Why So Blue?

Understanding the scientific and psychological reasons why most laundry detergent is blue.
Why So Blue?
photo by Michal Pokorný
Table of Contents

Have you ever wondered why laundry detergent is predominantly blue?

Well, I kind of had an idea of why, but after a conversation with Jessica Johnson-Cope, I decided to dive into this topic in this week’s issue.

Science and Psychology

So, let’s explore the science and data behind blue laundry detergent.

The Psychology of Blue

Color plays a significant role in consumer products, and laundry detergent is no exception.

Blue has been a popular choice for detergent packaging due to its psychological impact on consumers.

Blue evokes a sense of cleanliness, freshness, and purity. Studies have shown that blue is also associated with trust, reliability, and efficiency, making it the ideal color for cleaning products.

Stain Removal Perception

Blue is a complementary color of common stains, such as yellow or orange, and creates a visual contrast that enhances the perception of cleanliness.

This visual contrast makes customers feel that their clothes are being cleaned effectively, even if the actual cleaning power may not vary significantly between different detergent colors.

Optical Brighteners

These are chemical compounds that absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit it as visible blue light.

By enhancing the whiteness and brightness of fabrics, optical brighteners give the impression of cleaner clothes. The blue color of detergent helps mask any residual yellowing or dullness in clothing, making whites appear whiter and colors appear more vibrant.

These agents are added to laundry detergent as optical brighteners:

  1. Optical brightening agents (OBAs)
  2. Fluorescent brightening agents (FBAs)
  3. Fluorescent whitening agents (FWAs)

These chemical compounds absorb light in the ultraviolet and violet light regions.

They are often used to enhance the appearance of fabric and paper color, causing a whitening effect — so it cleans some and then fools my eye into thinking the clothing is cleaner than it is. Sneaky 😏.

Blue laundry detergent under ultraviolet light.

Potential Drawbacks

Now that we’ve looked at the science and psychology behind blue laundry detergent, let’s look at some potential drawbacks when processing clothes for our clients.

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