Saturday, September 19, 2009

Laundry tip: Blue makes whites, bright white!

I hate do to laundry, and who doesn't? But its something we all have to do, unless we are celebrities or very wealthy and have people to do it for us.
About 10 years ago, I was reading a Martha Stewart book (go figure, my muse)...and she talked about laundry and using bluing agent. I had never heard of this. It's been around for years and years and years. I brightens whites, better than bleach and its safe, and doesn't eat away slowly at your fabrics like bleach will. I ordered some and have been using it ever since!

It can be used for not only making laundry whites, brighter white, but also brightens white hair or pet fur and make pools and spas bluer. It makes black fabrics blacker too!

You can use too much, and in my front load washer, it took me some time to figure out the ratio and cycle I wanted it added. I add it into the fabric softener compartment, alone with fabric softener so its used in the rinse cycle. I turned a few of my kitchen towels blue, but after another washing, they were white again. I have the ratio down to a science now and I use it for so many things. I used to be afraid to buy whites. The washing instructions would not bleach..and I thought, how in the world will I get that white again.

Now I am not afraid to buy whites, and I really love my whites. I even have white table clothes for parties and they are as bright white, as the day I purchased them.

I also have a black and white "skull" theme table cloth and I use it to keep that looking new..the black is still really black and the white is still really white!

To download the All About Bluing brochure in pdf format, click here.

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.

Blue and White Make the Whitest White
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 yellow-white, etc. 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.
Because blue-white is the most intense white, most artists, when painting 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.
White Fabric Isn't White
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. Raw wool is, too - even from the whitest fleece. Most of all the synthetic fibers are not white, but tend to be a greyish off-white color. These all have to be bleached, usually by some chemical treatment which removes most of the yellow or grey color. Even this bleaching is not enough. To make white goods acceptable to their customers, manufacturers of sheets, towels, linens, etc., put their fabrics through a process of bluing. So also do the makers of shirts and other white apparel.
The Blue Hue Must be Renewed
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 the fabric really snow-white. Mrs. Stewart's Bluing allows the consumer to re-blue their items at home.
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. In spite of those claims, many homemakers have discovered that nothing whitens like Mrs. Stewart's Bluing.
What's In This Stuff, Anyway?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 Bluing because it is one of the few laundry products from which they do not experience an allergic reaction.
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 120 years!

The Early Years
Mrs. Stewart's Bluing was born in the early 1880s. "MSB" owes its existence to a peddler and his mother-in-law, a marginally successful Five and Ten Cent store, and a fireworks explosion. From the beginning, Mrs. Stewart's journey has been an interesting one!
In the late 1870s, Al Stewart, a traveling salesman for a Chicago wholesale grocer, was a familiar figure in Iowa and southern Minnesota. In his market basket full of samples, he always carried a bottle of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing, which he made in his home with his family assisting him according to a formula he had acquired.
Meanwhile, Luther Ford, a young silk salesman, moved to Minneapolis where he started the first "Five and Ten Cent Bazaar" west of Pittsburgh. Business was not highly successful and so he began a wholesale business, carrying notions, toys, and fireworks.
Al Stewart and Luther Ford crossed paths when Mr. Stewart began searching for someone to manufacture his bluing for him. Following a spectacular (but accidental) eruption of fireworks in the Five and Ten Cent store, Mr. Ford realized the potential of a (safer) future in the bluing business! Al Stewart sold Luther Ford the rights to Mrs. Stewart's Bluing, and the first documented sale of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing was logged on July 30, 1883. Mr. Ford quickly made plans to extend distribution across the region.
Facilities and equipment used in manufacturing in the late 1800s were primitive. The ceiling in the first basement factory was so low, holes had to be made in the floor so the employees had a place for their feet to hang down. Filling was done from wooden barrels with a rubber hose. Corks were pounded in with a small mallet, and each bottle was dipped in hot sealing wax as the corks didn't always fit into the slightly irregularly shaped hand-blown bottles. Labeling was done by hand using paste. Bottles were packed in sawdust in wooden cases or in barrels. Stock was stored and production stopped during the winter, until a later date when a heated manufacturing building was obtained.

Early CompetitionAround the turn of the century, Mrs. Stewart's Bluing had lots of competition from other "blues". Mrs. Stewart's was such a superior product that other companies were constantly trying to imitate it. Labels were copied and even reused in many cases. Loyal Mrs. Stewart's Bluing users were not easily fooled, however, and all of these "masqueraders" eventually faded away, leaving Mrs. Stewart's Bluing in a class by itself!
Bluing was manufactured by some competitors in stick, cube, powder and ball form. Mrs. Stewart's Bluing has been a liquid from the beginning. We have never marketed MSB any other form, and, as incredible as it may seem, it is essentially the same product today it was way back in 1883! (As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!")

Growing the BusinessMrs. Stewart's Bluing grew slowly until 1910 when Luther Ford's son Allyn, fresh from college, came into the business. He saw great potential in bluing and resolved to put his best efforts into expanding distribution. Allyn's brother, Robert, eventually left his teaching career and the brothers turned all their energy to the Mrs. Stewart's Bluing enterprise.
By 1925, additional factories existed in Portland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Pasadena and in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Distribution was nationwide across the United States and Canada. Today, all production takes place in our updated Bloomington, Minnesota facility. Distribution of MSB is handled by public warehouses in several key market areas and by our broker network.

From Salesman to Grocery Brokers
When business started booming, salesmen were hired who worked directly out of the Minneapolis office. In 1918, this method of selling was replaced by the appointment of food or grocery brokers. It was this switch to food brokers which accounted for the rapid and steady growth of the Mrs. Stewart's Bluing business. Since then, Mrs. Stewart's Bluing has been represented across the United States and Canada by brokers. Much of the credit for the good health and longevity of the business belongs to these devoted brokers, many of whom, over the years, have become personal friends as well as business colleagues!
In 1946, with Mrs. Stewart's Bluing sales at a high point, Robert Ford's son Luther (named for his grandfather) returned to Minneapolis and by the mid 1950s, he had taken over the business from his father and his uncle. He was head of the firm during the 1960s and 1970s. In August, 1955, Ken Norman was hired as Manager of Production and Purchasing. In the late 1970s, Ken bought the company from Luther Ford. Ken's son, Brad, joined in the business as well, in 1974. In 1986, the business was moved from downtown Minneapolis to suburban Bloomington. From 1883 to the present time, production and distribution of MSB has been and remains an old-fashioned "family" business.
Highly Sought-After MSB Bottles
The earliest Mrs. Stewart's Bluing bottles were hand-blown. Starting in about 1907, bottles were manufactured on automatic bottle-blowing machines. The words "This contains Mrs. Stewart's Bluing" were embossed into the face of the bottles, as insurance against unauthorized reuse by others.
Around 1920, the embossing on the bottle face was discontinued and replaced with a similar embossment around the shoulder of the bottle. In the spring of 1933, Robert Ford's newly designed machinery was used to apply hot wax around the rim of each bottle to prevent the liquid from running down the side of the bottle when dispensing the product. This soon became the patented "No-Drip" process. That summer, the words "No-Drip" also appeared in gold lettering on the MSB labels in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Ford/Stewart connection. Bottles were capped with imported Portuguese corks which were specially made for MSB and put into red wooden tops; the two parts of each closure were hand-glued together. The top of each bottle cork had the words "No-Drip Bluing" imprinted by hand.
Early in the 1960s, a new development in liquid dispensing became available in the form of a plastic dispensing "fitment" inserted into the bottle allowing it to be dispensed by the drop.
Starting in 1962 in the U.S. and in 1965 in Canada, plastic screw caps replaced the wooden corks which were previously used. Beginning in the early 1970s, our company began phasing out glass bottles and introduced plastic. Today, MSB is packaged exclusively in recyclable high density polyethylene plastic bottles.
For almost a half century, MSB was put up in just a ten-ounce size and retailed for 15¢ to 25¢. The Depression economy of the 1930s prompted the production of the "Dime-Size" glass bottle for some years. The "Dime-Size" bottle actually underwent three different size changes and didn't always retail for a dime. At first, the "Dime-Size" was a squat 3-ounce, then a tall and slender 3 1/2-ounce, and finally an oval 4-ounce which was sold through the mid-1970s.
Mrs. Stewart's Bluing bottles, particularly the oldest ones with the long-ago replaced red wooden-topped corks, are now highly sought-after antique collectors' items. Requests are often received for these old bottles, but, alas, there are few to be found nowadays! Collectors scour the country's antique shops in hopes of purchasing one for their very own, or check out Grandma's cellar hoping for a lucky find!

The History of the Bluing ProcessBefore the automatic washer arrived, the process for bluing white fabric in the home consisted of soaking or washing the clothing in hot soapy water, usually in a large kettle over a stove or in a wash tub, then rinsing the clothing thoroughly in another kettle-often two times. Finally, a "bluing" kettle was prepared in which the clothing was simply dipped in briefly and removed, then hung to dry.
Today, bluing can be used in the wash cycle or the final rinse cycle to restore fabric to the "whitest white"!

Who Is She?The first bottles of MSB probably carried a homemade, handwritten label. Eventually, Mr. Stewart decided to have his labels commercially done. The printer he contacted recommended that a label be used which featured a picture of an older woman, as this would help sales to increase! He asked his wife for a picture of herself to use, but she, so the story goes, refused to have her picture used on the label of a bluing bottle. He plucked a photograph of his mother-in-law from the mantle and promptly delivered it to the printer. So, that no-nonsense granny who appears on every bottle of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing throughout North America is none other than Mrs. Stewart's mother, the real Mrs. Stewart thus losing her opportunity to be immortalized!
MSB label design has remained fairly constant from the early days to the present, with one notable exception. On the advice of an advertising agency in the early 1970s, the "stern granny" look of Mrs. Stewart on the label was replaced with the pleasant face of a silver-haired, "with it" looking, wrinkle-free, smiling woman in a stylish hairdo. Consumers went on a rampage! A flood of mail came in from all across North America wanting Mrs. Stewart back! And they got her back, too! Over the years, Mrs. Stewart has undergone several very minor changes, but never again will consumers be surprised with a "stranger" on the label of Mrs. Stewart's Bluing!

How Did MSB Get to be Over 100 Years Old?Although MSB has been used most commonly to whiten white fabric that has grayed or yellowed with age, consumers have discovered additional uses for bluing since day one! Remember the Salt Crystal Garden (also called a "Depression Flower" or "Coal Garden")? A favorite family or school science project for all ages, bluing is an essential ingredient in growing this beloved crystal formation! We continue to sell MSB to schools, scout packs, science supply houses, and consumers for this use.
We know of no other product, laundry or otherwise, that has as wide a variety of other uses. Look at some of the other reasons consumers purchase MSB!
And, while Luther Ford and Co. has done some small time advertising in magazines here and there, we've never launched television or infomercial campaigns. Word of Mouth has always been our preferred method of advertising. It's fail-proof.

Please go to her website and read more about it..I order mine online. I have not seen it in a store and have asked my grocery store manager to carry it, but he looked at me like I had BLUE HAIR.
Ps She is no relation to Martha Stewart...or Margarita! It's just one of my favorite things, and it makes life easier...brighter!


1 comment:

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, at least for now. said...

After searching their website, I see that Redners now carries it. I don't shop there, so I was not aware. I used to shop there and they didn't carry it years ago.
I always just get mine online.