If bluing were used to make things blue, it would be a simple matter to explain its action. Actually, it is used to make things white, and we will attempt to explain that phenomenon.
It is said that color experts can distinguish about 300 shades of white, and if you look at all the things around you that are white, you will notice the many different shades. Some are a pink-white, some are gray-white, etc., but the white which is the brightest of whites is one which has a slight blue hue. One of the more dramatic experiments to prove this point is to place a brand new white shirt or blouse next to one which has been laundered for perhaps a year or so and notice the difference. They will both look white until placed next to each other, when the new one will appear much whiter, and the blue hue will be evident.
In their original state, white fabrics are far from white. Unbleached cotton fabrics, known to the trade as "gray goods", are yellowish. Raw wool is, too - even from the whitest fleece. Most of all the synthetic fibers are not white, but tend to be a grayish off-white. These all have to be bleached, usually by some chemical treatment which removes most of the yellow color.
Even this bleaching is not enough. To make white goods acceptable to their customers, manufacturers of sheets, towels, linens, etc., blue them too. So also do the makers of shirts and other white wearing apparel.
After the fabric goes into use, the effects of the bleaches wear off, soil and stain mar the color, and the material goes to the wash to be cleaned. Detergent and water lift out the dirt and stains, and successive rinses remove the soapy mixture. Sometimes a mild bleach is used to help remove the stains. If all this is thoroughly done, the fabric is clean, but it is not "snow-white". To counteract the rest of the yellow, blue must be added. A little diluted bluing in the washing process or in the last rinse water adds the necessary tint that makes it really snow-white.
Because blue-white is the most intense white, most artists when portraying a snow scene will use blue color to intensify the whiteness. As color experts would explain it, the proof comes when two pieces of fabric are placed under a spectrograph - the one with blue added will reflect more light, making the fabric appear its whitest. This is why homemakers looking to return their white clothes to their original sparkling white color use Mrs. Stewart's Bluing.
In the early and middle 1900s bluing was used by everyone who wanted to have a white wash, and could be found in virtually all laundries. When washing was done by hand or in wringer washers, the second rinse tub was always the bluing rinse, the blue became the accepted color for laundry products. In the ensuing years, most new products, detergents and other additives were colored blue. Many of the manufacturers even claimed that their products contained bluing. Mrs. Stewart's Bluing came through that period with flying colors - and whites that couldn't be matched anywhere else!
We get many calls from people wanting to know the ingredients or contents of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing. Some are just curious. Some have allergies and are concerned about how they may react to the use of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing. Some call as environmentalists to determine the effect on our Earth that Mrs. Stewart's Bluing might have. Some are scientists and looking for the chemical makeup so they may better understand the experiments they are doing. If you are wondering about the Salt Crystal Garden and how it grows, go to Salt Crystal Garden.
Basically, bluing is made of a very fine blue iron powder suspended in water ( a "colloidal suspension"). We add a nontoxic amount of a pH balancer and a biocide to prevent the buildup of algae and bacteria. (This may be why Mrs. Stewart's Bluing is loved by farmers who tell us they use it in the water troughs of their farm animals and by owners of lily and fish ponds.)
Mrs. Stewart's Bluing is nontoxic, biodegradable, non-hazardous and environmentally friendly. While we cannot guarantee that no one will ever be allergic to Mrs. Stewart's Bluing, we can say that we have not seen any reports of such an allergy thus far. In fact, several of our customers use Mrs. Stewart's because it is one of the few laundry products they do not experience an allergic reaction from.
Mrs. Stewart's Bluing is a simple, concentrated blue liquid that optically whitens white fabric. It does not remove stains, does not "clean", but adds a microscopic blue particle to white fabric which has been giving fabric that "just bought" whiteness for 115 years!
Questions? Please e-mail us.
Instructions for Using Bluing in Laundry
Other Uses for Bluing
Oops! Instructions for Removal of Excess Bluing
History of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing