Good alternative to bleach
No detectable fragrance
Has to be diluted
Some fabrics absorb it more than others
Results fade with time
We purchased Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing so our expert reviewer could put it to the test on her laundry. Keep reading for our full product review.
It can be difficult to maintain the brightness of your whites, but Mrs. Stewart's Bluing is designed to keep them bright and brilliant for the long haul. Whiteners can work in different ways—some use bleach, some target stains, and others alter the color of whites to make them appear brighter. Mrs. Stewart's Bluing falls in the latter category; it’s not a detergent booster—instead, it’s an additive that alters the tone of your whites to change their relative appearance. We put the nearly 140-year-old formula to the test with our dingiest whites, so keep reading to get our take on its effectiveness.
Performance: Differs fabric to fabric
Let’s start with how and why one would use Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing. Bluing products add a small amount of blue pigment to clothing; with a slight blue undertone, whites appear whiter and brighter to the human eye. Bluings, including Mrs. Stewart’s, have to be used carefully, though, as they can permanently stain clothes.
Mrs. Stewart's comes in a highly concentrated formula that must be shaken before each use. It also has to be diluted in 1 or 2 quarts of cold water before you can add it to the wash water or rinse cycle. It can be used with most detergents as long as they don’t contain bleach. You don't want to add fabric softeners or any other laundry additives, either, as they may cause streaking.
For our first load, we diluted three drops of Mrs. Stewart's in 1 quart of water. The diluted formula can be added to the wash after the tub is filled or during the final rinse. We opted to add it once the washing machine tub was full.
Our first round of whites included men's dress shirts, T-shirts, socks, and underwear. After a run through the wash, we pulled out the pieces and didn’t notice any discernible change. Mrs. Stewart’s website does mention that it can take several washings for the bluing to take effect, though, so tried again.
On the second round, we did the same thing and noticed a difference in some of our items. Clothing made of nylon had the most obvious change in color, and one pair of shorts—which had primarily nylon construction and a white cotton waistband—showed the most improvement. The only issue? Our shorts were left two-toned as the nylon was bright and white while the cotton remained dingy and unaltered.
Across the board, cotton items didn’t absorb the bluing as well as nylon did. We continued washing our white loads in Mrs. Stewart's hoping for results, but after three or four washings, cotton items didn’t improve much. If you’re washing nylon items, you may have better luck as long as you continuously use the formula in order to maintain the color change.
Formula: Simple and eco-friendly
Mrs. Stewart's bluing is made of iron powder (pigment) mixed with water. It also contains a pH balancer along with an organic biocide to prevent the growth of algae, mold, and bacteria. The simple mixture is non-toxic, biodegradable, nonhazardous, and environmentally friendly.
In the late 1800s, bluing was a normal part of everyday laundry. The Mrs. Stewart’s brand has been in use since 1883. The formula doesn’t degrade over time, so it can last for years—just note that if you find a bottle in your grandma’s basement, you’ll likely need to add extra water when diluting as evaporation can boost the concentration over time.
Scent: Nothing detectable
If you're worried about a chemical smell due to dye, there’s nothing to fear. Mrs. Stewart's is scent-free, so your clothing should smell like your regular laundry detergent.
Price: An inexpensive addition
Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing is an incredibly economical laundry additive as an 8-ounce bottle goes for $5. Since it only takes a drop or two per load, a single bottle can last for years.
Competition: More laundry boosting options
Nellie’s Oxygen Brightener: Nellie's is a true laundry booster that helps with light stains, color protection, and odor removal. It doesn't noticeably brighten whites, but it does clean them well. If you need a cleaning booster, it’s definitely a better choice than Mrs. Stewart's, which isn't designed to enhance cleaning.
OUT White Brite Laundry Whitener: This brightener is definitely meant for whites only. It brightens whites, but it takes a lot of product to do the job. White Brite is far less economical than Mrs. Stewart's, but if you want extra cleaning power, it can brighten and clean too. Just be sure to keep it away from anything with color.
Tide Brights + Whites Rescue: If you're looking for simplicity, nothing beats Tide’s Brights + Whites Rescue. The cleaning booster comes in a pod, so there’s no measuring powders or diluting liquid formulas; just toss it in with your regular detergent. Tide’s product isn’t as effective on odors as Nellie's or on whites as OUT’s White Brite, but it's a set-it-and-forget-it laundry additive for those who value convenience first.
- Product Name Bluing
- Product Brand Mrs. Stewart’s
- UPC 070444912085
- Price $5.00
- Weight 8 oz.
- Product Dimensions 6 x 3 x 1 in.