ColorZen LLC, New York City, has launched technology that eliminates the use of environmentally
detrimental chemicals and significantly reduces the amount of water, energy and time needed to dye
cotton. ColorZen™ technology involves the pretreatment of cotton using a process that renders the
fiber more receptive to dye uptake, uses no salt or other chemicals to fix the dye, and enables the
desired color to be achieved using half the amount of dye, with a 97-percent exhaustion rate,
compared to traditional cotton dyeing technologies. The company reports the treated cotton can be
dyed using traditional dyeing machinery, but the dyeing process uses 90-percent less water than is
needed for conventional cotton because fewer rinses are required and the water is recycled. The
process also consumes 75-percent less energy because color is applied at lower temperatures and the
entire process is completed in one-third the time needed for conventional dyeing.
The ColorZen process alters the cotton fiber’s molecular structure to attract the dye
naturally and has some basis in cationic chemistry, which offers similar environmental benefits.
However, according to Tony Leonard, the company’s technical director, cationic chemistry has not
been successful outside of a laboratory setting for reasons related to cost effectiveness,
complexity of the treatment and difficulty achieving consistent results, among other factors. By
contrast, said Michael Harari, president, “ColorZen cotton can be produced on a mass scale at a
cost that is effective, and most of the cost can be offset by savings in water, energy, chemicals
ColorZen’s manufacturing facility is located in China. “China is the most prolific textile
export country, and most of the negative environmental effects of textile production have occurred
there,” Harari said. In the future, the company plans to expand its operations to other locations.
Harari anticipates cotton products bearing the ColorZen hangtag will be available in stores
as early as next year. “We will now be able to offer brands, retailers, and manufacturers a
sustainable choice for cotton dyeing that will protect the fresh waterways and reduce energy
consumption,” he said.