See also Dyes.

Bleaching and Coloring Feathers

Feathers, in their natural state, are not adapted to undergo the processes of dyeing and bleaching; they must be prepared by removing their oil and dirt. This is usually done by washing them in moderately warm soap and water, and rinsing in warm and cold water; or the oil may be chemically removed by the use of benzine. To remove it entirely, the feathers must be left in the cleansing fluid from a half hour to an hour, when they may be subjected to the process of bleaching.

Bleaching Plumes

Plumes may be almost entirely bleached by the use of hydrogen peroxide, without injuring their texture.

In specially constructed glass troughs, made the length of an average ostrich feather, 15 or 20 of these feathers can be treated at a time. The bleaching fluid is made from a 30 per cent solution of hydrogen peroxide, with enough ammonia added to make it neutral; in other words when neutral, blue litmus paper will not turn red, and red will take a pale violet tinge. The previously cleansed feathers are entirely immersed in this bleaching bath, which may be diluted if desired. The trough is covered with a glass plate and put in a dark place. From time to time the feathers are stirred and turned, adding more hydrogen peroxide. This process requires 10 to 12 hours and if necessary should be repeated. After bleaching they are rinsed in distilled water or rain water, dried in the air, and kept in motion while drying.

To insure success in coloring feathers in delicate tints, they must be free from all impurities, and evenly white. It has been found of advantage to rub the quill of heavy ostrich plumes while still moist with carbonate of ammonia before the dyeing is begun.

Methods of Dyeing Feathers


A boiling hot neutral solution, the feathers to be dried in a rotating apparatus. Suitable dyes for this method are chrysoidin,

A, C; crystal vesuvin, 4 B C; phosphin extra, leather yellow, O H; leather red, O, GB; leather brown, O; morocco red, O; azophocphine, GO,BRO; fuchsine, cerise, G R; grenadine, O; safranine, O; methylene violet, malachite green, crystal brilliant green, methylene green, methylene gray, coal black II.


A boiling hot sulphuric solution. Dyes, acid fuchsine, orseilline, R B; acid cerise, O; acid maroon, O; opal blue, blue de lyon, R B; cotton blue, No. 2, China blue No. 2, naphthalene green, O;

patent blue, V A; fast blue, O R; fast blue black, O; deep black, G; azo yellow, victorine yellow, orange No. 2, fast brown O, ponceau G R R R, fast red O, Bordeaux, GBR.


An acetic solution. Dyes, Bengal pink G B, phloxine G O, rosolan O B O F, rhodamine O 4 G, eosine A G, erythrosine.

By appropriate mixtures of the dyes of any one class, plumes can be dyed every possible color. After dyeing they are rinsed, and dried in a rotating apparatus. The final process is that of curling, which is done by turning them round and round over a gentle heat. For white feathers a little sulphur may be burned in the fire; for black or colored ones a little sugar.


The spray method. The solution of the dye to be used is put into an atomizer, and the spray directed to that part of the feather which it is desired to color. By using different colors the most marvelous effects and most delicate transitions from one color to another are obtained. Any kind of an atomizer can be used, the rubber bulb, pump, or bellows; the result is the same.