This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
The soluble blue of commerce, when properly made, dissolves freely in water, and solutions so made are put up as liquid laundry blue. The water employed in making the solution should be free from mineral substances, especially lime, or precipitation may occur. If rain water or distilled water and a good article of blue be used, a staple preparation ought apparently to result; but whether time alone affects the matter of solubility it is impossible to state. As it is essential that the solution should be a perfect one, it is best to filter it through several thicknesses of fine cotton cloth before bottling; or if made in large quantities this method may be modified by allowing it to stand some days to settle, when the top portion can be siphoned off for use, the bottom only requiring filtration.
This soluble blue is said to be potassium ferri-ferrocyanide, and is prepared by gradually adding to a boiling solution of potassium ferricyanide (red prussiate of potash) an equivalent quantity of hot solution of ferrous sulphate, boiling for 2 hours and washing the precipitate on a filter until the washings assume a dark-blue color; the moist precipitate can then at once be dissolved by the further addition of a sufficient quantity of water. About 64 parts of the iron salt are necessary to convert 100 parts of the potassium salt into the blue compound.
Leaf bluing for laundry use may be prepared by coating thick sized paper with soluble blue formed into a paste with a mixture of dextrin mucilage and glycerine. Dissolve a given quantity of dextrine in water enough to make a solution about as dense as ordinary syrup, add about as much glycerine as there was dextrine, rub the blue smooth with a sufficient quantity of this vehicle and coat the sheets with the paint. The amount of blue to be used will depend of course on the intended cost of the product, and the amount of glycerine will require adjustment so as to give a mixture which will not "smear" after the water has dried out and yet remain readily soluble.
Ultramarine is now very generally used as a laundry blue where the insoluble or "bag blue" is desired. It is mixed with glucose, or glucose and dextrine, and pressed into balls or cakes. When glucose alone is used, the product has a tendency, it is said, to become soft on keeping, which tendency may be counteracted by a proper proportion of dextrin. Bicarbonate of sodium is added as a "filler" to cheapen the product, the quantity used and the quality of the ultramarine employed being both regulated by the price at which the product is to sell.
The coal-tar or aniline blues are not offered to the general public as laundry blues, but laundry proprietors have them frequently brought under their notice, chiefly in the form of solutions, usually 1 to 1.5 per cent strong. These dyes are strong bluing materials, and, being in the form of solution, are not liable to speck the clothes. Naturally their properties depend upon the particular dye used; some are fast to acids and alkalies, others are fast to one but not to another; some will not stand ironing, while others again are not affected by the operation; generally they are not fast to light, but this is only of minor importance. The soluble, or cotton, blues are those most favored; these are made in a great variety of tints, varying from a reddish blue to a pure blue in hue, distinguished by such brands as 3R, 6B, etc. Occasionally the methyl violets are used, especially the blue tints. Blackley blue is very largely used for this purpose, being rather faster than the soluble blues. It may be mentioned that a 1 per cent solution of this dye is usually strong enough. Unless care is taken in dissolving these dyes they are apt to produce specks. The heat to which the pure blues are exposed in ironing the clothes causes some kinds to assume a purple tinge.
The cheapest aniline blue costs about three times as much as soluble blue, yet the tinctorial power of the aniline colors is so great that possibly they might be cheapened.