Aniline Dyes - food safe?

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Forum topic by robdew posted 09-05-2009 07:33 PM 9105 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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86 posts in 3737 days

09-05-2009 07:33 PM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing question

I’d like to add some brighter colors to a cutting board project. Assuming the project is finished with food safe finish like general salad bowl finishing oil is the dye ok?

3 replies so far

View LesB's profile


1748 posts in 3465 days

#1 posted 09-05-2009 09:08 PM

If you seal it in with the salad bowl finish it is most likely save but what happens when the protective surface film of the finish wears off? Cutting boards get a lot of wear. I don’t think salad bowl finish is suitable for cutting boards for that reason. It forms a surface film that eventually wears through and exposes the wood.

Here is what I found on one web site about aniline dyes.

Mauvine, the first aniline dye, was discovered by 18-year-old William Henry Perkin. He was trying to create a synthetic version of the anti-malaria drug quinine on a challenge given by his professor in 1856. Perkin was trying to find a solution to the task, and oxidized the chemical aniline, a coal-tar byproduct, with the chemical potassium dichromate. This reaction caused a thick black substance to form in Perkin’s flask, which is a common symptom of a failed experiment in organic chemistry. Later, when Perkin was cleaning his flask, he found that the substance dissolved in alcohol to form a purple liquid, which was later found to take to textiles extremely well, thus leading to the advent of the aniline dye industry.

Aniline dye products today come in a variety of colors, ranging from soft hues to bright primary colors. Aniline dye is used in a variety of fields, but is most commonly found in the leather and woodworking industries. Aniline wood dyes are often hailed as having an advantage over wood stains for their clarity and saturation. Aniline dye does not leave pigmentation on the surface of the wood, and is purported to leave the finished product less “muddy” in appearance. Not only does aniline dye stain leave no pigmentation behind, but it penetrates all parts of the wood equally, unlike stains which absorb more color into parts of the surface that are more porous.

Similarly, aniline dyed leather does not lose any structure or grain pattern, and is often considered to be of a higher quality than other types of dyed leather. There are several different processes in which leather can be aniline dyed, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Aniline dyed hides may vary widely in quality. Many people are beginning to dye their own hides using commercially available dye solutions, which are readily available in most leather supply stores or craft shops.

Commercially available aniline dyes are available in the form of powders that can be dissolved in either water, alcohol or oil. Each type of aniline dye has its own safety precautions, mixing procedures and application processes, and it is recommended that users follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using aniline dye for any projects. Aniline dye is considered toxic in some forms, and proper safety precautions should be observed if undertaking a project utilizing aniline dye.”

-- Les B, Oregon

View Craig S. Cottingham's profile

Craig S. Cottingham

6 posts in 3389 days

#2 posted 09-06-2009 01:04 AM

Googling “aniline dye food safe” turned up this result:

which contains this text on the first page:

“Foods which contain the aniline dyes, such as luncheon meats, hot dogs, soft drinks, and ice cream…”

I’m not sure if that’s edifying or terrifying.

-- Craig S. Cottingham, Olathe, KS

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3827 days

#3 posted 09-06-2009 03:41 AM

Aniline dyes are food safe once they are dry. If used on a vessel or piece that will be used to serve food the recommendation is to put a clear coat of finish over the dye. Constant use will cause scratches and some wear and tear of the dye. Never put a wooden piece in the dishwasher (don’t ask me how I know this), instead wipe clean and towel dry.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

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