Wool and Cotton Dyeing
If a piece of wool is soaked in a solution of a coal-tar dye, such as magenta, the fiber of the cloth draws some of the dye out of the solution and absorbs it, becoming in consequence beautifully colored. The coloring matter becomes "part and parcel," as it were, of the wool fiber, because repeated washing of the fabric fails to remove the newly acquired color; the magenta coloring matter unites chemically with the fiber of the wool, and forms with it a compound insoluble in water, and hence fast to washing.
But if cotton is used instead of wool, the acquired color is very faint, and washes off readily. This is because cotton fibers possess no chemical substance capable of uniting with the coloring matter to form a compound insoluble in water.
If magenta is replaced by other artificial dyes, - for example, scarlets, - the result is similar; in general, wool material absorbs dye readily, and uniting with it is permanently dyed. Cotton material, on the other hand, does not combine chemically with coloring matter and therefore is only faintly tinged with color, and loses this when washed. When silk and linen are tested, it is found that the former behaves in a general way as did wool, while the linen has more similarity to the cotton. That vegetable fibers, such as cotton and linen, should act differently toward coloring matter from animal fibers, such as silk and wool, is not surprising when we consider that the chemical nature of the two groups is very different; vegetable fibers contain only oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen, while animal fibers always contain nitrogen in addition, and in many cases sulphur as well.