Do OBA's wash out?

itguy08July 10, 2011

Let me first say this place is addicting. Sine being here, I've probably bought more detergents than since I've started doing laundry in college....

So far I've been trying Vaska and other non OBA detergents after thinking that maybe the OBA laden Sears Ultra we've been using may be responsible for some of the fading in certain darks. From reading here it seems this may not be fading of the dye rather than OBA contamination over the years.

Now that I've used Vaska + Oxygen bleach for a round some of our blacks and dark parts in some shirts seem to be coming back. Definitely looking less faded.

Could this be my imagination or do the OBA ingredients wash out?

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I think part of the claim that clothes washed in OBAs look "washed out" is due to the effect of OBAs themselves. They function by taking otherwise invisible ultraviolet light and reflecting it in the visible spectrum. The effect on black fabric would be to "brighten it up" to a dark grey. But this particular effect would be temporary.

Whether OBAs themselves cause irreversible fading of dark fabrics over time, I don't know.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 10:49PM
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It's my guess that OBAs do wash out over time but I'd be interested in an exact answer.

@sshrivastava, is right about how they work and why they make dark colors appear faded.

Other factors will fade color though. High temperature water, chlorine in water ...

Interesting to note, when I use Vaska, I feel that colors seem to "pop" more. I know that @sshrivastava had a similar reaction at one time. Not sure what would cause that but I've noticed it several times when I washed colored clothes.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 11:30PM
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OBAs are water-soluble fluorescent dyes. They wash in and they wash out, eventually. Just don't expect them to wash out evenly in one go.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 1:16AM
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Thanks. I figured they would wash out over time. I'm not expecting miracles but what got me on the fading kick was this one light blue polo shirt where the folds and ends of the sleeves were looking faded after just 1 wash. It was a free shirt from a vendor but still....

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 10:36PM
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Not all OBAs are created equal. Some are especially tenacious. I've read stories here about some OBA damage that was irreversible. It really depends on the specific dye and the permeability of what was being washed along with other chemicals in the wash at the time.

For example, a super hot wash of a wicking/high tech fabric (i.e. fancy permeable polyester/nylon) in a detergent containing OBAs may actually permanently set the dye into the molecular structure of the fabric.

- IT Geek

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 3:02AM
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I've also read online, but can't remember where, that when you buy clothes they are filled with OBAs and white fabrics have bluing added at the factory. Repeated washings strip away this blueing and OBAs, resulting in the clothes looking dingy or faded. This is one of the reasons why popular detergents contain OBAs - to replace the OBAs that have been lost through repeated washings. When I wash my area rugs in a detergent with OBAs, they look much "cleaner" and brighter.

@ livebetter

Yes, Vaska does somehow brighten the colors in my wash. Even though the bottle clearly says "no optical brighteners", something in this herbal complex is performing a small miracle.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 11:34AM
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