a brand new jar of dye. If you’re going to put hours of work into writing a pysanka, spend a buck or two to make sure your dyes work well. 

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Check Your Dyes