Refinity’s Fioen Balgooi develops eco-friendly textile ink

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Refinity, based in Zeist, is a research and consulting firm that enters into the quest for eco-effective ways of fashion designing. Refinity collaborates with designers in companies, and also with developers and suppliers of materials, supplies and techniques.

“Everything is temporary. That is the way we should look at decorating our textiles too. People change, but their clothes do not change with them. We stop wearing our clothes when we are tired of them, while prints are permanent. What would happen if we have the possibility to replace prints on textiles? In other words, to remove prints and add new ones to make fabrics last. This method would combine short (fashion) cycles with long raw material cycles. This was the start of a research on inks, detergents, textiles and printing methods. The results of the research until now show that it is possible to make an environment friendly ink which is washable for several times in the washing machine, but which can be removed in a safe and environmental friendly way.

An ink that can be removed from a fabric gives a great number of possibilities;

• A consumer can get his clothes and accessories altered in print shops,

• Companies can change logos and slogans on their textiles,

• Prints can be removed before textiles are recycled, which gives the fabric a single color when it is shredded and enables the ­bares to be spun into a high quality solid colored thread.

The ink can be applied by digital printing or by painting on an already fi­nished fabric item. When the design is no longer wanted the printed item will be soaked in a combination of water and detergent, then it will be rinsed and soaked in a second combination of water and detergent. Finally all items will be washed as normal laundry and they are ready to be decorated again. Temperatures used during this process are 40°C. Currently the ink is only applicable on organic cotton and Tencel. At this moment, Refinity can produce the color dark grey. Printers that can be used are for example inkjet t-shirt printers.

Advantages of this technique:

• The ink and detergent do not contain harmful substances,

• Fewer textile items needed, so less long distance transport of raw materials,

• Prints are machine washable and can therefore be worn more than once,

• Flexible production: no need to stock screen printed textile rolls, but digital printing on demand

• Even colored threads after spinning the shredded textiles.

The next step is to work with partners towards commercializing the idea. The ink and detergent need improvements to be commercially applicable and a service must be set up to either get back all the textiles for reprinting or to make it possible for other companies to use this ink and detergent.

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