How To Remove Optical Brighteners From Clothes (aka UV Brighteners)

The photo above is what hunting gear looks like when you turn off all of the lights and shine a UV flashlight on it. Notice the “glow”! This garment had been previously washed in a detergent that contained Optical Brighteners! Want to know how we removed them so the entire garment looked dark afterward? Well, here’s what happened:

I have a friend, Melinda who recently moved to the northeast with her hubby Mark and three kids. Last week Melinda called me all upset and said she needed to know what she could do to wash the optical brighteners out of her clothes. Hmmm? It would seem that whitetail deer hunting is a big thing in the area where she moved to and her husband was invited by a group of co-workers to go with them on a hunting trip. While Mark was purchasing his new hunting gear, the salesman told him to be sure and wash the optical brighteners out of everything he would be wearing while hunting. The salesman did not elaborate, and Mark did not ask for further directions because apparently, it’s much like getting lost and asking for directions, it’s just not something a guy admits to not knowing! Well, I can’t stop thinking about this UV thing so I did a bit of research, and the following is a result of what I found.

 

SO HOW DO I REMOVE THE OPTICAL BRIGHTENERS?

The only thing that will eliminate them is a UV Killer. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Wash your camo in SPORT-WASH laundry detergent. (Get it here)
    SPORT-WASH is made from a straight carbon chain and it will open the dye sites.
  2. Apply the UV Killer per the directions. This should be done outside. (Available Here)
  3. Use a UV light to make sure you don’t miss any areas – (Get one here)

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER:

  • Typically one bottle of UV Killer will treat 2 sets of camo.
  • UV Killer is a one time deal. It’s a permanent bond that will last the life of the garment.
  • You only need to treat your camo once.
  • As long as you don’t re-introduce brighteners to your camo again by washing them in Tide or something, your good to go. If this happens, you need to re-apply UV Killer all over again.

 

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Clothes on the left NOT treated with UV Killer. (Notice how it is dark)
Clothes on the Right treated with UV Killer. (Notice how it “glows”)

 

CAN I JUST WASH THE UV OUT?

The short of it is there are no laundry detergents that will “wash out” UV-Dyes. You can, however, use the “kill” treatment, which I will describe below. You will also need to continue to use a laundry detergent that does not contain optical brighteners.

Washing your camo only once, in a laundry detergent that has UV-Brighteners in will make your camo glow. Most grocery store detergent has UV-Brighteners in it. Deer see these brighteners as Blue. Once your camo is washed with it you’re UV HOT. Deer will see you as a Glowing Blue figure.

 

DOES BRAND NEW CAMO ALREADY HAVE BRIGHTENERS ON THEM?

About 25 years ago most US-based camo companies insisted that textile mills not put UV-Brighteners into the base cloth that camo was printed on. In today’s market, the textile industry has moved to China. Nearly all camo is made in China and they commonly add permanent UV-Brightening dyes to all base cloth. As a result, much of the camo reaches our stores with brighteners in it!

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Left Paint with Optical Brighteners, Right No Optical brighteners

MARKETING HYPE? NOT SO MUCH!

There is a lot of debate on deer hunting forums as to whether this is all just a marketing hype. The excuse most of the nay-sayers give is, Well the ole’ timers didn’t need it.  Mr. Brownstone over at Archery Talk Forums had this to say “I have taken many deer without these magic potions and fairy dust. If it makes you “feel” better go ahead and use it.”

After much research though, I have to agree with those that understand the science behind it all. I found out that the reason ole’ timers didn’t need it is that they mostly wore wool, which doesn’t hold UV brighteners and back then it was rarely used in commercially manufactured clothing.

Also,  the US Government insist on combat uniforms being “washed with a mild detergent that does not contain optical brighteners.”

 

MILITARY COMBAT UNIFORM CARE

Optical brighteners found in most laundry detergents cannot be used when laundering your ACU’s (Army Combat Uniform). Military personnel have been instructed that the uniform must be washed with a mild detergent that does not contain “optical brighteners.” Detergents with optical brighteners would result in possible unwanted detection of personnel using the uniforms in combat. Some detergents have phosphorescent properties which enhance an enemy’s ability to see the soldier when viewed with Night Vision Devices, making the brightened uniform a visible target.

The photo below is what clothing looks like that has been washed in regular detergent that contains optical brighteners viewed under a black light. This means night vision can see you and so can the wildlife!

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WHITER THAN WHITE

Optical brightener -A compound that absorbs the invisible ultraviolet component of sunlight and re-emits it as visible light at the blue end of the spectrum. It is also called fluorescent whitening agent, optical brightening agent, fluorescent brightener, etc. Usually, it’s called OBA/FWA. The laundry detergent industry uses fluorescence to their advantage by use of agents (optical brighteners) that absorb invisible ultraviolet and emit visible blue light. These optical brighteners cover the yellowish color in old whites by completing the spectrum. You see white light, i.e., white clothes.

 

 

 

 

Note: You don’t want to wash Goretex in liquid detergent, it will ruin it.

 

 

Refrences:

https://www.michigan-sportsman.com/forum/threads/uv-how-to-wash-hunting-clothes.250452/page-2#post-2277265

http://oefoif.forumotion.net/t133-acu-united-states

https://www.chem.byu.edu/static/media/uploads/exploratorylabmanual2013.pdf

https://www.archerytalk.com/vb/showthread.php?t=715471&p=7535830#post7535830

http://www.qdma.com/articles/details.asp?id=48

http://home.adelphia.net/~geffert/deervis.htm

 

  1. […] The only hack I am aware of is to use a UV-KILLER to remove the brighteners from clothing. […]

  2. […] folks over at Clean It Guide have an article “How To Remove Optical Brighteners From Clothes” that is simple to follow. I did exactly what they said and IT […]