By Louis Siebold, F.I.C., F.C.S.

During the last ten years there has been an enormous increase in the production of these preparations, and the time will come when their application in dyeing and calico printing will become so general as to completely supersede the employment of the raw materials. The manufacture of these extracts, to be thoroughly successful, requires to be so conducted as to secure the perfect exhaustion of the dyewoods without the slightest destruction or deterioration of the coloring matters contained in them; and though nothing like perfection has been reached in the attainment of these objects, it is certain that the processes of extraction and evaporation now employed by the best makers are a very great improvement on the older methods. Indeed, there is no difficulty nowadays in procuring dyewood extracts of high excellence if the consumer is willing to pay a price for them corresponding to their quality, and knows how to avail himself of the aid of chemical skill to control his purchases. Unfortunately, however, there is so much hankering after cheap articles, and so little care is taken to ascertain their real quality, that every scope is afforded to the malpractices of the adulterer.

There are many dye and print works in which large quantities of these extracts are used without being subjected to trustworthy tests. Moreover, much of the testing is done by fallacious methods and often by biased hands. So fallacious, indeed, are some of these tests, that grossly adulterated extracts are often declared superior to the purer ones, the cause of this being the application of an insufficient proportion of mordant in the dyeing or printing trials, and the consequent waste of the excess of coloring matter in the case of the purer preparation.

Professional analytical chemists have hitherto given but little attention to these preparations, and the employment of experienced chemists in works is as yet far from general. The testing of dyewood extracts in such a manner as to throw full light on their purity, the quality of raw material from which they are prepared, their exact commercial value their suitability for special purposes, and the proportion and nature of any adulterants they may contain, is of course a difficult and tedious task, and must be left to the expert who is in possession of authentic specimens prepared by himself of all the different extracts made from every variety and quality of raw materials, and who combines a thorough knowledge of experimental dyeing and printing with a large experience in the chemical investigation of these preparations. But when the object of the testing is merely careful comparison of the sample in question with an original sample or previous deliveries, the case is much simplified, and comes within the scope of the general chemist or the laboratory attached to works.

A few years ago I recommended carefully conducted dyeing trials on woolen cloth mordanted with bichromate of potash as the best and simplest mode adapted to such cases, and my subsequent experience enables me to confirm that observation to the fullest extent. Most of these extracts contain the coloring matter in two states, the developed and the undeveloped, and an oxidizing mordant such as bichromate of potash causes the latter as well as the former to enter completely into combination with a metallic base; whereas many of the other mordants, such as alumina or tin compounds, merely take up the developed portion of the coloring matter together with such small and variable proportions of the undeveloped as might undergo oxidation during the process of dyeing. I would therefore suggest dyeing trials with alumina, tin, iron, etc., only as subsidiary tests indicating the suitability of an extract for certain special purposes, while recommending the trial with bichromate of potash as the one giving the best information respecting the actual strength of the extract in relation to the raw material from which it was obtained, and as giving a fair idea of the money value of the sample.

Cotton dyeing does not, as a general rule, afford a good means of assaying extracts, as it is generally done under conditions which do not admit of complete exhaustion of the dye bath, but it might often with advantage be resorted to as an additional trial throwing further light on the degree of oxidation or development of the coloring matter. Printing trials are apt to give fallacious results unless the proportion of mordant is carefully adjusted to the amount of coloring matter present, and several trials with different proportions would be necessary to prevent erroneous conclusions. For the trials with bichromate of potash on wool I would recommend pieces of cloth weighing about 150 grains, and the most suitable proportion of bichromate of potash is 3 per cent. of the weight of the cloth. The requisite number of pieces (equal to the number of samples to be tested) should be thoroughly scoured and then heated in the bichromate solution at or near the boiling point for not less than 1½ hours, after which they should be well washed and then dyed separately in the solutions of equal weights of the extracts at the same temperature and for the same length of time; 15 grains of extract is a suitable quantity for a first trial under these conditions.

These trials can then be repeated with different relative proportions of extract in order to ascertain what weight of a sample would give the same depth of color as 15 grains of the standard example. Many precautions are required both in the mordanting and dyeing processes in order to obtain trustworthy results; and though the trials with bichromate of potash give the most reliable information of any single test, they should be supplemented by the subsidiary tests already alluded to, and also by a chemical examination, in order to obtain a knowledge, not merely of the wood strength, but also of the general nature of the extract. An adulteration with molasses or glucose can be best determined by fermentation in comparison with a pure sample. Mineral adulterants may, of course, be detected by an estimation and analysis of the ash, after making due allowances for variations due to differences in different kinds of the same dyewoods. The estimation of the individual coloring matters in these extracts by means of a chemical analysis is under all circumstances a task requiring much experience, especially as the coloring principles are associated in different qualities of each class of dyewood with different proportions of other constituents which often give much trouble to the unpracticed experimenter.