bluing for whiter whites

Why use laundry bluing – the short version

Laundry bluing – quite simply – makes your white clothes look new again – a whiter white.

When you buy white fabrics, they have been bleached to look super-white. Over time, the effect of this bleaching wears off, leaving clothes grey-ish or yellow-ish. Bluing restores the bluey-white hue.

Why use laundry bluing – the longer version

In their original state, white fabrics are far from white. Unbleached cotton fabrics, known to the trade as ‘greige (grey) goods’, are grey or yellow tinged.

And so is raw wool, even from the whitest fleece.

And so are most of all synthetic fibres: a grey-ish, off-white colour.

Prior to sale therefore, all fabrics are bleached by the manufacturer, typically by some chemical treatment which removes the original yellow or grey hue. This bleaching process is not enough: to make white fabrics attractive to customers, manufacturers then put fabrics through a second process known as bluing.

After purchase, once washed a few times, the effect of the bleaches and bluing wears off. The washing detergents you use remove dirt and stains as well as the original bluing. Your washed clothes may therefore be super-clean, but never snow-white.

To counteract the gradual discolouration, you can add bluing for yourself. A little diluted bluing in the washing process adds the necessary tint to make the fabric look really snow-white. And this is where Mrs Stewart’s Bluing comes in, allowing you to re-blue items at home.

In the early and middle 1900s bluing (also known as dolly blue) was used by everyone when doing 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.

Next: how laundry bluing works